A hard inquiry, also known as a hard pull, occurs when a potential lender requests to review your credit score when you’re applying for a new line of credit. There are two types of credit inquiries: hard inquiries and soft inquiries. These inquiries occur when you check your credit report or when other parties check your credit for loan applications, new credit cards and mortgages.
What is a hard credit inquiry?
A hard credit inquiry is a formal request by another party to review your credit report. These requests usually come from potential lenders who are interested in the strength and history of your credit score before agreeing to offer you a loan. When they check your credit report, it may be listed as a hard inquiry.
Creditors do this to check that your credit score meets their requirements and to ensure you have no negative items on your report, like late payments or charge-offs. Negative items indicate to creditors that you may not be a responsible loan holder and will likely reduce your chances of being accepted for a loan.
Certain events may trigger a hard inquiry into your credit report.
Common hard inquiries occur when applying for:
What is a soft credit inquiry?
A soft credit inquiry is a check into your credit report that will not affect your credit score. Because soft inquiries are not caused by specific applications for loans or credit cards, they’re visible only to you when you view your credit report. If you apply for a loan or credit card, lenders will not be able to see these soft inquiries.
The most common types of soft inquiries occur when:
You access your credit report
You are pre-approved for a credit card without request
A potential employer performs a background check
You apply for certain utilities and services
How much does a hard inquiry affect your credit score?
A hard credit inquiry may lower your credit score, though how much your score decreases varies based on individual credit history. A single hard inquiry may decrease your credit score by five points or fewer. However, the impact of the inquiry depends greatly on your unique credit history.
The inquiries on your credit report account for 10 percent of your credit score, though not every inquiry on your report is included in this percentage. Typically, a single hard inquiry will not have a major impact on your credit score.
Plus, if you apply for the same kind of loan multiple times within a short period of time—like, say, you apply for several different car loans within a couple weeks to comparison shop—then these items will likely only count as a single hard inquiry on your credit report.
But be careful about applying for many different kinds of credit (such as a credit card, a car loan and a mortgage) around the same time. The more closely spaced these hard inquiries are on your credit report, the more they will hurt your credit score.
Hard inquiries may have a greater effect on your credit score if:
You have few or no credit accounts
You have a short credit history
You authorize many different inquiries within a short time
How long do hard inquiries stay on your credit report?
A hard inquiry will stay on your credit report for two years. However, they only impact your credit score for 12 months, with those from the past six months counting the most against your score.
If your credit history is substantial, a few hard inquiries on your credit report will likely not have a significant impact over the two years they are listed on your account.
Can you avoid hard credit inquiries?
It is difficult to avoid hard credit inquiries if you apply for a loan or credit card. However, hard inquiries generally don’t have a significant impact on your credit score, so don’t let them worry you too much.
If you want to improve your credit after it has been affected by a hard inquiry, consider focusing on the other factors that play a role in determining your scores. These factors include your payment history, credit usage, the length of your credit history and your credit mix.