A hard inquiry (sometimes called a “hard pull”) is a record of every time that a creditor or lender runs your credit report to help decide what kind of credit or loan to grant you. When someone runs a credit check, it harms your credit score. Given the potential harm, you should look to remove as many hard inquiries as possible. This article takes you through how to remove hard inquiries from your credit report. It discusses which hard inquiries are removable and the specifics of disputing them.
Written by Todd Carney, J.D. Harvard Law 2021.
Updated September 27, 2021
Navigating your credit score can be confusing, since there are many personal finance factors to deal with. One issue is “hard inquiries.” A hard inquiry (sometimes called a “hard pull”) is a record of every time that a creditor or lender runs your credit report to help decide what kind of credit or loan to grant you. When someone runs a credit check, it harms your credit score. Given the potential harm, you should look to remove as many hard inquiries as possible.
This article takes you through how to remove hard inquiries from your credit report. It discusses which hard inquiries are removable and the specifics of disputing them.
Hard Inquiries Sometimes Appear in Error
There are several reasons that inaccurate hard inquiries might appear. All of them impact whether you receive credit and loans, and the interest rates that you receive for these loans. One cause of error is identity theft. When you receive a fraud alert, it’s sometimes because someone is using your personal information that they gained through identity theft to apply for credit or a loan in your name.
A hard credit inquiry carried out through identity theft will hurt your credit score, so the inquiry itself is worth disputing. If the fraud threatens immediate harm, you can put a credit freeze on your record, to prevent anyone from accessing it until the issue is resolved.
Hard inquiries are supposed to last for only two years on a credit report. If one is older than two years, it’s in error. The mistake still hurts your credit score, so you should contest it. Additionally, a hard inquiry from a single application could mistakenly appear on your credit report multiple times. This is an innocent slip up, but you should still dispute it.
Sometimes retailers or lenders run unauthorized hard inquiries, where they look up a credit report by mistake and/or without permission. This can also happen if a merchant (e.g. a car dealership) sends out multiple inquiries to try to get you the best financing for a loan. In situations like this, as long as the inquiries are all within 14 days of each other, they will only count as one inquiry against your credit score.
How To Dispute a Hard Inquiry
It’s frustrating that these errors hurt your credit score. Luckily, you have the opportunity to dispute a hard inquiry. A successful dispute will get it removed from your credit report.
If you have not reviewed your credit report, you can get a free one from AnnualCreditReport.com. When you see an error on a copy of your credit report, you should report it immediately. This can lead to a credit inquiry removal, where the inquiry gets taken off your record. Your credit report is not just used by credit card companies to consider whether to give you new credit or when you file a loan application. Many other corporations can file credit inquiries on you, such as employers, insurance companies, utility service companies and other businesses. So, it’s important to take steps to protect your own credit.
When filing a dispute, you will likely go through three major credit bureaus: Experian, Equifax and TransUnion. They compile your financial information by looking at your record with lines of credit, your car loan and other financial factors to create a credit report, which reflects your credit score.
These three bureaus gain information about your credit history through a few ways. Creditors will report data to Experian, Equifax and TransUnion. The credit bureaus also buy data from various databases. Finally, Experian, Equifax and TransUnion will all share information between each other.
Since each credit bureau can pull a credit report, you should check on your credit score for all three of them. All of the bureaus can impact your credit score, but your credit score may vary per company.
There are also “furnishers.” A furnisher is a type of company that gives information about your consumer history to a credit bureau. Examples of furnishers include credit card issuers, lenders and other financial organizations. You can contact furnishers directly. This can prove more efficient because when you contact credit bureaus, they will likely talk to furnishers about your various lines of credit, personal loans and other issues.
The Fair Credit Reporting Act provides a credit bureau 30 days to review disputes, and then another five days to send you the results. Given that you may have several credit cards or loans with disputes, the bureau needs some time to look everything up.
When the review is complete, a few different things can happen. If the information is incorrect, then the furnisher must remove inquiries found to be inaccurate. When you contact furnishers, they will send you an update directly. If you went through a bureau and it causes a change in your credit report, they will send you a free credit report.
If the furnisher determines that the information that you disputed is not an error, then the furnisher will not remove it. Regardless, you receive an update on the investigation. After this, if you still believe that your credit report contains incorrect information, you can put a disclaimer in your credit file noting this. This disclaimer will appear every time someone pulls you information.
The reviewer might find your dispute frivolous. Reasons for a dispute being frivolous include:
There is no evidence to support the claim
You raised the claim multiple times
You included false information on your credit report
You filed a dispute against your overall credit report
A frivolous dispute will not be investigated, but you must be notified of this within five days.
Hard Inquiries Should Be Removed After 2 Years
The only way that a dispute will work is if the inquiry appears in error on your credit report. Fortunately, hard inquiries only appear for two years on your credit report. Most other negative information will remain for seven years. A Chapter 7 bankruptcy remains for up to 10 years, though its effects on your credit score are much more short-lived.
Inquiries Aren’t a Major Factor in Your Credit Score
Credit inquiries in general don’t play an overwhelming role in your credit score. There are two types of inquiries, hard and soft inquiries. A soft inquiry is when someone runs a credit check on you for something that does not have to do with lending you money.
Examples of soft inquiries include when a utility company considers whether they need security deposit from you, when credit card companies decide what types of credit cards to market to you and for setting premiums on insurance. Additionally, when you pull a credit check on yourself through a credit monitoring service, it’s a soft inquiry. Since these credit inquiries do not deal with lending you money, but still provide valuable information about your credit history, it would be unfair if they counted against your credit score.
According to Experian, inquiries won’t affect you unless you also have other - more serious - issues impacting your credit score. Multiple credit inquiries are ultimately a reality of life. For example, when you are looking to buy a car and want the best auto loan rates, a dealership might engage in rate shopping, where they send your information to an array of lenders. Due to this issue, all inquiries related to an auto loan that are sent within 14 days will all count as one inquiry.
Additionally, there are even credit scoring systems that will not count a credit inquiry after more than one year. As noted above, hard inquiries will not remain on your credit report for more than two years. So over time, an individual inquiry counts less.
Looking further into the actual number, in terms of impact on your credit score, new inquiries only account for 10% of your credit score. Credit scoring models use several larger factors to determine your FICO Score. One factor is your payment history, which accounts for 35% of your credit score. This factor looks at how reliant you are in paying for money you owe, such as if you have failed to pay your bills on time in the past or are currently behind on any current payments.
Another factor is how much debt that you have. This component accounts for all of your loans. The higher your debt - especially when compared to your income - the lower your credit score. Ultimately your debt accounts for 30% of your credit score.
The length of your credit history also plays a role. If you pay back your loans and credit cards, then the longer your credit history is, the more it will help reflect that you have good credit. Your credit length ultimately accounts for 15% of your credit score.
Similarly, having a wide range of different types of credit will increase your credit score. Having a long history of credit cards that you have paid back is better than having no credit cards. But if you never pay back your credit cards, then your long credit history could hurt your score. Different types of credit will account for 10% of your total score.
Sample Letter to Get Hard Inquiries Removed From Your Credit Report
If you’re going to dispute an error on your credit report, it’s best to write a letter to the credit reporting agencies. Though many bureaus have online forms, they often include forced arbitration forms, which will prevent you from filing a lawsuit over the dispute, something you may ultimately need to do.
Writing a letter may feel overwhelming. However, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) and the Federal Trade Commission both provide a sample cover letter and a template of the information that the dispute letter needs to include. Your letter should contain the following info:
Information that identifies you:
Your id number or the one from the consumer report
Your personal address
The date that you write the letter
Social security number (not required)
Driver’s license number (not required)
Information about the company:
Address of the company
Information about the dispute:
The number from the account
You should number each item that you want corrected
The dates that the dispute occurred
Explain each inaccuracy
The company that has the information in dispute
Finally, make sure you include a summary or list of the documents you submitted to support your claim.
Hard inquiries can hurt your credit score. This impact can lead to problems with factors such as pre-approval and your credit accounts. So, it’s important to remove any unauthorized hard credit inquiries. All hard inquiries should disappear from your credit report after two years. You can file a dispute with a credit bureau or a furnisher. Filing with a furnisher can be more efficient. The CFPB provides sample letters and the precise information that you need to send a letter regarding a dispute.
While it’s important to address hard inquiries, they do not solely determine your credit score. They account for about 10 % of your credit score and soft inquiries don’t impact it at all. Nonetheless, taking a proactive approach to all areas of your credit report, will help you get the best credit possible.