Credit corner: what’s an inquiry?

Inquiring minds want to know: what’s a credit inquiry?

If you’ve looked through your credit report lately, you may have noticed a section that lists “inquiries.” Here’s what they are, what they mean, and why they’re important.

Credit inquiries, defined.

Simply put, a credit inquiry is a credit check. Inquiries happen when there is a legally permitted request to see your credit report from a company or person.

All inquiries aren’t created equal.

There are 2 different types: hard and soft.

Hard inquiries are ones made with your permission for specific transactions. When you apply for credit—be it a credit card, mortgage or car loan—the potential lender will generally pull your credit before deciding whether to approve your loan application and what the terms might be.

Soft inquiries won’t show up on reports requested to evaluate your credit-worthiness. Every time you check your credit report, a soft inquiry is generated. Among other reasons, soft inquiries happen when creditors check your credit to determine any pre-approved offers.

Why inquiries matter.

Lenders requesting your credit report will only see hard inquiries on it (note you can see soft inquiries listed on your free annual credit reports available at annualcreditreport.com).

Credit scoring models typically factor in the number of hard inquiries you have when they’re calculating your credit score. Generally, too many inquiries made within a short timeframe is concerning to lenders when it comes to your credit-worthiness. Rest assured, though, that hard inquiries are removed from credit reports 2 years after the date they’re made.