Hard credit inquiries are a part of determining your creditworthiness. A single inquiry is no big deal — expect a drop of around 5 points — but multiple hard credit inquiries can cause real damage to your credit score. Also, if you’re trying to build your credit or seeking a loan, even the smallest changes to your FICO score can make a big difference.
Can you remove hard inquiries from your credit report?
Yes, you can remove hard inquiries from your credit history, but only if they occurred without your knowledge or approval. For example, if a lender performed a hard pull on your credit profile without your knowledge, you have the right to ask credit bureuas to remove it.
You can also request the removal of a hard inquiry if a company performs more inquiries than you expected. For example, you can request a hard inquiry removal if a credit card issuer performs a second or third hard pull on your credit file after you made the initial request.
In summary, you can get a hard inquiry removed if any of the following conditions apply:
- You had no knowledge of the hard pull on your credit file.
- The inquiry occurred without your approval.
- The company performed more hard inquiries than you expected.
If a hard inquiry is the result of a legitimate request for credit, there isn’t much you can do besides waiting for the inquiry to drop off your report after two years.
Here’s what you need to know about what credit inquiries are, the effects they have on your credit, and when you can remove them from your credit report.
What is a hard credit inquiry?
When you apply for some form of credit (like a credit card, a loan, or anything involving borrowing money from a bank), a lender first must check your credit. To do this, they conduct a “hard pull” of your credit report — basically, a thorough review of your entire credit history.
This enables a lender to see where you’ve finished in front (keeping payments current); where you’ve faltered (missing payments); or where you’ve failed (going into default or sent to collections). Based on this hard credit check, they can make a determination if you’re creditworthy enough to borrow money. This is all a natural and necessary step in the pursuit of credit. And it’s required by law — the Fair Credit Reporting Act, to be exact — for the three major credit bureaus to report hard credit checks.
Don’t confuse this with a “soft” credit check, like reviewing your own credit, or getting pre-approved for a personal loan with SuperMoney’s comparison tools. For instance, you could check your rates with the following lenders without hurting your credit score. However, if you accept the loan offer, then you may get a hard credit inquiry on your report.
How do hard inquiries affect your credit?
The problem is, although hard credit inquiries are a normal, required step in the world of lending, they can ding the credit score you’ve worked hard to earn. And they show up on your credit report, too.
And this can seem a bit unfair. To put your excellent credit at risk just to prove to a lender that your credit is excellent seems like a bit of a paradox.
The truth is, a hard inquiry doesn’t affect your credit all that much. A single credit pull can ding your FICO score only about five points. However, if you’re monitoring your credit every month, with a goal of reaching the coveted 800 Club, every point counts. That credit score impact usually falls away after 12 months, and you can expect it to disappear from your credit report after about two years.
Find out how long it takes to improve your credit score.
How can you spot incorrect hard inquiries?
The simple answer: check your credit report regularly. According to the Federal Trade Commission, you’re entitled to a free copy of your credit report every 12 months from one of the credit reporting agencies (Experian, Equifax or TransUnion).
Review your credit report carefully. Is there anything that looks incorrect, or unfamiliar to you? Are there credit accounts listed in your name that you didn’t open? A loan or credit card that’s completely foreign? Are there credit checks listed that you didn’t authorize? Or just something that looks amiss? Remember, you need to authorize a hard credit pull; a prospective lender can’t go about it without your authorization.
What if you don’t recognize a hard inquiry on your credit report?
Just because you can’t recognize a hard inquiry doesn’t mean you didn’t approve it. Here are some examples of what unfamiliar credit checks might look like:
- If you’ve ever provided your Social Security number to a business or vendor you might be financing with, they might have assumed you were giving permission to pull your credit.
- It’s common for mortgage or auto lenders to disperse your loan/credit application to several lenders. They’re only trying to help you land a favorable interest rate, but it could appear like multiple credit checks on your report.
- Times when a credit check, like that from applying for a store credit card, might seem unrecognizable on your credit report. While it may not be in error, it’s always worth contacting your credit bureau if it seems suspicious.
Then there are credit checks that could point to fraud or ID theft. If you feel it’s on account of your credit or Social Security information being stolen, report it. If and when you’ve identified erroneous hard credit checks on your credit report, the good news is that you can dispute them with any of the credit bureaus. And, you can take the steps needed to remove them from your credit report.
Step-by-step guide to removing hard inquiries from your credit report
To remove hard inquiries on your credit report you will need to dispute them with the credit bureaus that include them in your credit report. However, you can only remove hard inquiries if you were the victim of identity theft or a company made the hard inquiry without your consent.
Here is a eight-step guide on how to dispute hard inquiries you did not approve.
- Check your credit report with all three credit bureaus. Note which ones include the incorrect hard inquiries. Check the links, forms and physical addresses for the major credit bureaus below.
- Collect any relevant documents to support your claims before submitting. For example, if your identity was stolen, you can provide a copy of the police report. See the checklist below for a detailed guide of what information and documents you may need.
- Write a letter of dispute and send it to each credit reporting company that shows the incorrect inquiries. Ask them to remove all the incorrect or suspicious hard inquiries you identified in step 1. The template below provides a model you can adapt to your specific circumstances.
- Wait for a reply from the credit bureaus. Credit reporting agencies have 30 days to complete the investigation and send you a reply.
- Send a second letter requesting verification for all the suspect items that are still on your report. If you don’t hear back from the credit bureaus or you don’t get a satisfactory answer, follow up with a second letter. You can use the same template you sent in step 3 and remove the inquiries that were reomoved.
- Write a third letter explaining you plan to complain to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. Of course, only take this step if the credit reporting companies have not provided the detailed information requested in step 4.
- File a complaint with the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. If you feel the credit reporting agencies have not provided sufficient evidence to support the hard inquiries, report it. An official CFPB investigation may help. Click here to get started.
- Contact the financial institutions that performed the hard pull on your credit report and ask them to remove it. It is usually best (and faster) to work through the credit reporting agencies, but you can also get results by dealing directly with the companies that requested the hard inquiry. I have added a second template you can adapt below.
Whether it’s an incorrect or suspicious-looking inquiry or any other false bit of information on your credit report, it is your right to dispute. You can find more information on how to remove other errors in your credit report in this article.
What information do you need to dispute a hard inquiry?
You can avoid the hassle and waste of time of having to send additional information to credit bureaus if you make sure you have all the necessary documentation included in your initial letter. Here is a list of the most common documents and information you will need.
- Identifying information
- Your full name
- Consumer report/id number
- Date of birth
- Your address
- Driver’s license number (optional)Social security number (optional)
- Today’s date
- Company information
- Name of company
- Company Address
- Disputed hard inquiries
- Your account number
- Dates of disputed hard inquiries
- Explanation of the inaccuracy
- Company that provided the disputed information (if different from the initial company)
- Any other documents that support your case
How can you contact credit bureaus about your hard inquiries?
Once you know which bureaus are reporting the hard inquiries you want to remove, communicate directly with them using the contact details below. You can contact them by phone, email, or snail mail.
Online: Experian dispute online
Experian’s dispute form
Mail: Experian, P.O. Box 4500, Allen, Tx 75013
If any hard credit pulls you’ve disputed are in error, the credit bureau will complete its investigation within 30 days and remove them from your credit report.
Letter templates for disputing hard inquiries
If you want to dispute a hard inquiry on your credit file, you will need to send a letter, return receipt requested, and keep a copy of the letter and post office receipt for your records. Consider sending letters to both the credit reporting agencies and the financial institution that requested the hard pull on your file. These templates are based on examples provided by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. Make sure you adapt them to your personal situation.
Hard inquiry dispute letter template to credit reporting agencies
[Your complete name]
[Report confirmation number, if available]
[Identifying information requested by the company, typically including:
- Date of birth
- Telephone number]
[Your return address]
[Address of credit reporting company, select one of three below]
- Equifax Information Services, LLC P.O. Box 740256 Atlanta, GA 30374
- Experian Consumer Services P.O. Box 4500 Allen, TX 75013
- TransUnion LLC Consumer Dispute Center P.O. Box 2000 Chester, PA 19016
Dear [Name of credit reporting company: Equifax or Experian or TransUnion],
I am writing to dispute the following hard inquires on my [Equifax or
Experian or TransUnion] consumer report:
Hard inquiry 1 [Include all the hard inquiries that apply]
Account Number or other information to identify account: [Insert account number or other information, such as account holder names and past addresses. This is especially important if you have had multiple accounts with the same company.]
Source of dispute information: [Insert the name of the company, such as the bank, that provided the information to the credit reporting company.]
Type of disputed information: [Insert uknoown inquiry]·
Dates associated with the item being disputed: [Insert the date the hard inquiry appeared on your report. This helps ensure that the correct account is identified by the company and to identify which aspects of the report are being disputed. You can still file a dispute if you don’t have this date.]
Explanation of hard inquiry being disputed: [Insert details about why you think the hard inquiry should be removed. Choose one of the choices below if it fits, or add your own description.]
- My report includes accounts with a reported name that is different than mine.
- I don’t recognize the accounts in question.
- I’m the victim of identity theft, and I don’t recognize one or more of the accounts on my report. [Include a copy of the FTC identity theft affidavit describing the identity theft if available.]
- Other [Describe what is wrong with the report and include copies of any additional supporting documentation that you have.]
Hard inquiry 2 [Continue numbering for each disputed item on your report and include the same information.]
[Include the following sentence if you are attaching a copy of your credit report or other supporting documentation. “I have attached a copy of my report with the inquiries in question circled.”]
Thank you for your help.
Letter to financial institutions requesting validation
[Account Number at the company, if available]
[Date of birth or other identifying information requested by the company]
[Your return address]
[Company address for receipt of direct disputes]
Re: Disputing error[s] on credit report
Dear [Name of company],
I am writing to request a correction of the following hard inquiries that appear on my [Equifax, Experian, TransUnion] consumer report:
Hard inquiry 1
- Account Number or other information to identify account: [Insert account number or other information such as account holder names and past addresses. This is especially important if you have had multiple accounts with the same company.]
- Dates associated with the item being disputed: [Insert the date that appears on your report.]
- Explanation of item being disputed: [Insert a detailed explanation of why the information is inaccurate. Choose one of the choices below if it fits, or add your own description.]
- My report includes accounts with a reported name that is different than mine.
- I don’t recognize the accounts in question.
- I’m the victim of identity theft, and I don’t recognize one or more of the accounts on my report. [You may wish to include a copy of the FTC identity theft affidavit describing the identity theft.]
- Other [Describe what is wrong with the report. You may include copies of any additional supporting documentation that you have.]
Dispute 2 [Continue numbering for each disputed item on your report and include the same information]
[Include the following sentence if you attach a copy of your credit report or other supporting documentation. “I have attached a copy of my report with the accounts in question circled.”]
Thank you for your assistance.
- Hard inquiries are a normal part of checking your credit standing. If you’re looking to borrow money for a credit card, car or house, lenders need to review your credit. This can pose a small impact to your credit score and report, but it’ll resolve itself within one to two years.
- Not all credit checks are created equal. Some hard inquiries may be questionable, in error, or on account of fraudulent activity. Thankfully, there are actions you can take to identify these errors and dispute them with one of the official credit reporting agencies.
- Review your credit report. It’s available to you once a year, free of charge. Keeping an eye on your credit report gives you better awareness to your own credit activity, so you can closely identify if any hard credit inquiries are worth disputing. While your full credit report is available for free annually, sign up with a legitimate credit score site so you can check your score and report, updated regularly.
- Contact the credit reporting agencies showing the offending hard inquiries (and possibly the company that requested them) and request their removal.
View Article Sources
- Protect yourself from identity theft — SuperMoney
- How to get a free credit report — SuperMoney
- How to dispute credit errors through Experian — Experian
- How to dispute credit errors through Equifax — Equifax
- How to dispute credit errors through TransUnion — TransUnion
- New UltraFICO score model debuts — SuperMoney
- How many credit bureaus are there in the U.S.? — SuperMoney
- Fast credit scores fixes — SuperMoney
- 5 ways to start building credit — University of Cincinnati
- 3 student credit-building tips — Brigham Young University
- What’s a credit inquiry? — Consumer Financial Protection Bureau
- Everything about hard and soft credit inquiries — U.S. Small Business Administration
- Get your free credit score — Annual Credit Report