Your credit score is an important number that can have a major effect on your life.
Your score is what lenders use to decide whether or not to approve you for credit, including some the most coveted credit cards.
Besides that, your credit score also affects your interest rates. The higher your score, the better the odds of getting a low APR.
Credit scores don’t just appear out of thin air. They’re based on the information in your credit report. Your credit report includes all the details of your credit accounts, including:
- How much debt you owe
- Your total credit limit
- Your available credit
- Your payment history
- The number of accounts you have
- The types of credit you’re using
- How long you’ve been using credit
- How often you apply for new credit
Each of these factors affects your credit score in different ways. Positive information--like on-time payments--help your score. Negative information, such as late payments, can knock points off.
Hard credit pulls are one of those things that can cause your credit score to be dinged temporarily.
If you’re not sure what a credit hard pull is, or just how much it can affect your credit score, we cover everything that you need to know.
How Long Do Credit Hard Pulls Stay Report
Once a hard inquiry is listed on your credit report, it’ll stay there for up to 2 years. The good news is that it loses some of its impact after the first 6 months or so.
If you’re wondering how to remove hard inquiries, you generally can’t if you authorized the lender to pull your credit. You just have to wait for it drop off of your credit report.
In terms of hurting your credit, a hard inquiry isn’t as serious as something like a collection account or bankruptcy.
These kinds of negative actions can knock 100 points or more off your score. Not only that, but they’ll stay on your credit report for seven years.
Other things that can hurt your credit score include:
- Paying late
- Missing a payment
- Maxing out your credit lines
- Closing older credit accounts
- Closing credit card accounts with a balance
- Defaulting on a loan
- Foreclosure or short sale
- Having a creditor obtain a judgment against you
All of these can harm your score and they can stick around on your report for up to seven years.
Your best bet for keeping your score in check is to keep your balances low, always pay on time and only apply for new credit when you really need it.
What Is a Hard Inquiry?
A hard credit pull or hard credit inquiry occurs when a lender, potential landlord, or employer pulls a copy of your credit report.
You have to give your consent for someone to complete a hard check of your credit. Once your credit is pulled, the inquiry will show up on your credit report.
Hard inquiries are usually required if you’re seeking a personal loan or filling out a credit card application.
Your credit report, along with your credit score, is what lenders use to gauge your creditworthiness. Essentially, the lender’s using your information to determine how likely you are to pay back what you borrow.
A hard pull isn’t the same thing as a soft credit inquiry. Soft credit pulls don’t affect your credit report or your score at all
Checking your own credit is considered a soft pull. The same goes if you’re shopping around for a personal loan online and you want to get a rate quote.
Tip: You don’t have just one credit report. Credit reports are issued by the three major credit reporting bureaus: Equifax, Experian and TransUnion. You can get a free copy of your report from each one once a year at AnnualCreditReport.com.
How Do Hard Pulls Affect Your Credit?
Hard pulls show up as an inquiry on your credit report. These inquiries are reflected in the "new credit" factor of your credit score, which makes up 10% of your score.
FICO scores, developed by the Fair Isaac Corporation, are the scores most lenders use when making approval decisions. Altogether, the average person can have more than four dozen FICO scores.
Along with hard inquiries, your FICO score is calculated using these factors:
FICO Credit Score Factors and Their Percentages
|FICO credit score factors||Percentage weight on credit score:||What it means:|
|Payment history||35%||Your track record when it comes to making (at least) the minimum payment by the due date.|
|Amounts owed||30%||How much of your borrowing potential is actually being used. Determined by dividing total debt by total credit limits.|
|Length of credit history||15%||The average age of your active credit lines. Longer histories tend to show responsibility with credit.|
|Credit mix||10%||The different types of active credit lines that you handle (e.g., mortgage, credit cards, students loans, etc.)|
|New credit||10%||The new lines of credit that you've requested. New credit applications tend to hurt you score temporarily. Learn more about FICO credit score|
As you can see, payment history and the total amount of debt you owe carry the most weight.
Hard inquiries are still important, however, and we’ll dig into why in just a moment. For now, let’s look at how the credit score range breaks down.
FICO scores run from 300 to 850, with 850 considered a perfect score.
A score ranging 750 to 850 would put you in the excellent credit category. A “good” credit score would be between 700 and 750. Fair credit is a score of 650 to 700. Anything below the 650 mark is poor or bad credit.
Credit Score Ranges and Quality
|Credit Score Ranges||Credit Quality||Effect on Ability to Obtain Loans|
|300-559||Very Bad||Extremely difficult to obtain traditional loans and line of credit. Advised to use secured credit cards and loans to help rebuild credit.|
|560-649||Bad||May be able to qualify for some loans and lines of credit, but the interest rates are likely to be high.|
|650-699||Average/Fair||Eligible for many traditional loans, but the interest rates and terms may not be the best.|
|700-749||Good||Valuable benefits come in the form of loans and lines of credit with comprehensive perks and low interest rates.|
|750-850||Excellent||Qualify easily for most loans and lines of credit with low interest rates and favorable terms.|
If you’ve got bad or poor credit, getting approved for loans or credit cards is likely to be a lot tougher. If you are able to get approved, you’ll likely pay steeper interest rates.
Tip: FICO scores aren’t the only credit scores lenders use. The VantageScore, developed by Equifax, Experian and TransUnion, is used by over 2,400 lenders nationwide. This score uses factors that are similar to FICO’s to calculate your credit score.
Hard inquiries and your credit score
Hard credit pulls are listed on your credit report. Each pull affects the “new inquiries” part of your score calculation. So how damaging are they?
The impact of a single inquiry typically isn’t that serious. Each new inquiry can shave 2 to 5 off your score.
If you apply for one new credit card or line of credit each year, you may not see a noticeable difference in your score. Generally, your score will rebound within 6 to 12 months.
Multiple inquiries, on the other hand, can wreak havoc with your score, especially if they’re grouped close together.
If you apply for four or five credit cards all at once, you could lose 20 points or more off your score. That could push you out of good credit range and into fair, or even poor, credit territory.
Even if your score doesn’t suffer dramatically, you still want to avoid going overboard with credit applications. It sends the signal to lenders that you’re desperate, which could lead to denials if you come off as more of a credit risk.
Tip: There’s an exception to the inquiry rule if you’re shopping around for a mortgage, car loan, or private student loan. Generally, if the inquiries are within a 14- to 30-day time frame, they’re treated as a single inquiry for scoring purposes.
Does co-signing for someone cause a hard inquiry?
Co-signing on a loan or opening a joint credit card account has the exact same impact on your credit as getting credit in your name only. The inquiry would appear on your credit report, as well as the co-applicant’s.
Even if you’re not using the loan or line of credit, the account’s going to be listed on your credit report.
If the co-signer or joint account holder misses a payment or defaults altogether, their credit--and yours--will take a hit.
Checking Hard Pulls On Your Credit
Checking hard pulls on your credit isn’t that difficult. All you need to do is get a copy of your credit report. Again, you can get one copy from each of the three credit reporting bureaus for free through AnnualCreditReport.com.
You can also request a free copy of your report if you’ve been denied for credit. You just have to send your request in writing to the credit bureau that provided your credit report to the lender.
Once you’ve got your report, take a look at the inquiry section to see who’s been peeking at your credit.
Specifically, you want to look for inquiries that you don’t recognize or didn’t authorize. That could be a sign that someone has stolen your identity and is trying to open up credit accounts in your name.
If you see an inquiry you don’t recognize, the first thing you’ll need to do is contact the creditor to find out why your report was pulled.
That can tip you off as to whether identity theft may be a factor.
Next, you can initiate a dispute with the credit bureau to have the inquiry removed. Keep in mind that this only works for hard inquiries that you didn’t give your consent for.
The Bottom Line: Don't Panic Over a Few Points
In the grand scheme of things that can adversely affect your credit, hard credit inquiries are relatively low on the list.
Being strategic about how often you apply for credit can minimize the consequences.
If you do end up losing a few points from your score because of multiple inquiries, don’t panic. As long as you’re practicing good credit habits otherwise, it shouldn’t take too long for your score to get back on track.