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How Do Inquiries Affect My Credit Score?

Inquiries are the section of your credit report at the bottom that list the recent accesses to your credit report at a credit bureau.For example, you will have a list of creditors who have accessed your report, broken out by TransUnion, Equifax, and Experian. Here is a sample with one inquiry for TransUnion.

This is a key factor in troubleshooting potential identity theft issues or credit errors. If you have not applied for credit recently, you should not see new inquiries. That said, inquiries can be placed by companies you already work with, such as your mortgage holder, credit card company, or other lenders, to check your credit health.

Having many inquiries can potentially affect your credit score. Attempts to access multiple lines of credit or multiple credit cards in a short period can sometimes be a lending decision factor.

It is unknown how much inquiries explicitly affect the actual score (such as the FICO score), as the algorithm is proprietary. In their own layout of what affects the score, inquiries are not listed.

That said, experience has shown a few key bits of information related to inquiries:

  • A consumer initiated credit report does NOT produce a negative affect on the credit score. So your access of a free report on annualcreditreport.com or a purchase of a consumer report through companies like Sarma will not have an impact.
  • When you are shopping for a car or mortgage, you can have multiple inquiries in a short period of time. This is sometimes a concern for consumers who may have borderline credit or concerns about this affecting their scores. When calculating the score, it is taken into account that multiple inquiries from auto dealers or mortgage companies are shown in a short period. In other words, the system is smart enough to take this into consideration and account for it in determining the score.
  • Do not overvalue inquiries. Although it may be a factor in credit scoring, it is not as crucial as many make it out to be. There are other factors that you can work on to improve your credit health that make a much larger impact, and you have direct control over.
  • Although they are not supposed to affect your score, “prequalified” or “prescreening” offers allow lenders to buy lists from the credit bureaus of consumers in certain score ranges and other criteria. Many lenders use these lists to solicit consumers to buy services. These will show as inquiries on your credit report. To remove yourself from these lists, you can contact the FTC  toll-free 1-888-5-OPTOUT (18885678688) or visit www.optoutprescreen.com.
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