Anytime you apply for a new credit product, the lender submits what’s known as a hard inquiry to the credit bureau. But too many hard inquiries can negatively impact your credit score.
Unfortunately, the problem can be compounded by unauthorized or fraudulent hard inquiries. Thankfully, there is a way to have some hard inquiries removed from your credit history.
In this article, we’ll show you how to remove a hard inquiry from your credit, which ones you can remove, and more. First, let’s take a closer look at how credit inquiries work.
Table of Contents
- What Is a Hard Inquiry?
- Can You Remove Hard Inquiries From Your Credit?
- How to Remove Hard Inquiries
- Step 1: Check your credit
- Step 2: Identify unauthorized hard inquiries
- Step 3: Submit a dispute
- Protect Your Credit Going Forward
- Final Thoughts
What Is a Hard Inquiry?
A hard inquiry (also called a hard pull) on your credit report happens when you apply for a new credit product, such as a new mortgage, loan, or credit card.
When you apply for credit, the creditor or creditors request the information from your credit bureau to understand your credit history.
The hard inquiry helps them decide whether or not to extend new credit.
Each Hard inquiry on your credit report lowers your credit score by around five points. While one hard inquiry won’t change your credit score that much, several hard pulls in a short period can cause significant damage.
This is especially true if you’re in the process of rebuilding your credit score or if you’re trying to build credit as a new credit holder. The impact of multiple credit inquiries is temporary, though they stay on your report for two years.
That’s why it’s important to understand how credit inquiries work and how to manage them properly.
Hard Inquiry vs. Soft Inquiry: What’s the Difference?
Two credit inquiries appear on your credit report: a hard inquiry and a soft one.
We’ve talked about what a hard inquiry is. A soft inquiry on your credit report is different. Soft inquiries typically come from one of two places:
- Checking your own credit report (without an application)
- Lenders looking to send you a pre-approved credit offer
Soft inquiries differ from hard ones because they don’t affect your credit score. Credit reporting agencies know that soft inquiries typically come from checking your own credit or from unsolicited credit offers.
Soft inquiries may also come from employers and insurance companies. As such, these inquiries aren’t allowed to affect your credit score.
Can You Remove Hard Inquiries From Your Credit?
The short answer is yes; you can remove hard inquiries from your credit report.
However, it’s important to know that you cannot remove all hard inquiries from your credit report.
If a hard inquiry on your credit report exists because you applied for credit from a lender, that inquiry will stay on your report for two years, as discussed above.
That being said, here are two situations where you may be able to have a hard inquiry removed:
- A hard inquiry from a lender whom you did not authorize to pull your credit
- A hard inquiry as a result of fraudulent activity on your credit report
These types of unauthorized inquiries happen from time to time, and are one reason that you should check your credit regularly. Doing so can help you spot fraud or unauthorized activity on your credit report early, preventing further damage.
Why It’s Important to Remove Hard Inquiries From Your Credit
Removing unauthorized hard inquiries is important for several reasons.
The reasons for maintaining a good credit score extend far beyond your ability to obtain credit. Your credit score can impact whether or not you get a job, are able to rent an apartment, and the insurance rates you pay.
As frustrating as that may be, it’s a fact of life that makes it wise to keep tabs on your credit score.
Also, credit card fraud is more common than you think. Millions of people are victims of credit fraud and identity theft each year. Keeping an eye on your credit report and removing unauthorized hard inquiries on your report helps keep your credit – and your identity – in good standing.
How to Remove Hard Inquiries
There is a process involved with having hard inquiries removed from your credit report. Here’s what you need to do:
Step 1: Check your credit
Start by requesting a copy of your credit report. It will count as a soft inquiry, which is harmless.
As mentioned earlier, there are many ways you can check your credit for free including making a visit to www.annualcreditreport.com. They allow you to pull three credit reports for free: one from Experian, one from Equifax and one from TransUnion.
Note that while this site will help you pull your credit report for free, they will make you pay to get your credit scores.
A better option is to obtain your free credit report and score from Credit Karma. Credit Karma will send you weekly credit report and credit score updates for two of the three major credit bureaus: Equifax and TransUnion.
It’s completely free, and Credit Karma includes in-depth analysis, and point out ways for you to increase your credit score.
As a further resource, here are some other ways to get your credit score for free.
Checking your credit report regularly will help you spot any unauthorized activity, allowing you to take corrective action before your credit becomes further compromised.
Step 2: Identify unauthorized hard inquiries
Once you’ve pulled your credit report, check for any credit inquiries. You may see a number of unauthorized soft inquiries from lenders who sent you preapproved credit offers.
You can disregard the soft inquiries. What you’re searching for are hard inquiries. Once you’ve found your list of hard inquiries (if applicable), check to make sure that you authorized each one.
If you find hard inquiries that were not authorized by you, proceed to step three.
Step 3: Submit a dispute
To remove an unauthorized hard inquiry, you’ll need to submit a dispute letter to the credit reporting agencies that have reported the hard inquiry.
You may find that all three of the major credit reporting agencies list an unauthorized hard inquiry, or it may be that only one or two of the reporting agencies have it listed.
Whatever the case, when you write a letter submitting the dispute on your credit report, the credit reporting agency is obligated to investigate the dispute and remove any information found to be inaccurate.
Here is the contact information for submitting disputes to all three major credit reporting agencies.
For Experian Disputes
Online: Visit Experian Disputes Online
By Mail: Experian Disputes
P.O. Box 4500
Allen, TX 75013
By Phone: Contact the phone number listed on your credit report
For Equifax Disputes
Online: Visit Equifax Disputes Online
By Mail: Equifax Information Services
P.O. Box 740241
Atlanta, GA 30374
By Phone: 1-888-Equifax (1-888-378-4329)
For TransUnion Disputes
Online: Visit TransUnion Disputes Online
By Mail: TransUnion Consumer Solutions
P.O. Box 2000
Chester, PA 19016-2000
By Phone: 1-833-395-6938
Although the process can take time, all disputed hard inquiries found to be unauthorized should be removed by the credit reporting agency listing the inquiry.
Protect Your Credit Going Forward
Once you’ve discovered and eliminated any unauthorized hard inquiries from your credit, you’ll want to protect yourself from any further unauthorized activity going forward.
There are several ways you can do that.
- Be cautious about where you share your credit card number and other information. This includes your social security number and birthdate. The more personal information identity thieves and hackers have about you, the more easily they can use your information to commit fraudulent acts.
- Check your credit report regularly. Keeping an eye on your credit reports regularly will help you discover attempted fraud early.
- Create an identity theft protection system. Use one or more of the suggestions listed in the linked article to protect your identity and your credit.
Doing so will help limit the number of unauthorized hard pulls on your credit report. Limiting access to your personal details will save you both time and money in the long run.
Knowing how to remove hard inquiries from your credit report is vitally important. Identity theft costs consumers billions of dollars each year. Protecting yourself and your identity just makes sense.
Don’t let unauthorized hard inquiries be the cause of a lower credit score. Identify any unauthorized activity and work to have it removed promptly.