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Reader: Inquiries Dropped My Score 104 Points

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How much of a negative impact can hard credit inquiries have on your credit score? A reader wrote in, asking a common question, but the impact on his score was rather extreme.  We take a look at what could have caused such a huge drop:

I have refinanced 3 times in the last 2 years, creating 3 hard credit inquiries at each of the 3 bureaus over 2 years. Each time, though, my credit was excellent at 800 and I received the mortgages and my interest rate dropped from 6.375 to 3.375. The way I did it there was no cash out from me to refinance so it was a positive win for me.

HOWEVER, when I called my current lender to check on what their current rates were, told them my credit score as it had just been pulled by my mortgage broker as I was going to refi with another bank and I had a copy of it, my bank did a hard inquiry without my permission and that dropped my credit score 104 points as soon as it hit — it was the only thing that changed on my credit report. It must have been the proverbial tipping point.

Bottom line, when I went to dispute the unauthorized hard inquiry the credit score companies said I cannot dispute hard inquiries unless it is identity theft. This doesn’t seem right. And they said it will stay on my record for two years.

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Free Credit Check & MonitoringI’m sorry to hear about the loss of 104 points off your credit score, and can easily understand why you might feel that “this doesn’t seem right.” Since, regretfully, there seems to be an abundance of inaccurate information about credit scores being provided by both lenders and consumers — and particularly how inquiries impact credit scores — I’ll offer some suggestions and correct any misconceptions stated in your question, as we both try to understand what has happened to your credit score and decide where you should go from here.

The main misconception to dispel is that additional inquiries alone can be responsible for the loss of more than 100 points. The truth is that a typical inquiry can be expected to drop your score by about 5 points or less. And while this number can be higher or lower on occasion, a credit score will not drop 104 points solely due to an increase in inquiries.

So then what caused such a serious drop in your score? Here’s where it can get confusing. While I believe, as you stated, that you truly didn’t see anything else that changed on your credit report, it’s a fact that something other than — or in addition to — inquiries would have had to change on your credit report for your score to take that serious of a drop.

[Related Article: 8 Surprising Things That Affect Your Credit]

Here are some questions that will hopefully help you get closer to solving the mystery of your credit score drop:

  • Are you comparing apples to apples? That is, when looking for credit reporting changes were you able to compare the actual credit report generating the 800 score with the one that produced the 696 score? This is important, as there are three independent CRAs (consumer reporting agencies) — Equifax, TransUnion and Experian — who generally don’t share information with each other; there are many different credit scoring models with different score ranges; and each credit report and score reflects your credit information at a single CRA as of a specific point in time. So if you’re not comparing credit reports from the same CRA as of the dates the two credit scores (800 and 696), you may not be getting to the source of what, if anything, has changed on your credit reports, and the impact of those changes.
  • While you’re correct in stating that inquiries remain on a credit report for two years, are you also aware that they’re included in your credit score for the first year only? This means all of your inquiries over the past two years are probably not being counted in your score.
  • Did you know that inquiries for a mortgage or refinance are treated differently than some other types of hard inquiries (credit cards, for example)? Multiple mortgage inquiries, as well as inquiries for auto and student loan applications, generated over a focused period of time, such as 45 days, are counted as a single inquiry only.

Armed with this information, my recommended next step is to obtain your free Credit Report Card from Credit.com, to review your Experian credit data, Experian credit score and VantageScore.

Then order your Equifax and TransUnion FICO scores, along with the credit reports on which the scores are calculated, at www.myFICO.com. Since you’re trying to obtain a loan and FICO scores continue to be the scores used by most lenders, it’s best to obtain your actual FICO scores in this situation when possible. This way you’ll see the scores most likely to resemble those a lender would see.

Once you’ve carefully reviewed your credit information from all three CRAs, and your Equifax and TransUnion FICO scores, you should have a better idea of what changes may have impacted your credit scores, and what steps you can begin take to improve them.

[Free Resource: Check your credit score and report card for free with Credit.com]

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  • Lane

    I had to pay a full deposit on my electric service, the decision was instantaneous once they ran my credit, about 30 seconds.

    I just received my bill, included was the state required explanation. A part of that explanation is my credit score, it must be a typo, 863.

    I called them, with the stance that the credit score was correct, to know why I, as someone with a very high credit score, would have to pay a deposit?

    It doesn’t matter, I have a bankruptcy, my credit score wasn’t even an issue, which, without their mistake, when I last checked, was above the Arizona average at 702. We live in a myopic corporate society where utility companies are, first and foremost, collection agencies. “Computer says no…”

  • http://www.credit.com Barry Paperno

    Hi Lane,
    That’s a very high score, especially considering you had a bankruptcy in your past. Did the explanation you received from the electric company say which credit scoring model was used? How long ago was the bankruptcy?

    It’s true that many credit card issuers, as well as utilities and other businesses, will have a specific policy for people who have ever filed for bankruptcy — even if the BK is more than 10 years old and has fallen off the credit report — that overrides credit scores, income and other positive information.

    Thanks for sharing your experience.

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  • Phyllis Tonner

    why would i have a mortgage inquirie in Nevada?I live in Oregon and I dont own a house! never have. why would this show up on my credit report . it show up on my boyfriends report at the same time a mortgage inquirie on his credit report in nevada what would be the reson for this? he dont own a house ether.

    • Barry Paperno

      Hi Phyllis,
      While it’s not all that unusual to have a mortgage inquiry from a state other than the one you live in, nor is it unusual to have a mortgage inquiry when you don’t own a home, but it would be unusual for you and your boyfriend to have inquiries from the same company on the same day if you weren’t in contact somehow with a mortgage lender, broker or rental agent.

      Were either of you in contact with a mortgage broker or lender for some reason, i.e. purchase or rental inquiry, answered an ad, etc? If not, I would suggest obtaining the company’s contact information from credit bureau or Internet, and contacting the inquiring company to ask for the purpose of the inquiries.


  • Laura

    I realize this discussion is a bit old, but I know people still look at it. My brother went in to get cell phone. They ran a credit check, came out and told him he would need to pay a $500 deposit. He looked them in the eye and said, “I know my credit is good. You need to go back in the back and re-run that.” They went in the back, came out and said he was good, no deposit needed. The same day in a city 3 hours away, my husband went into the same company’s branch in our town and was told the same thing. He just walked out and went to another major cell phone carrier and was given a phone with no credit check.
    Point is, sometimes these places just say that your score is low to get a deposit which can grow interest for them. If you challenge them or ask for proof, they may back down. It might also be a good idea to ask them what their bottom floor credit score is before they run it so they know you are a savvy consumer.

    • http://www.Credit.com/ Gerri Detweiler

      Fascinating! Thanks for sharing that.

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