How Long Do Hard Inquiries Stay on Your Credit Report?

A hard inquiry stays on your credit report for two years but typically won’t affect your score for more than a year.
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Written by Bev O'Shea
personal finance writer
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Edited by Courtney Neidel
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Co-written by Amanda Barroso
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Nerdy takeaways
  • A hard inquiry can ding your credit score a few points and stay on your credit report for up to two years, although the impact lessens over time.

  • Lenders typically perform a hard inquiry on your credit if you’re applying for a mortgage, auto loan, credit card or student loan.

  • Space out your credit applications — about every six months — to avoid major damage to your score.

  • To offset the effects of a hard inquiry in the following year, pay your bills on time and use 30% or less of your available credit.

Hard inquiries on your credit — the kind that happen when you apply for a loan or credit card — can stay on your credit report for about 24 months. However, a hard inquiry typically won’t affect your score after 12 months.

What is a hard inquiry?

A hard inquiry, sometimes called a hard pull, is when a potential lender requests to check your credit as part of the application or approval process. Hard inquiries typically happen when you’re applying for a mortgage, credit card, auto loans or student loans. A single hard inquiry can drop your score by a few points and stay on your credit reports for two years, although the impact lessens over time.

On the other hand, a soft inquiry, or soft pull, has no impact on your score. Soft inquiries are the result of a few things, like when you check your own credit or when a lender takes a peek at your credit to see if you’d qualify for a new credit card. Some employers might even look at your credit as part of the application process.

How much does a hard inquiry affect your credit?

Applying for credit can knock a few points off your credit scores. For people with extensive credit histories, a single credit application — and hard inquiry — has no effect or a fairly minimal one.

If you're trying to build credit, every point counts, and pulling back on new applications for a few months should restore lost points. Particularly if you are taking out a mortgage, wait until after closing to apply for new credit.

FICO vs. VantageScore calculations

If you've lost points because you applied for a lot of credit in a short time span, take heart. Credit applications are not a major factor in calculating your credit scores.

VantageScore describes recent credit behavior and inquiries as “less influential.” Applications for new credit account for 10% of FICO scores. But people who have short credit histories or few accounts may see a bigger change.

Exceptions if you're loan shopping

Making multiple inquiries in a short window of time counts as a single inquiry when you shop for a mortgage, student loan or auto loan. The amount of time you have to shop varies by the type of credit score. Newer versions of FICO scores typically give you a 45-day window for such inquiries. VantageScores have a shorter window for hard inquiries — 14 days.

You won’t get to choose the score or score version a lender uses, so it pays to do your comparison shopping quickly.

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Space out credit applications to minimize impact

Multiple hard inquiries can put a serious dent in your credit, particularly if you are new to credit, and it’s an easy mistake to make. Take the following example: You’ve just rented an apartment, and the leasing agent checked your credit as part of the application process. Next, you apply for financing for furniture to fill your new space. Then you decide you want a card with travel rewards, so you apply for a couple of those. That could be four credit inquiries within a short period, and it could result in a lower score.

People with six or more recent inquiries are eight times as likely to file for bankruptcy as those with none, according to FICO. Scoring formulas reflect this reality.

Dispute hard inquiries that don't belong to you

If a hard inquiry on one or more of your credit reports is inaccurate, you can dispute it as you would any other error. In fact, when you review your credit reports you should be on the lookout for hard inquiries that aren’t related to your recent financial behavior. These could be signs of identity theft and should be reported promptly.

Any credit score damage done by inquiries can be remedied with time. When you need credit, it’s a good idea to check to see if you are likely to qualify before you actually apply, because a hard inquiry will be recorded whether you are approved or not.

How to boost your score after a hard inquiry

There are two important things you can do to offset the negative impact of a hard inquiry on your credit score during the following 12 months:

  • Paying your balances on time, every time. Try your best to pay the bill in full, too, to prevent debt and the accrual of costly interest.

  • Keep credit card balances no higher than 30% of your credit limit, and lower is better. Set alerts on your cards so you know when you’re approaching that threshold. Utilizing less of the credit available to you will keep your budget in check and build your score.

While there are other factors that impact your credit score, those two habits account for more than half of your total score. NerdWallet can help you track your progress and offer tips for improving the other factors.

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