This guide will show you how to remove hard inquiries from your credit report.
There are three steps involved in getting hard inquiries removed:
- Get a copy of all three of your credit reports (Equifax, Experian, TransUnion)
- Review your credit reports for any incorrect, unauthorized, or accidental inquiries
- Send a letter to the credit bureaus disputing the inquiries
To help guide us through the complicated world of credit inquiries, we’ve enlisted the help of Leslie H. Tayne—a financial debt resolution attorney with Tayne Law Group, P.C.—who has 20 years of experience in the practice area of consumer and business financial debt-related services.
How to dispute a hard inquiry in 3 easy steps
Step 1: Get copies of your credit reports
The first thing you should do is request a copy of your credit report with the three major bureaus: Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion.
You can do this by using annualcreditreport.com and following our step-by-step guide.
Step 2: Review your credit reports for incorrect, unauthorized, and accidental hard checks
Now that you have copies of your credit reports from the three major bureaus, you want to look them over and see if there are any inaccurate hard inquiries present.
Did you know? A 2012 study by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) found that more than 1 in 5 Americans had an error on their credit report and that 20 percent of people who identified errors on their credit reports experienced an increase in their credit score?
“You can get a hard inquiry removed if the credit pull was unauthorized,” Tayne said. “Meaning, it came from an activity that you were not aware of.”
Where should you look for this information on your reports?
Check these sections: credit inquiry, hard inquiry, regular inquiry, and requests viewed by third parties.
If you didn’t authorize the hard inquiry or you didn’t apply for credit, you can request that it be removed.
What are some common examples of hard inquiries that you maybe didn’t authorize?
- Identity theft—a fraudulent application for a loan using your information
- A creditor pulling your credit without your consent
- A credit bureau erroneously included the inquiry in your credit report
- You clicked an ad on Facebook from a lender to “find out rates in your area”, filled out some information, and unwittingly triggered an inquiry
Remember: even if an inquiry was made in error, it can still harm your credit! So you want to be sure to file a dispute with the credit bureaus to have it removed.
Step 3: File your dispute with the credit bureau(s)
Ok, now that you have copies of your credit reports in hand, and you’ve identified some inaccurate hard inquiries, it’s time to file your dispute with the appropriate credit bureau.
“The credit bureau is legally required to investigate the dispute,” Tayne told us. “If an error is found, it will be removed from your credit report.”
Important: While you could launch your dispute online, we definitely recommend that you file your dispute by certified mail. Why?
Certified mail gives you the legal proof that the credit bureau actually received your request to remove the inquiry!
You’ll need to draft a dispute letter and send it to the credit bureau with a copy of your credit report. It’s also a good idea to highlight the unapproved hard inquiries on the credit report itself to help the investigators when processing your request.
How to actually get inquiries deleted
So what’s the trick for actually getting inquiries deleted?
Demand written verification and documentation that the inquiry actually took place!
You should ask for every imaginable detail: the date you gave permission for them to pull your credit, how you gave permission (over the phone, online, etc), and who the person was on the other end who processed your inquiry.
If they can’t verify all of the details, you’ll have an excellent chance getting the inquiry removed.
Remember, you need to file your letter with the appropriate bureau on whose report you noticed the error. Here are the mailing addresses for the three main credit bureaus:
P.O. Box 740256
Atlanta, GA 30374-0256
Online Dispute Center
P.O. Box 4500
Allen, TX 75013
Online Dispute Center
Consumer Dispute Center
P.O. Box 2000
Chester, PA 19016
Online Dispute Center
Credit inquiry removal letter template
When you contact a credit bureau by mail to dispute a hard inquiry, you’ll want to include specific details in your letter.
What’s Tayne’s #1 tip for getting hard inquiries removed?
Be very specific with the information you send to the credit bureau. Specify the company that made the inquiry in question, and detail why the inquiry was not authorized.”
Here is a credit inquiry removal letter template you can use that will help you address all concerns to a creditor:
<Social security #>
<Credit Bureau: Name>
<Credit Bureau: Address>
RE: Request Investigation of Credit Inquiry on My Behalf
Dear Credit Bureau Representative,
I recently reviewed a copy of my credit report on [date of the report] and noticed [insert number of inquiries] that were unauthorized, inaccurate, or made in error.
The following inquiries are impermissible:
1. [Name of company with unauthorized inquiry] and [date of inquiry]
2. [Name of company with unauthorized inquiry] and [date of inquiry]
3. [Name of company with unauthorized inquiry] and [date of inquiry]
Please remove these inquiries from my credit report immediately.
Should any of these companies claim to have pulled my credit report validly, then it is within my legal rights to ask for verification details:
1. The name and job title of the individual who pulled my credit
2. The date they claim to have received my permission to pull my credit
3. The method they claim that I authorized them to pull my credit
Please also attach documentation to support the verification of these claims.
Thank you for your prompt assistance with this matter.
What is a credit inquiry?
A credit inquiry is when a lender requests a copy of your credit history from one of the three credit bureaus.
These inquiries can negatively affect your credit score and usually remain on your report for up to two years.
Credit reporting agencies maintain records of all businesses which request your credit file. The record is usually listed in the inquiries section of your credit report and will show every inquiry within the last two years.
Some of the instances in which a credit inquiry would be used include:
- A utility company making a credit inquiry before they can approve you for any contract
- A potential employer is looking to ensure that you’re in the right credit standing as part of their background checks
- A mortgage lending company is looking into your credit report before approving your mortgage application.
Remember: Credit inquiries make up around 10% of your total credit score, but not every inquiry reflected on your credit report will be included in your credit score.
The difference between hard and soft inquiries
Two types of inquiries can appear on your credit report: a hard credit inquiry and a soft credit inquiry.
The difference between these lies in who asks for the information and for what reason.
Hard inquiries, or pulls, are done when you apply for new credit and they require your approval for the creditor to look at the information on your credit report. A hard inquiry will verify your credit score, information, and the items on your credit report.
Soft inquiries, on the other hand, are typically pulled for purposes of a background check and are often done without your approval—and importantly, do NOT affect your credit score.
- Counts as a negative item
- Can lower your credit score (1-5 points)
- Occurs when a lender pulls your credit information
- Requires your consent
- Does not count as a negative item
- Does not lower your credit score
- Occurs as part of a background check
- Does not require your consent
When a credit card company or lender decides whether or not they should lend you money, they look into your credit reports to gauge your creditworthiness—this is called a hard inquiry, or pull.
Hard pulls are standard when you’re applying for a credit card, loan, or mortgage, and you usually have to express consent for them to pull your information.
How does a hard inquiry affect your credit score?
To be honest, usually not that much, but you have to be careful.
“The hit to your credit score will be relatively minor,” said Tayne. “Probably between one and five points per hard inquiry.”
Even then, the damage to your score disappears or decreases before the inquiry vanishes from your report.
So, when do you have to be careful?
Basically, you don’t want to apply for too many credit cards in a short period of time. Because if you get multiple hard pulls in a short timeframe, credit card issuers and lenders could consider you a higher-risk borrower since it would suggest you’re on the verge of accruing a lot of debt.
Statistics provided by FICO that people with six or more recent inquiries are eight times as likely to file for bankruptcy versus people with no inquiries.
Think about it: if you apply for five credit cards at the same time, it’s certainly a possibility that you’re going to dramatically increase your debt—making you a higher credit risk.
So, definitely consider spreading out your credit card and loan applications.
Here are some other things to know about hard inquiries:
- They normally occur when you apply for a credit card or loan
- They allow lenders to see your whole credit history
- They remain on your credit report and visible to any lender for up to 12 months
- Each check can reduce your credit score by between one and five points in credit scoring models
- They can occur when you enter your personal information to find out more information on a product (say, a mortgage rate) and unknowingly grant your consent
- You can have as many mortgage and auto financing inquiries as you like within a 30-day timeframe, and it will only count as one inquiry
The key with a hard pull is that for it to trigger a check, you must take some type of action, like applying for credit.
So if a hard inquiry requires action on your part, what defines a “soft” inquiry that does not require your consent?
Think back to the last time you applied for a job or rented a car. The employer, or car rental company, likely did a soft pull on your credit report, and they probably didn’t ask for your permission, either.
The key differences are that soft pulls only give a high-level credit summary of your credit profile and they do not affect your credit score (your score isn’t visible to them, either).
Examples of hard and soft inquiries
Here are some examples of hard and soft credit checks, though keep in mind this list is just a general guide and should not be considered exhaustive.
|Hard inquiries||Soft inquiries|
|Applying for a student loan||Employer background checks|
|Applying for a credit card||Credit card pre-approvals|
|Applying for a car loan||Renting a car|
|Applying for a mortgage||ID verification by financial institutions|
|Opening a checking or savings account||Checking your own credit score|
Can you remove inquiries from your credit report?
You can remove hard inquiries from your credit report if they occurred without your consent, such as:
- Inaccurate credit inquiries
- Inquiries mistakenly placed on your credit report by credit bureaus
- If your information was fraudulently used to apply for a loan or credit card
- If you submitted your social security number and other personal information without reading the fine print
You can remove hard inquiries from your credit report that were pulled without your permission under the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA).
How long does it take to get rid of a hard inquiry?
A hard inquiry will remain on your credit report for two years.
If you’re going to dispute the hard inquiry, then the timeframe for getting it removed will really depend on the credit bureau as well as the complexity of your issue.
For most people, a good rule of thumb is it takes between 45 and 60 days to see the inquiry fall off, though if your dispute was minor, it could happen in less than seven business days.
How do credit inquiries affect your credit score?
Inquiries are one of the five factors that impact your credit score, so it’s important to pay attention here.
Inquiries account for 10% of your credit score, so if you have too many hard credit checks, your credit score could drop by a few points and potentially result in being denied new credit or a loan, depending on what your score is at the time.
Why does your score drop because of too many hard inquiries?
“Hard inquiries indicate to creditors that you’re shopping around – and maybe even desperate – for credit, “Tayne said. “This is a red flag that you might be a credit risk.”
But it’s important to note again that hard inquiries will not always impact your credit score. According to FICO, credit inquiries generally have a small effect on your FICO scores, and for many people, an additional inquiry will take no more than five points off your FICO score.
As Tayne told us: “Hard inquiries don’t have a significant impact on your credit score typically, so focusing on improving your credit in other ways–such as paying down your balances and improving your credit utilization ratio–will have a more significant effect on your score.”
Should you hire a credit repair company?
If you don’t feel like doing all of this work on your own, you may choose to hire one of the best credit repair companies to help you along with the process.
They will do all of the work on your behalf, in exchange for a monthly fee.
Getting approved quickly for a loan and getting attractive interest rates all boil down to one thing: having good credit.
Too many unauthorized hard inquiries can definitely impact your credit score, so it’s important that all information be accurate and up-to-date, which you can do by regularly reviewing your statements and scores.
Also, make it a habit to continually monitor your credit report to ensure there is nothing mysterious damaging your creditworthiness.
And if you decide you want to try and get a hard inquiry removed from your report, follow our three-step process above.