Credit FAQ: How Long Do Inquiries Stay On Your Credit Report?
Dreaming of a perfect credit report? If you’ve made inquiries recently, that might require some patience — but let’s see exactly how much.
March 10, 2022
The lending world can seem like a strange place at times. You need to have a loan to get a good credit score, but you can’t get a loan without making an inquiry and inquiries can hurt your credit score. Fortunately, they won’t haunt you forever — but exactly how long do inquiries stay on your credit report?
Here’s a breakdown of how credit reports work, different types of inquiries, how long inquiries stay on your report and whether you can remove inquiries from your credit report.
How credit reports work
There’s often some confusion about what credit reports are and the mechanisms behind them, so let’s get up to speed with how credit works first.
Essentially, a credit report is a document that outlines various aspects of your borrowing history. Credit reporting agencies (i.e., credit bureaus) collect information about your credit accounts from lenders and use it to compile your credit report. There are three credit main bureaus — Equifax, Experian and TransUnion — and each one will issue a different credit report for you.
In general, a credit report contains your:
Personal information (e.g., past and present names and addresses)
Types of credit accounts
Payment history (e.g., late payments)
Public records (e.g., bankruptcies)
Don’t confuse this with your credit score, which is a three-digit number that represents your creditworthiness. Credit scoring agencies determine your score using different credit scoring models, with the FICO Score being the dominant choice. Lenders choose which credit score to request, and you don’t get a say in the matter.
Inquiries affect both your credit report and your credit score — but how long they’ll have an impact depends on the type of inquiry in question.
Hard vs. soft inquiries
There are two types of credit inquiries to be aware of: hard inquiries and soft inquiries.
When you fill out a loan application, your potential lender will check your credit. This is known as a hard inquiry or hard pull — meaning the inquiry will go on your credit report and potentially hurt your credit score. That’s because too many inquiries can indicate that you’re short on cash. This doesn’t mean you should aim to go through your life without making any hard credit inquiries, but it’s wise not to make too many in a short period of time.
However, some lenders may offer a soft credit inquiry first. Known as a “loan prequalification,” the lender will tell you whether they’re likely to approve you for a loan before they have to make a hard inquiry. These soft inquiries will show up when you request your own credit report, but lenders won’t see them and they won’t affect your credit score, so there’s no need to worry about them.
Other examples of soft pulls are when you access your complimentary credit report or the IRS verifies your identity.
How long do inquiries stay on your credit report?
Typically, an inquiry stays on your credit report for up to two years, but inquiries won’t impact your credit score after a year.
How much impact do inquiries have on your credit score?
The good news is: even if you’ve made too many hard inquiries in a short period of time, the impact is unlikely to be significant. There are five factors that influence your FICO Score, one of which is “new credit” (aka inquiries) — but it only makes up 10% of your score.
As a result, a hard inquiry usually will only result in a loss of five points (or even less) to your FICO Score. The average credit score in the U.S. is 716, which is considered a good credit score since it falls between 670 and 739. Even after a five-point drop to 711, the score would remain in the “good” range.
Plus, the stronger your credit score and the longer your credit history, the less impact a single inquiry will have.
Keep in mind, there are times when multiple hard inquiries within a short time frame will only count as one inquiry. This is to account for rate shopping. FICO applies this rule to home, student and auto loans, and the rate shopping window can be anywhere from 14-45 days (depending on if the lender is using an older or newer scoring formula).
For example, if you’re shopping around for a great mortgage rate and make five hard inquiries within a two-week time frame, that will only count as one hard inquiry.
Similarly, VantageScore has a window of 14 days and includes all types of hard inquiries.
Still, it’s smart to be careful about multiple inquiries. If they fall outside of the relevant windows outlined above, filling out lots of loan applications in a short period of time could have a more significant negative impact on your score than making a single inquiry.
Can you remove hard inquiries from your credit report?
It would be nice if you could simply wipe all those inquiries off your credit report with the sweep of a magic wand. Unfortunately, things aren’t quite so simple.
That said, there’s an exception: inquiries that are the product of identity theft.
One reason it’s a good idea to check your own credit report is that it’s fairly common for them to contain errors or false information. In some cases, you might receive entries that should belong to another person with the same name or, worse, someone who has stolen your social security number to make credit applications. All of this can harm your credit score.
You can identify these entries by checking your credit report and looking for inquiries related to company names you don’t recognize. However, some companies might use a different “doing business as” name or abbreviation so, even if you’re unfamiliar at first, you might be looking at a legitimate inquiry.
If you find a mistake, it’s possible to request an amendment. Just contact the credit bureau in question (or multiple credit bureaus) to dispute the inquiry. Then, the credit bureau will contact you and determine whether the dispute was legitimate. With any luck, they’ll decide to remove it.
Why credit reports matter
Potential creditors use your credit report to decide whether they want to lend to you and what APR they’ll offer you. Avoiding unnecessary damage to your credit report is essential if you want to apply for new credit any time soon — whether it’s a credit card, personal loan or anything in between.
Employers and landlords may also look at your credit report.
How to keep your credit report healthy
Although you can’t avoid inquiries completely, you can reduce them by planning in advance which credit applications you’ll be making and when. Also, if you’re going to be rate shopping for a home or auto loan, try to keep them within a short window so the multiple inquiries will only count as one. Lastly, make use of soft inquiries when possible.
Obtaining a copy of your credit report from a site like AnnualCreditReport.com can help you understand what’s on your report right now and take action on any errors. It’s wise to obtain a copy around six months before you apply for a loan to give you time to fix the problem.
Be savvy about credit reports
It’s a relief to know that inquiries won’t stay on your credit report forever. They’ll disappear into the void after two years and stop impacting your credit score even sooner.
Knowing the ins and outs of inquiries helps you better understand how credit reports work. Being savvy about credit reports and credit scores can help you make informed decisions about lending and your personal finances.
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