How to Remove Hard Inquiries from a Credit Report
Table of Contents
- By Bryan Lee
- Nov 28, 2022
A credit score is an invisible number, yet it often feels like it controls our lives. It determines what we can buy and how much we'll have to pay. It even gets to decide where we're allowed to live.
So, keeping your credit at a healthy number, preferably above 690, is a crucial requirement for maintaining financial freedom. However, there are dozens of factors that can lower your credit without you even knowing.
Not all of them are from missing payments or going over the limit of a card. No, sometimes just getting your credit checked is enough to damage a score.
What is a Hard Inquiry?
A hard credit inquiry, or "hard pull," is when a lender checks your credit report as part of the application process. It's different from soft inquiries, which are done with your permission and don't negatively affect your credit score.
Hard inquiries create a record of a search for new credit, such as when applying for a loan or mortgage. They appear on your credit report as a record of where and when these searches occurred. Hard inquiries can affect your credit score in two ways:
- By increasing your total number of accounts (account age)
- By lowering your average account length
These factors will tell a different story depending on your personal credit history. For example, A string of credit checks may inform a lender that you're shopping for a new credit card. Unfortunately, the reports don't specify precisely why a hard inquiry occurs, so it's up to each lender to judge for themself.
How to Lower the Impact of Hard Inquiries
Of course, you can't avoid all inquiries. A time will come when you'll need to apply for credit or a loan and initiate an inquiry on your report. However, there are rules to follow that will reduce the impact on your overall score.
Avoid Applying for Multiple Lines at Once
Doing some comparison shopping is just fine. If you're shopping for the best car financing, you'll be able to request that all the hard inquiries get lumped into one. This is an option as long as all the applications occur within two weeks.
If multiple inquiries come through and there's no relationship between them, lenders may believe you're relying on credit and give the inquiries more weight.
Research Before You Apply
Ask the lender about their verification process before you apply. Be selective about where you apply and compare different lenders' terms ahead of time. Good options include places that offer prequalification since those result in a soft inquiry rather than a hard one. Being pre-qualified also lets you get more information on interest rates and future fees.
When Should You Dispute an Inquiry?
A large volume of hard inquiries will lower your credit score for up to a few years. If the pulls were justified, then all you can do is slowly build up your score again. However, there are a few times when disputing the score can get it removed. These are:
- If you believe the inquiry was unjustified or made in error
- If you are disputing an inquiry that is older than two years
- If someone is fraudulently applying for credit in your name
Meeting these conditions doesn't automatically pull the inquiry from your report. Some inquiries appear wrong, but that doesn't make them fraudulent. You may not have known that an application ran a check, or perhaps the check was run by an outside agency you didn't recognize.
How to Remove a Hard Inquiry from a Credit Report
There are several ways to remove a hard inquiry from your credit report if you're in any of the above situations. Be honest and specific about why you believe the inquiry is incorrect. Accurate dates for when you did or didn't apply with a lender will expedite your dispute.
- Contact the credit reporting agency that reported it and request its removal directly. Some companies will be happy to do this for you, while others will want proof of fraud before listening to your request. This may be the best way forward if you believe you are a victim of identity theft.
- Call the company you applied for the line of credit with and ask them if they can remove the inquiry from their database.
If both options are denied, and you still believe the inquiry was faulty, you can file a dispute with the credit bureau. This makes the bureau legally required to investigate and correct any wrong information.
It's highly recommended to file these disputes by letter rather than online to ensure a paper trail. You can file a dispute with any of the big three bureaus: TransUnion, Equifax, and Experian.
How Long Do Hard Inquiries Stay on a Credit Report?
Hard inquiries remain on your report for up to two years but only hurt for the first one. The length of time a hard inquiry stays on a credit report may vary depending on where it came from and why it was made.
If the inquiry resulted from an application for a mortgage, student loan, or auto financing, it would stay on your report for two years from the date an issuer requested it.
If the inquiry resulted from a request by a non-lender, it might be gone within a month. This is because the inquiry wasn't to make a purchase but to verify eligibility.
The best way to avoid getting hard inquiries on your credit report is by not applying for new credit lines without research. This doesn't require extra money and only takes a few short conversations with multiple lenders.
At the end of the day, a hard inquiry on your credit report isn't the end of the world. Experian reports that it will only lower your score by five points at the most. And your score will bounce back in a few months if you're in good standing.