As a consumer credit professional, I get a wide range of questions regarding the impact our actions have on our credit scores. From closing accounts to Bankruptcies, consumers want to know how to keep their scores optimal. Of all topics, credit inquiries seem to top the list.
It's almost like we consider having our credit pulled likened to going to the dentist. We may have a toothache, but we wait until it's unbearable before we pick up the phone and make an appointment. It's a similar scenario with credit pulls. We commonly hear, I don't want my credit pulled, I don't want my scores to drop!
Well, here is the hard truth; they both may hurt a little or a lot, but they are necessary in their own right! Now the good news, just like the dentist, if you handle it responsibly, you can minimize the pain or impact on our credit scores!
Just as the dentist can't tell you how bad the damage to the tooth is until he gets to work, nobody knows the exact score impact of a credit pull, until it has been initiated by a lender. It's important to understand that everyone's credit file has its own metaphorical DNA and a hard inquiry may impact two similar credit reports very similarly.
With that said, there are some things that will help reduce inquiry anxiety. First, let's discuss hard inquiries versus soft inquiries:
Soft Credit Inquiries:
Soft credit inquiries are defined as; any credit inquiry that is not initiated by the consumer in the effort to obtain new credit. This includes visiting credit monitoring sites like Credit Karma, applying for a job where a credit report is required, applying to rent a home. Additionally our existing creditors can review our credit without it causing an impact to our scores.
Hard Credit Inquiries:
Hard credit inquiries occur when we as consumers ask to borrow funds for any reason. It could be for a credit card, furniture, home loan, vehicle, installment loan, equity line of credit or student loan. Basically any time we make an application for new credit, it is considered a "hard credit pull" or "hard inquiry."
The Shopping Window:
No this section is not about window shopping. The shopping window is defined by the credit reporting agencies as the Deduplication Window. To clarify, possibly the three biggest types of credit we apply for in life are mortgages, cars and student loans. In the effort to give us the ability to shop multiple sources for financing, the three aforementioned loan types have a 45 day deduplication window.
What does this mean to us you ask? It allows us to have multiple credit inquiries within a 45 day period with the first credit inquiry being the only one to impact our credit scores! To further clarify, you can't shop for all three at the same time. Each inquiry must be coded as one of the three loan types.
It is important to remember that mortgages, cars and student loans are the only type of credit that this applies to. EVERY OTHER TYPE OF CREDIT APPLICATION will count each inquiry as a hard inquiry. There are no other exceptions. Apply for 3 different credit cards in one day, you could see a significant drop in your credit score.
So it wouldn't be fair if I didn't address how many points each inquiry may impact our scores. MyFICO.com states that the impact of a hard inquiry is approximately 5 points. Since this information is derived directly from their site, we can take that at face value. With that being said, I have seen credit reports before and after hard inquiries were initiated that lowered credit scores more than 15 points.
The higher score drop may have other factors involved like new accounts established, but it does seem slightly suspect that the scores dropped so quickly after the inquiry. I guess the most highly used answer in credit of "it depends" hold true here.
I hope this article helps reduce your inquiry anxiety. Of course, I can't do anything about your fear of dentists, but hey nobody's perfect.