Credit Score

Should You Be Worried About Credit Report Inquiries?

Comments 14 Comments

Some things never change when it comes to what annoys people about credit scores. While consumers’ understanding of credit scores has evolved over the years, within that always-increasing level of understanding there remain some parts of credit scoring, such as inquiries, that people just don’t seem to get. They get the idea of late payments and maxed out credit cards predicting risk. But inquiries?

A credit inquiry is a notation that goes on your credit report every time your credit report is accessed by anyone with a “permissible purpose,” as defined by the Fair Credit Reporting Act. Inquiries remain on a credit report for two years, and generally fall into two categories: hard and soft inquiries. Only hard inquiries from within the past year can impact credit scores. Older hard inquiries and soft inquiries are ignored by the scores entirely.

The typical hard inquiry is triggered when a lender accesses a consumer’s credit report and score as part of the credit application process. Hard inquiries can also result from collection agencies using credit reports in their skip tracing efforts.

Soft inquiries include inquiries resulting from consumers accessing their own credit reports, lenders making pre-approved credit offers, creditors periodically reviewing existing accounts, and insurance and employment credit checks. Not only are soft inquiries ignored by the scores, they are excluded from credit reports seen by lenders, and only appear on the consumer’s report.

Some of the ways in which inquiries provide value to lenders and consumers:

  • According to Fair Isaac (FICO), people who have added six or more inquiries during the past year can be up to eight times more likely to file for bankruptcy than those with credit reports showing no inquiries.
  • As the only major area of your credit report to update immediately, inquiries tend to be the earliest indication that a consumer has applied for new credit, which tends to be a factor indicating increased future credit risk.
  • Inquiries can provide early evidence of identity theft when a consumer’s credit file has been accessed fraudulently.

Knowing just a few basic facts about inquiries and credit scores can help avoid costly misunderstandings and mistakes that can drop valuable points from a credit score:

  • For most consumers, one additional inquiry will take less than five points off their credit scores.
  • The “rate shopping” feature of credit scores allows you to have any number of mortgage, auto or student loan inquiries (VantageScore includes credit cards) on your credit report from within any 14- or 45-day period (depending on the scoring model), with only one of those inquiries counting in the score.
  • Inquiries appear on your credit report for two years, but are only considered by credit scores for the first year.

Consumers who still don’t buy the argument that inquiries help predict risk and detect identity theft may instead want to consider inquiries as just one more good reason not to apply for a credit card they don’t really need, since an inquiry and new account could drop their credit score before the card even arrives in the mail.

To review the inquiries on your credit report, visit AnnualCreditReport.com, where you can access your own credit reports from the three major consumer reporting agencies: Equifax, Experian and TransUnion. Also, get your free Credit Report Card monthly from Credit.com.

Image: iStockphoto

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  • Starla Anne Lowry

    The most inaccurate credit information is with credit bureaus and I hope some day business will wake up and realize that credit reports are one-sided and any claim can be made against a consumer, even if false — and there is nothing that can be done about it. I have tried — even contacted an attorney — but the attorney wants copies of my credit report and I cannot obtain all my reports. Experian is the only one who has sent me one, but the attorney wants all three. My problem is that two cell phone companies have me charged with cell phones I did not order or receive. In fact, sometime near the time one was sent I was out of state for about two months and the other has not even sent a bill and that was about three years ago. Also, parts of my credit report I have been able to obtain show me as previously living in places where I never have been; much less having lived there. They have my name mixed up with my son and seemingly many other people and there is no possible way to get the whole mess straighten out. I have given up trying and consider any business who relies on a credit report as being shady for even trusting a business that is definitely not trust worthy. The problem is, having national credit reporting companies. I am 71 years old and back in the old days when credit bureaus were local, consumers did not have these problems. Because of false trust large firms have in credit reporting bureaus, I only trust local merchants as being honest in their dealings.

  • Barry Paperno

    Hi Starla, I can certainly understand your frustration. Addressing all of these errors at once can seem an insurmountable task, and it can be difficult to even know where to begin.

    First, get your credit reports from all three credit bureaus by going to http://www.annualcreditreport.com, where every consumer is entitled to one free report annually. You can also purchase additional reports there throughout the year.

    You should not need an attorney to dispute charges you didn’t make. You can file a dispute with the credit card company, including a fraud claim, if necessary. If you contact the card issuer and follow their processes for correcting such errors, including filing a police report in the case of fraud. You will not be charged for charges you didn’t make.

    Since you mention the mixing of your credit file with your son’s and possible other people, you can also use those credit reports from Annual Credit Report.com to dispute whatever erroneous information you find. The credit bureaus are required to investigate and respond to you within about 30 days.

    I understand and also lament that things aren’t like they used to be. But we have rights as consumers that we didn’t used to have, and we might as well use them. Thanks for writing.

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  • Kevin Lindahl

    In regards to the number of hard inquiries and specifically “rate shopping”. Is there any way to dispute a hard inquiry and have it removed? I set out to buy a car 6 months ago. My Credit Union pulled a hard inquiry and I was pre-approved with a 60 day validity. I couldn’t find the exact car I wanted so after the 60 days I withdrew the application. I found the car I wanted in February and started over. My credit union pulled another hard inquiry and then again to list my pre-approval in the CUDL system??? When I went to the dealer to pickup the car they had me fill out their credit ap but told me they weren’t going to do an inquiry it was only to “verify” my information etc… After the usual upsell, negotiations, etc…They informed me that they could get me a better rate than my Credit Union. I again explained I didn’t want another hard inquiry as I really wanted to keep the total to 6 or less in a year. They assured me that it would only count as one for the credit union and the dealer. I pull my report monthly and the following month I found that the dealer had sent my application out to 4 different lenders to include Amex for a Credit Card. How can I determine which(if any) of these multiple inquiries will be grouped togther. Can I dispute the Amex inquiry as I definitely didn’t authorize them to submit that. I’m sure I’m stuck on the auto loan inquiries since I was dumb enough to fill in the supposed credit ap for information only.

    • Barry Paperno

      Hi Kevin. You’ve described a situation that has been driving consumers crazy for years. Generally, you can’t dispute inquiries, since the inquiry simply indicates your credit file was accessed, which it was in these cases. The reason for the inquiry or lack of written permission – particularly auto inquiries – are normally not grounds for having the credit bureau remove them. If your credit file was accessed fraudulently, however, the credit bureau would remove the resulting inquiries.

      It’s helpful to remember that inquiries only make up a very small percentage – about 10% – of your scores. The ‘rate shopping” provisions for auto, mortgage and student loan inquiries, are such that you can incur any number within a 14-45 day period (depending on the scoring model used) and only one will count towards your score. Also, after a certain number of inquiries, which you very well may have already reached – even after being reduced for rate shopping – they stop impacting your score entirely.

      Keep in mind that even under the worst scenario, inquiries alone will never take a high score down to a low score, and that although they remain on your credit report for 2 years, they only impact your scores for the first year.

      As for the Amex credit card inquiries, you may be able to have some success disputing them, starting with contacting Amex and the credit bureaus. I have never heard of them pulling a credit card inquiry as part of an auto purchase, but nothing surprises me. I would be prepared for an uphill battle with Amex and the credit bureaus if you decide to dispute them. Good luck!.

  • April

    Hi there! I’m hoping you can clarify something for me.
    Recently, I was in the financing process for purchasing a car. My husband and I have been embroiled in a home deed-in-lieu/foreclosure process for the past 2 years. We are finally short-selling it, but this amont of time with no payments on a $340K home has annihilated our credit as you can imagine.
    Needless to say, auto financing was an issue. Out of desperation, we asked my mother with near-perfect (if not perfect) credit to cosign. That backfired, as I am 39 years old and living in a separate residence from her. Having the cosigner made only a $5 per month improvement on the financing that we were able to obtain ourselves. When I learned this from the dealership, I contacted our personal bank, PNC, to see if it was possible to do an auto finance with them. That was declined. Then as a result of the dealership rate shopping for us, several of those apps were denied as well. My husband and I ended up coughing up a lot more money for a downpayment and doing the financing with the two of us, not using the cosigner at all.
    So now 3 weeks after the fact, I am still receiving credit denial letters from several banks – maybe 7 in all. So I know my mother must be receiving the same ones. And she’s mad at me – not even talking to me.
    Though she has wonderful credit history, I’m not sure that she fully understands how these inquiries work – who does?
    My question is – I know that it’s ME who was denied, not her. So do those inquiries that were denied show on her report that she was denied credit? She is concerned that it looks like she applied for 7 different loans on the same day. How is this situation reported on the cosigner? And what is the maximum point damage that this could do to her credit?

    Thank you so much!

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

      Hi April,
      Not to worry about those inquiries and denials for a few reasons:
      1. Nothing on a credit report indicates credit was denied, nor do scores “imply” credit was denied if there’s an inquiry without a resulting trade line.
      2. Scores for auto loans treat bunches of inquiries incurred within a short time as one inquiry, which is only likely to count for about 5 points or less – if at all.
      3. Those inquiries that do count only do so for one year, though they remain on the report for two.

      The only thing that determines whether the above apply to a co-signer is whether the co-signer’s credit reports/scores were pulled. Most likely they were, so, yes, the inquiries are on the co-signer’s report, and, yes, they could have knocked a few points off her score, though it shouldn’t matter much to a high score; but, there’s nothing on a credit report or in a credit score to indicate that either you or she was denied credit.

      Hope that helps. -Barry

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  • http://www.credit.com/ Credit.com Credit Experts

    Technically, they probably can. However, every credit pull costs your employer money, so it seems unlikely anyone would invest the time and money in daily monitoring of a credit report. Legislation has been introduced that would ban the use of employer credit checks in hiring, but it contains an exception for positions requiring credit checks in the interest of national security. You can read more about that bill here: Warren Bill Would End Employer Credit Checks.

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

    Wow – wondering what credit scoring model was being used since those should have been grouped as one or a few…After one year you should be OK with most models. Do you know what credit scoring model is being used to pull your score?

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

    I have emailed you.

  • http://www.credit.com/ Credit.com Credit Experts

    When you pull your own credit, it does not affect your credit score. But when a potential lender does, it counts as a “hard inquiry,” and it does result in a small, temporary drop in scores. You can find more information in these Credit.com resources:
    What is a hard inquiry?
    Does Checking My Score Hurt My Credit?
    What Happens to Your Credit When You Buy a Home?

  • http://www.credit.com/ Credit.com Credit Experts

    There’s no need to panic. The SSN mismatch should have been caught sooner. As for the not being reported, is it possible you haven’t used your cards? Some creditors don’t report until the new tradeline has been used.

  • drakedog

    most count as one inquiry if within 14 days to national indirect lenders…but if they use sources that may not be the same type of institution, it could count as multiple inquiries. most dealers use national indirect lenders. If they send to Credit unions or local sources each inquiry might count as separate.

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

    It would depend on which model was used to calculate the score. The “buffer” may not built into the model used when you received that message.

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

    Yes. It likely will though the impact should be small.

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