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How Long Do Credit Inquiries Stay on Your Credit Report (and How Many Points Will It Cost You)?

Last updated 03/15/2024 by

Lacey Stark

Edited by

Fact checked by

Hard inquiries to your credit report happen when you apply for a credit card, a mortgage or car loan, or some other form of credit, and they typically stay on your credit report for up to two years. However, the effect on your credit score may only last a few months, depending on the rest of your credit history. Multiple hard credit inquiries within a short period of time can affect your credit score more drastically.
In an economy based on debt, applying for credit cards and loans is simply a part of life. Your credit score is a major factor in determining whether or not you will be approved for a line of credit. And if you need a lot of credit, you might wonder if filling out all those credit applications will have a significant impact on your scores.
Read on to learn more about how credit inquiries affect your credit score, how long hard inquiries stay on your report, and the potential drawbacks of having multiple hard inquiries on your credit report.

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Hard inquiries versus soft inquiries

Before we dive into the main topic, let’s go over the differences between a hard and soft inquiry on your credit report.

What is a hard inquiry?

A hard inquiry on your credit report (also known as a hard credit check or hard pull) occurs when you apply for a loan or credit card. The impact of this type of inquiry is to drop your score by a few points — usually less than five, according to FICO. (Keep in mind that hard inquiries don’t weigh heavily relative to the other factors of your credit score, so this shouldn’t usually be a major source of concern.)
Some activities that typically result in hard inquiries include the following:
  • Applying for a home or auto loan
  • Renting an apartment
  • Refinancing a mortgage loan
  • Applying for personal loans
  • Requesting a credit limit increase on a credit card

What is a soft inquiry?

By contrast, a soft inquiry (also known as a soft credit check or soft pull) does not affect your credit score and isn’t necessarily initiated by you. Here are a few scenarios that might trigger a soft inquiry on your credit report:
  • Checking your own credit report
  • Employer or background check
  • Unsolicited promotional credit card offer
  • Credit limit increase you did not request
  • Applying for auto insurance (depending on the state in which you live)
It should be noted that lenders and creditors do not see soft inquiries when looking at your credit history. Only you can see soft credit inquiries when you check your credit report.

Pro Tip

When you check your own credit reports or use a credit monitoring service to keep an eye on your credit score, those count as soft credit checks, so you can look at your credit scores as often as you like without losing points!

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How long do credit inquiries stay on your credit report?

A hard credit inquiry will stay on your credit report for about two years, and hard inquiries drop your credit score a few points. The good news is that neither should impact your credit for much more than a year. This is especially true if you have good credit to begin with, says Rachanna Bhatt, Head of Credit Cards at PNC Bank.
“While a hard inquiry may temporarily lower your credit score, it shouldn’t hinder your ability to get a new credit card, especially if your overall credit standing is good. Credit card lenders consider a variety of criteria and one hard inquiry isn’t usually the sole factor. If your overall credit profile is healthy, approval is achievable.”
This is also true if you’re shopping for auto loans, mortgages, or other types of loans. If you have good credit, a single inquiry shouldn’t have a significant impact on your ability to qualify for these loans.
However, if you have bad credit or a relatively thin credit history (e.g., only a few accounts that are all new), hard inquiries may have more of an impact on the lending decision made by a creditor or other financial institution.

How multiple inquiries affect your credit scores

While one or two hard inquiries shouldn’t be much of a problem, it’s important to avoid having too many inquiries within a brief period of time. For example, if you’ve recently qualified for an auto loan, applied for a credit card, and filled out an application to finance new furniture, that’s already three hard inquiries on your credit report.
For one thing, each hard inquiry will cause your credit scores to drop a few points. Therefore, the more hard inquiries you have, the more points you’ll lose. Multiple inquiries can also be a red flag for lenders, who may think you’re having financial difficulty or are otherwise a risk when it comes to repaying debts.
“Maintaining a longer gap between applications allows your credit score to recover from these temporary dips and shows responsible credit management,” says Bhatt. “If you’re planning on financing a major purchase within a year, it’s advisable to limit credit card applications in order to keep your credit score as high as possible, as your score directly impacts interest rates.”

Credit scoring models

Speaking of major purchases, it’s important to note that credit scoring models treat certain loans (and the hard inquiries they come with) differently than other types of lending. For example, if you’re comparison shopping for a mortgage loan, auto loan, or private student loan, credit score calculations will count multiple inquiries as a single hard inquiry. This results in less of an impact on your credit scores.
Depending on the credit scoring model being used (which, as a consumer, you have no way of knowing), you should have anywhere between 14 to 45 days to compare multiple lending offers. Either way, it’s a good idea to confine your rate shopping to a short period of time so as to minimize the impact on your credit score.

Pro Tip

The rule of treating multiple inquiries as one hard inquiry for certain types of loans does not extend to credit cards, personal loans, or other types of new credit. Each of those will result in a new hard inquiry every time you apply, so be sure to plan your credit applications accordingly to minimize the damage to your credit score.

How to keep your credit record healthy

Experts agree: There are simple ways to build a better overall credit score or maintain the good credit you already have. Always pay your bills on time, keep your credit card balances low (ideally at less than a 30% utilization rate), and avoid multiple hard inquiries, especially if you’re planning to finance a large purchase in the near future. In general, apply for new credit sparingly — i.e., only when you really need it.
In addition, David Chami, Managing Partner and Attorney at Consumer Attorneys, stresses the importance of monitoring your credit reports on a regular basis:
“Keep an eye on your credit reports. Identity theft can happen and if you’re not watching your credit report, you may not find out about it until it’s too late. By monitoring your credit report, you can see if potential identity thieves have applied for credit by looking at the inquiry sections of your reports.”
Freddie Huynh, Vice President of Data Optimization at Freedom Debt Relief, adds, “Obtaining and reviewing your credit reports annually is a good rule of thumb. If you are about to make a big purchase that requires a loan, it may be helpful to check your credit reports a few months before so that there are no surprises.”

Pro Tip

If you find any mistakes or fraudulent activity on your credit reports, report them immediately and dispute them with all of the credit bureaus. Getting rid of any incorrect information on your credit report is one of the fastest ways to boost your credit score.


Is it true that after seven years, your credit is clear?

It’s true that negative information on your credit reports is usually removed after seven years of no activity. For example, if you have a credit account in collections, it will remain on your credit report for up to seven years, then disappear. Crucially, however, if you make a payment on that account at any time before the seven-year mark, the clock resets for an additional seven years.
On a happier note, any positive information on your credit report usually stays for up to ten years. For instance, if you had an auto loan and paid it back according to the terms of your agreement (i.e., in full and with no late payments), that positive credit history will appear to lenders in credit checks whenever you apply for credit over the next decade, which will dramatically increase your chances of being approved for another loan.

How many credit inquiries are too many?

While there isn’t a definitive number that constitutes “too many” hard inquiries, you should use your common sense and only apply for credit that you need and that you will be able to pay back.
“According to FICO, many inquiries mean greater risk to a lender. Statistically, the FICO website says, people with six inquiries or more on their credit reports can be up to eight times more likely to declare bankruptcy than people with no inquiries on their reports,” says Huynh.
In short, as mentioned earlier, if a potential lender or creditor sees too many hard inquiries on your report, you are much less likely to be approved for any kind of lending.

How do I get hard inquiries removed from my credit report?

There is no way to get legitimate inquiries taken off your credit report. After all, you knowingly applied for that loan or credit card and, thus, authorized that credit check. Even if you’re not approved, the hard inquiry will stay on your credit for up to two years.
On the other hand, if there is a hard inquiry on your credit report that you didn’t approve — as in a case of fraud or identity theft — you can dispute the hard inquiry with the credit bureau. Keep in mind that if the inquiry shows up on all of your credit reports, you will need to dispute the inaccurate information with all three major credit bureaus individually.

Key Takeaways

  • A single hard inquiry will typically drop your credit score by less than five points.
  • If your credit history is otherwise healthy, your score drop from a hard inquiry should rebound in less than a year.
  • Multiple hard inquiries will hurt your score more drastically because each hard inquiry results in a loss of credit score points.
  • Soft inquiries, such as checking your own credit reports, have no effect on your credit scores.
  • Rate shopping for loans like mortgages and auto loans is considered one inquiry if they’re completed within a specific period of time, which varies depending on the credit scoring model.

SuperMoney may receive compensation from some or all of the companies featured, and the order of results are influenced by advertising bids, with exception for mortgage and home lending related products. Learn more

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