How to Remove Inquiries from Your Credit Report

November 29, 2023 | 6 min read

Credit Saint

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Credit Saint

Ashley Davison

Reviewed By:

Ashley Davison

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When you spot inquiries on your credit report, it’s a record of institutions checking your credit history. While inquiries are a standard part of credit processes, excessive ones can affect your score. Here’s everything you need to know about managing and potentially removing these inquiries.

What is a Credit Inquiry?

A credit inquiry is a record of when a company or person requests a copy of your credit report. There are three major credit bureaus in the US—Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion—and each one adds inquiries to your report whenever they’re asked to create and share your credit report. The bureaus separate inquiries into two categories, hard and soft inquiries. Sometimes, called hard and soft credit pulls.

Hard Credit Inquiries

A hard inquiry occurs when lenders check your credit for lending purposes, like when you apply for a credit card, mortgage, or loan. Hard inquiries can temporarily reduce your credit score by a few points and stay on your report for 2 years. Often, creditors only request one of your credit reports, so it’s common for a hard inquiry to appear on only one credit report.

Soft Credit Inquiries

A soft inquiry is a record of someone checking your credit for a non-lending reason. Soft inquiries can happen when:

  • You check your own credit by requesting a copy from the bureau or using a credit monitoring service
  • A current creditor reviews your credit
  • An employer (or potential employer) checks your credit
  • You submit a pre-approval or pre-qualification request before applying for a new account
  • Companies send you a firm offer of credit or insurance, such as a mailer offering you a credit card or loan

While you can wind up with many soft inquiries on your credit reports, soft inquiries never impact your credit scores and won’t appear on credit reports that most creditors receive.

Hard vs. Soft Credit Inquiries

Hard Inquiries Soft Inquiries
Impacts your credit scores Potentially Never
Happens when You apply for credit Your credit is checked for a non-lending reason
Requires your permission Yes Sometimes
Stays on your credit report for 2 years 2 years
Impacts credit scores for Up to 12 months for FICO scores and 24 months for VantageScore scores Doesn’t impact your scores

 

How Credit Inquiries Can Hurt Your Credit Scores

When a hard inquiry hurts your credit, the exact impact will depend on your overall credit profile. Often, a single new hard inquiry may only drop your scores by around 3 to 10 points. Generally, scores rise back up to the pre-inquiry level within a few months if there’s no new negative information added to your credit report.

Multiple hard inquiries can lead to larger score drops, as someone who’s applying for many new credit accounts might be at a greater risk of missing a payment in the future. However, credit scoring models also recognize that shopping and submitting multiple applications isn’t always risky behavior.

FICO and VantageScore (the two main credit scoring companies in the US), take slightly different approaches to rate shopping:

  • VantageScore deduplication means that multiple inquiries from credit applications, including credit cards, within a 14-day period only count as one hard inquiry.
  • FICO deduplication means that multiple hard inquiries for student loans, auto loans, and mortgages from a 14- to 45-day period (depending on the score version) count as one hard inquiry.
  • FICO buffer means that inquiries from the previous 30 days for student, auto, and mortgage loans don’t impact your scores.

Knowing these rules, you can rate shop for a new loan without having to worry that it will have a major impact on your credit scores.

For example, an auto dealership may help you apply for auto loans from multiple lenders at once and then you’ll accept the best offer. While you could see a flurry of new hard inquiries on your credit reports, they won’t impact your scores more than one new auto loan hard inquiry.

How to Remove Credit Inquiries from Your Credit Report:

You might find an inquiry on your credit report that you believe shouldn’t be there. Perhaps because it was the result of someone stealing your identity and applying for credit or a creditor checking your credit without a permissible purpose. Here are steps you can take to remove credit inquires:

  1. Check for Accuracy: Regularly review your credit report from all three major bureaus – Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion. Ensure all hard inquiries are ones you authorized.
  2. Dispute Unauthorized Inquiries: If you spot an unauthorized hard inquiry, the Fair Credit Reporting Act gives you the right to dispute inaccurate information that’s on your credit report. Write to the credit bureau and the company that made the inquiry, explaining that you did not authorize the check.
  3. Request for Removal: Even if an inquiry was legitimate, you can still request its removal. Contact the creditor directly, explain your concern, and politely ask if they’d be willing to remove the inquiry as a gesture of goodwill.
  4. Wait it Out: Remember, hard inquiries only impact your credit score for one year and completely fall off after two. If you’re close to these timeframes, it might be best to let them naturally expire.

Disputing an Inquiry with the Credit Bureau

You can send your dispute directly to a credit bureau and the bureau will usually have 30 days to investigate your dispute. The credit bureau will reach out to the creditor that initiated the credit check and attempt to verify that the creditor had the right to check your credit.

The credit bureau should send you a response with the result of its investigation. It may find that the inquiry was accurate and leave your credit report the same. Or, it may find an error and either correct or delete the inquiry.

Because each credit bureau maintains its own databases, you’ll have to send separate disputes to Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion. You can do this by mail, phone, or online.

Disputing an Inquiry with the Creditor

You can also contact the creditor that initiated the credit check rather than (or in addition to) filing a dispute with the credit bureau.

If you don’t remember authorizing a credit check, ask the creditor to verify that they had the right to request your credit report. A creditor should be able to produce a copy or recording of the application where you agreed to give it access to your credit. If not, you can request the creditor to tell the credit bureaus to remove the unauthorized hard inquiry.

You shouldn’t dispute a hard inquiry when you gave the creditor permission to check your credit as that’s a legitimate record of what happened. Also, if the inquiry led to you opening an account and you say you didn’t authorize the inquiry, the creditor may close your account assuming it was the result of fraud.

Consider Hiring Professional Help

Sometimes, understanding which credit inquiries are legitimate can be difficult because the creditor’s name on your credit report might be different than the consumer-facing name that companies use on their websites or products.

Professional credit restoration specialists regularly review credit reports and can quickly spot when something may be amiss. After speaking with you about your specific situation, they can explain what should and shouldn’t be in your credit report and may be able to help you remove erroneous negative marks that could be hurting your credit scores—including things that have a larger impact than hard inquiries.

How to Prevent Credit Inquiries

Since hard inquiries are the result of new applications for credit, you can control how many new hard inquiries get added to your credit reports by limiting how many applications you submit.

However, unauthorized hard inquiries can happen when a creditor checks your credit without your permission or someone uses your information to fraudulently apply for credit. One step you can take to prevent this is to freeze your credit reports.

Once frozen, you’ll need to unfreeze your credit before the credit bureau will release your report to a new creditor. It’s a free process that can help prevent unauthorized credit inquiries and protect you from fraud. Here are additional steps you can take to protect your credit from future inquiries:

Bottom Line

While individual inquiries might have a minor impact, a flurry of them can signal credit desperation to potential lenders. By actively managing and understanding the nature of these inquiries, you can maintain a healthier credit report and ensure a smoother financial journey. Remember, your credit is a reflection of your financial responsibility, and every detail counts.

Ashley Davison

Reviewed By:

Ashley Davison

Editor

Ashley is currently the Chief Compliance Officer for Credit Saint, previously the Chief Operating Officer. Ashley got into the Financial world by working as a Logistics Coordinator at Ernst & Young. Coming from a previous career in education, she is eager to teach the world everything she knows and learn everything that she doesn’t! Ashley is a FICO® certified professional, a Board Certified Credit Consultant, a Certified Credit Score Consultant with the Credit Consultants Association of America, UDAAP certified, and holds a Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) Compliance Certificate.