Does Checking Your Credit Hurt Your Credit Score?

Does Checking Your Credit Hurt Your Credit Score?

It’s a question anyone making a credit purchase asks: does checking your credit hurt your credit score? You want to do your due diligence and shop around, you know it’s the right thing to do. So how is it that getting your credit pulled frequently will end up negatively affecting your score?

Well, it does, and it doesn’t. How’s that for a double take?

In short, simply checking your credit does not lower your score. Running your credit for a purchase does… most of the time.

Let’s take a look at what types of credit inquiries actually do affect your credit score and what you can do to minimize those times.

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Types of Pulls

“Pulling your credit” isn’t just a simple procedure. There are types of ways to pull your credit that can drastically change your credit score.

Soft Pulls

Soft pulls or soft inquiries are those times that you (or another company on your behalf) request your credit report purely for the sake of checking it. This includes your free government-mandated credit report from freecreditreport.com, as well as any reports or scores you receive from credit card companies, financial institutions, or consumer websites like CreditKarma.

Soft pulls are also used when someone checks your credit as part of a background check. This can be part of a job interview, apartment rental or really any reason someone would have reason to perform a background check.

Another example that you’ll often find as a result of soft credit pulls are those pre-screened credit card or mortgage offers you receive in the mail. These offers are a result of the company doing a soft credit pull and sending solicitations to however many individuals meet minimum requirements.

Because soft pulls are not attached to a firm offer of credit (i.e. if the credit score is high enough, you will be approved), your score and report is left unchanged.

Hard Pulls

Hard pulls or inquiries are those credit queries that are made by companies as a condition of extending you credit. In essence, the companies are saying “we need to look at this person’s credit to determine if we want to lend to them,” as opposed to a soft pull, “we’re pulling credit just to get a look at it and do nothing else.”

You’ll typically get a hard pull for things like credit cards, mortgages, auto loans, personal loans or store credit cards. Often, apartment management companies will pull your credit when you’re finalizing a rental.

Hard inquiries fall off of your credit report within two years.

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Is there a way to avoid hard pulls all together?

Not unless you don’t use credit at all. But there are ways to minimize your credit exposure. First, ensure that you have a solid plan of what you’re getting the credit for. Say you’re buying a home and want to get a pre-qualification for a mortgage.

Ensure you understand how much you can afford. Be careful, it may be less than what the mortgage company offers.

Second, shop around! That’s right, you can shop around for the best rate out there. The key is to do your shopping within the specified amount of time.

For example, FICO, the aggregate credit score that many bureaus and lenders use, gives you a 30-day grace period before putting a loan inquiry on your report. This means that newer pulls aren’t affected by older ones.

Additionally, FICO (and its competitor VantageScore) provide a 14-day period in which to shop around the same type of loan. Again, with our mortgage example, if you receive six quotes, all of those will count as one inquiry following the 14-day period.

It’s important to note that once you do agree to a loan, no matter what size, both the inquiry and the new debt will appear on your report.

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Do any companies do both?

Sure do. All financial institutions and credit card issuers can perform a soft credit inquiry before doing a hard pull. Also, keep in mind that other companies, like your utilities, cable or cell phone provider can and may pull your credit, either soft or hard.

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My credit report doesn’t look right…

It’s critically important that you check your credit report often for errors and mis-reporting. If you’re reviewing your report and notice something amiss, there are ways to dispute the inquiry. All credit bureaus have a dedicated dispute hotline and agents that will help you work through your dispute.

Additionally, if there is an error, the credit bureau will inform the others that the inquiry should be removed.

You could also opt to hire a credit repair agency like Sky Blue (if you would rather a professional company handle this process for you).

If you’re not getting the service you think you should be from the credit bureaus, you should escalate your complaint to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) which helps consumers arbitrate disputes with financial institutions.

Most importantly, if you notice a hard credit pull on your report that you didn’t make, you may be the victim of identity theft. Contacting your financial institutions and the credit bureau in question is the first step.

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Conclusion

So, does checking your credit hurt your score? Yes and no; hard pulls lower your score and soft pulls do not. However, many hard pulls in a short period of time for one type of loan won’t drag things down too much.

As with all things, ensure you do your research and know the type of credit you’d like to obtain. Going in with a plan will ensure that you don’t end up with hard credit pulls when you meant to just have a peek.

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Spenser Smith

About Spenser Smith

Spenser is a finance writer living in Philadelphia, PA where he works for a financial services company, specializing in consumer credit. Spenser holds both a bachelor's and master's degree in economics.

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