www.creditsesame.com

No, checking your credit score won’t hurt it. But here’s what can.

Summary

  • A soft inquiry, such as checking your credit score, will not impact your credit score.
  • A hard inquiry is placed on your credit report for two years and can potentially lower your credit score. 
  • Monitor your credit report and score monthly to make sure they are error-free.

How often do you check your credit score and credit report?  It’s important to check your credit report at least annually and your credit score at least monthly. The reason for this is if you apply for a credit card or mortgage, that triggers the lender to inquire about your credit report and score from one of the three major credit card bureaus. This inquiry is called a “hard inquiry” or “hard pull” and can possibly lower your credit score. When you simply check your credit score, that is considered a “soft inquiry” or “soft pull,” and will not affect your credit score.                       

What is a soft inquiry?

Do you ever read the back cover of a book to see what the story is about before you start reading it? A soft credit inquiry is exactly like that. You can see what your score is before making any kind of commitment. Soft inquiries do not appear on your credit report and they don’t affect your score.  

Examples of a soft inquiry, in addition to checking your credit score, include: seeing if you pre-qualify for credit card offers, shopping around for insurance quotes, and employment verification, such as a background check. 

What is a hard inquiry?

If a soft inquiry is like reading the summary of a book, a hard inquiry is like buying the book, reading every word, and keeping it on your bookshelf for a few years. 

Hard inquiries take a deeper look at your credit report and can stay on your credit report for two years. Hard inquiries can also negatively impact your credit score. Examples of hard inquiries include: applications for a mortgage, apartment rental, auto loan, credit card, student loan, personal loan, business loan, lines of credit, and some credit limit increases.                                   

However, shopping around for the best rate for an auto loan, for example, usually doesn’t trigger a hard inquiry as long as you shop within 30 days. The auto loan will be considered as one inquiry versus multiple inquiries.  

Lenders get concerned if they see multiple hard inquiries on a credit report since that tells them you may be a high-risk borrower and, in turn, deny your application. Even just four hard inquiries in a 90-day period could lower your credit score by 50 points, so it’s important to make sure you only apply for credit cards or loans when you need them. 

While it’s important to watch over your credit report and score, don’t panic if you see a hard inquiry on your credit report. Lenders and credit card issuers take other information into consideration as well when deciding to approve a loan or credit card, such as your payment history and your income. Although a hard inquiry won’t be erased from your credit report for about two years, the hard inquiry will most likely not be counted in your credit score if it is more than 12 months old.

Monitor your score

Make it a habit to monitor your credit score monthly to ensure that there are no errors, including any hard inquiries that you didn’t make. You can do this for free on Credit Sesame. If you do see something wrong on your credit report, you have the right to dispute it. If you need to dispute a mistake, send a letter to the credit bureau, explaining the error and asking for it to be taken off.

It’s important to note that you won’t be blindsided by a hard inquiry because a lender can only look at your credit report and score with your permission. 

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Published July 1, 2020 Updated: July 8, 2020
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