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Is it possible to remove inquiries from your credit report?

In general, an inquiry can only be stricken from your credit record if it’s an error or the result of a fraudulent account opened in your name

Summary

A credit inquiry generally cannot be removed from your credit report unless it’s the result of an error or a fraudulent account opened in your name. And it may not be worth the effort – a single, accurately reported hard inquiry has a minimal impact on your credit score.

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A credit report inquiry is one of the more interesting items that show up on a credit report.

Its credit score impact generally varies from small to none at all. But its effect on personal decision making can be much larger. Let’s take a look at this chameleon-like piece of credit data.

Inquiries are one of the many factors that affect your credit score, but as they make up only about 10% of your FICO score, the effect is generally a modest one. A second factor that mitigates any potential damage from inquires is that they drop off your credit report in two years, not the seven-year threshold applied to negative data such as a delinquency.

Even better, the scoring damage done by an inquiry lasts far shorter than the two-year reporting period; depending on whether you have a full or thin credit profile the impact may disappear in a couple of billing cycles.

Where an inquiry can make the most difference is when a person, rather than a score, uses it to make decisions.

See related: What is a good credit score?

Hard vs. soft inquiries

First, let’s define which inquiries count. There are two kinds, known as “soft” and “hard” inquiries.

Soft inquiries, as their name suggests, do not disturb your credit score. This includes a person checking their own credit report. Along those same lines are inquiries pulled by insurance companies or employers.

Employers use credit reports when deciding whether to hire or promote a person. So, with no credit being granted or extended, the inquiry is soft and there is no scoring damage. Landlords can go either way – hard or soft. Many landlords use a service that generates a soft pull to get them the information they need to decide if a person is likely to pay their rent and be a responsible tenant.

Also included in the soft category are those pulls for preapproved offers of credit. None of these count against your score. The key differentiator is whether the inquiry is for the purpose of deciding whether to extend or increase credit.

Hard inquiries can be generally defined as those that are made in order to extend new or additional credit. FICO says that on average a consumer will see a 5-10 point drop in their scores for each hard inquiry (but the drop is usually temporary).

Fat files – those with decades of information in them – will drop less and for a shorter period of time than for someone with a short history (thin credit file). It’s important to know that a hard inquiry counts, whether any credit is ultimately extended or not. It’s the intent that matters.

In short, if you apply and don’t get accepted, your credit will still be dinged (at least temporarily). This is why it is important to have a good handle on where you stand before you apply for new credit or additional limits. While there are no guarantees that you will be accepted, knowing where you stand in the credit scoring arena will at least give you an idea of your chances.

This applies to those preapproved offers as well; if you choose to accept one of those preapproved offers of credit, a hard pull will then be made and will affect your score. There are no guarantees that you will be accepted or get the terms you want. “Preapproved” means you are only approved to get the offer, not to get the actual credit.

Why you should avoid too many inquiries

For those new to the credit world, it can be quite enticing to accept every offer and apply for every card imaginable. This is a bad idea for several reasons, not the least of which is the impact to one’s credit score. Multiple inquiries send up red flags to creditors, in part because it can signal that someone is about to go on a spending spree that they may or may not be able to afford. Multiple inquiries can have a drastic negative impact on a score, especially for those with thin credit files.

There are exceptions when it comes to multiple inquiries. If you are in the market for a mortgage or a student or car loan, you will probably want to do some comparison shopping. The credit bureaus and scoring elves understand this and will count these multiple shopping inquiries as only a single one if they are done in a short period of time (45 days for FICO, 14 days for VantageScore). After all, chances are you will only be getting one mortgage or car loan at a time.

I mentioned that landlords can use either a hard or soft inquiry. If the landlord doesn’t use a service, the inquiry may be a hard one. If you have multiple landlord inquiries, be prepared to explain why in case they are interpreted as turn-downs from other property owners.

See related: How can I get a closed card account removed from my credit report?

What types of inquiries can be removed from your credit report?  

To review, soft inquiries don’t count against your score, but may still influence decision making. So, is it possible to remove an inquiry? It depends. Like everything that is in your credit file, if something is true and not beyond its expiration date, it generally cannot be removed by the consumer. If you apply for a credit card and get rejected, you might think you should able to remove that inquiry since nothing happened.

But you would be wrong. You did apply and whether you got the card or not makes no difference to the inquiry. While this may seem unfair, looking at it from a creditor’s position you can see there is value in having this information in your file as it evaluates your creditworthiness.

However, there are cases where an inquiry can – and should be – removed. If your identity is stolen and used to open a fraudulent account or change an existing account, you are the victim of identity theft and have every right to have those inquiries removed.

Identity theft is a serious problem and is probably the No. 1 reason why it is important to know what is in your credit reports. The damage done to your score and your financial health can be devastating if not caught quickly.

As with all data in your credit report, any information that is not yours can be removed. But everyone makes mistakes and the bureaus are no exception. It is estimated that upwards of 25% of credit reports have errors.

But the good news is that the bureaus want your credit to be as accurate as you do! After all, they are in competition to provide accurate information. They will help you remove any inaccurate or out-of-date inquiries from your report by going through the dispute process located on their websites or via their 800 numbers:

To review, while you may not like the fact that you applied for a credit card that you didn’t get, you did apply, and trying to get the inquiry removed from your file is not going to happen and is not worth worrying about. The impact to your score is generally negligible and the impact will fade in a few months. Just chalk it up to lessons learned in your credit life and move on.

Remember to keep track of your score!

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The editorial content on this page is based solely on the objective assessment of our writers and is not driven by advertising dollars. It has not been provided or commissioned by the credit card issuers. However, we may receive compensation when you click on links to products from our partners.

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