Having a good credit score is essential to borrowing money at a good rate with favorable terms. It is even more important to know your credit eligibility before you apply for any type of loan so you have an idea of what to expect from a creditor.
However, you may have heard that ordering a credit bureau report lowers your credit score. This is only true in some cases, but in order to protect yourself and still be informed, it is helpful to know the difference between the inquiries that hurt your score and those that help you properly manage your credit.
First, and most importantly, your score is not affected when you order the report from a credit reporting agency or other institution that supplies credit reports to consumers. These personal inquiries are classified as soft inquiries. All three credit bureaus — Equifax, TransUnion, and Experian — allow consumers to order reports, and sites like FreeCreditReport.com and free-credit-reports.com can also be used without negatively affecting your score. Credit monitoring services that track your credit for you on a daily basis can also access your report without damaging your credit. Free-credit-reports.com contains links to several of these monitoring agencies.
Inquiries to Obtain Credit
When you apply for any type of credit — mortgage loans or credit cards — your score will be affected, although typically this type of hard inquiry may only drop your score by a few points. If your credit history is limited or you don’t have many open accounts, your score could be affected more significantly when a lender or creditor pulls your credit report.
If you apply for credit through several different creditors to get the best rate, keep in mind each lender is pulling a new credit report. As long as you do your shopping within a relatively short period of time — 14 days according to myFICO — your score will stay higher than if your shopping is spread out over a longer time period. Multiple applications for credit over an extended period of time give the impression that you might be desperate for credit and are applying for loans everywhere. This is an immediate red flag to lenders.
Many companies access a version of your credit report in order to “pre-approve” you for a loan product or credit card. This unsolicited offer of credit does not affect your credit in any way, but it may show up on a section of your credit report that lists all inquiries. Even if you see numerous soft inquiries on your report, you can rest easy knowing they won’t hurt your credit.
Many employers and landlords use credit reports to evaluate potential employees and tenants. If these inquiries are noted as employer searches, they typically do not lower your score.
As you can see, there are many reasons to access your credit and also many ways your credit can be affected by these inquiries. Make sure you know who is looking at your credit information and consider credit monitoring services to help you properly manage and protect your good credit.