How to Remove Hard Inquiries on a Credit Report
Credit inquiries can harm your credit report, but can you remove them for a small boost?
Contributing Writer at Tally
May 23, 2022
Many factors play a role in developing your credit score, like your payment history and how long you’ve had each credit card. But did you know that even having a lender check your credit can impact your credit score?
These credit inquiries are necessary for creditors to determine if you have the credit score and history needed to approve you for a new credit account. With too many inquiries, you can start seeing negative impacts on your credit score. Because of this, you want to ensure you minimize the number of inquiries on your report.
Below, we outline how to remove hard inquiries on a credit report, the impact it'll make and when it’s possible to remove them.
Hard credit inquiry vs. a soft inquiry
There are two main types of credit inquiries — soft and hard — and they have different impacts on your credit score.
Hard credit inquiry
A hard credit inquiry or hard pull is when a lender or creditor uses your Social Security number to view your credit report and credit score from any or all three of the major credit bureaus. They do so to determine your eligibility for a loan, line of credit or credit card. The inquiry is directly attached to a credit or loan application.
A hard credit inquiry impacts the new credit variable — which accounts for 10% of your credit score — in the FICO credit scoring model. The fewer credit inquiries you have, the better, but the FICO scoring model only considers hard inquiries from the last 12 months. Anything older than 12 months is disregarded.
Depending on your credit history, you can expect this type of inquiry to drop your credit score by five points or less. Your score will usually return to normal in just a few months with good debt management.
Examples of times when you may undergo a hard inquiry include when you’re applying for:
A personal loan
An auto loan at a dealership, bank or online
A line of credit
A credit card
Private student loans (most federal student loans don’t require a credit check)
When hard inquiries don’t affect your credit score
Not all hard credit inquiries will impact your credit score. The one case where they will not impact your score is when you’re rate shopping.
Like shopping for anything else, when shopping for a loan, you want to check multiple lenders and get the best loan terms. However, this will usually involve a hard credit inquiry from each lender. The rate shopping window helps alleviate some of the impacts on your credit score.
The FICO credit scoring model allows you to apply for the same types of loans within a 14 or 45-day period without taking massive hits to your credit score for multiple credit inquiries. Only the first credit inquiry impacts your credit score during this window and all other related credit inquiries are ignored for scoring purposes. Keep in mind that these ignored inquiries will still show on your credit report.
For example, if you’re shopping for a mortgage and apply to 10 mortgage companies trying to find the best rate in a 14 or 45-day period, only the first inquiry will impact your FICO Score. The remaining nine inquiries will show on your credit report but won’t factor into the scoring algorithm.
There is one issue, however. The number of days of the rate-shopping window depends on the FICO scoring model a lender uses. The newest FICO model has a 45-day window, but older models have a 14-day window. So, try to keep your rate shopping inside the 14-day window to be safe.
Keep in mind that credit cards are not included in the rate-shopping exception. All hard inquiries from a credit card issuer will impact your credit score, even those done within a 14-day window of each other.
Soft credit inquiry
A soft credit inquiry is when a person or organization pulls your credit history without you intending to apply for a loan, line of credit or credit card. These are more informative credit pulls that are generally used to verify your identity or get a feeling of your debt load for reasons other than taking on more debt.
Soft credit inquiries may appear on your credit report in their own section, though not always, and they have no impact on your FICO Score.
Some examples of times you’d undergo a soft credit inquiry are:
When a credit card company issues you a pre-approval for a special offer
When applying to rent an apartment
When completing a background check for new employment
When financial institutions are verifying your personal information
When applying for utilities, such as water or electricity
When applying for new car insurance
When checking your own credit
How to remove hard inquiries on a credit report: 3 ways
There are several ways to remove inaccurate hard inquiries from your credit report but they all share one common factor: the inquiry must be illegitimate to have it removed. You can't remove a legitimate credit inquiry. Instead, you must wait for the 12 months to pass until FICO no longer considers the inquiry in your credit score.
Here are three ways to request the deletion of illegitimate credit inquiries.
Written request to the company that pulled your credit
One effective credit inquiry removal method is to send a dispute letter to the company that pulled your credit. This letter will explain that you never gave the company authorization to pull your credit report and will request the company delete the inquiry from your credit file.
In the letter, you’ll need to include:
Your name, address and phone number
The credit bureau or bureaus you saw the inquiry on
The date or estimated date of the inquiry
A clear and direct statement that you’re disputing the inquiry and want it removed
A request for documentation supporting the inquiry as legitimate, if applicable
Send this letter to the company that pulled your credit history via certified mail with a return receipt. The company will eventually update you with the notification it deleted an illegitimate hard inquiry or the documentation showing you authorized the hard pull.
Written request to the credit bureaus
You can also create a written request to all the credit reporting agencies you saw the credit inquiry on. Generally, it will be on all three of the major bureaus’ reports. You would include the same basic information as you would in the letter to the company, but you’d then send the letter via certified mail to each credit bureau that had the inquiry listed.
The addresses to mail the certified letter to each credit bureau are as follows:
Equifax: P.O. Box 740256, Atlanta, GA 30374-0256
Experian: P.O. Box 9701, Allen, TX 75013
TransUnion: P.O. Box 2000, Chester, PA 19016
The credit bureau will then review the inquiry and request supporting documentation from the company that pulled your credit report. If the documentation shows the credit pull was not authorized, the bureau will delete the inquiry. However, if the hard pull was legitimate, it will remain.
You will receive a letter stating if the hard credit inquiry was fraudulent or legitimate.
You can also file a dispute online with the three major credit bureaus. This is likely the easiest of the processes. You simply enter basic personal information and the item you’re disputing, then submit it online. There’s no need for certified mail and no cost to you.
You can file the dispute with each affected credit bureau at the following web pages:
Whether the credit inquiry is deemed fraudulent and removed or legitimate, you’ll receive an update and explanation from the credit bureau after it completes its research.
How removing a hard inquiry will affect your credit score
If your credit score dropped due to an illegitimate hard credit inquiry and you have it removed, you may see your score rebound almost immediately. This depends on various other credit score factors.
That said, it’s not always only about your credit score when it comes to getting approved for credit. Some creditors look beyond your credit score and consider exactly how many credit inquiries you have. In some cases, the creditor would reject your application based on the sheer number of credit inquiries, regardless of your credit score. Having illegitimate inquiries removed can mitigate this situation.
How to avoid unauthorized hard inquiries
Avoiding illegitimate credit inquiries is far easier than disputing them later. You can do this in a few ways. Primarily, you want to protect your personal information, keeping it out of the hands of identity thieves. This means:
Shredding any documents with your Social Security number and other key personal data on them
Verifying the security and legitimacy of any website before entering personal data
Being leery of anyone calling and asking for even the last four digits of your Social Security number
Remove illegitimate hard inquiries to help your credit score
When you know how to remove hard inquiries on a credit report, you can act against illegitimate credit inquiries that harm your credit. Write a letter to the creditor or credit bureaus requesting they remove the fraudulent inquiries. If the inquiry ends up legitimate, it will remain on your credit report and impact your credit score for 12 months.
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