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It’s not possible to predict exactly how a credit inquiry will affect your score because they do not have a set point value. However, understanding the different types of inquiries will give you insight into what they can do to your credit score. There are two types of credit inquiries–hard inquiries (“hard pulls”) and soft inquiries (“soft pulls”). This article will explain the difference between the two and help you understand how to avoid unnecessary pulls on your credit report.
A hard pull is defined as an inquiry that will affect your score. If you’ve ever viewed your credit report you’ll see a section dedicated to credit inquiries. That’s because the credit bureaus keep a record whenever your credit history is viewed by a service provider or credit lender. Pulls that will show on your report as hard pulls include those by landlords, credit card issuers, insurance companies and service providers (think satellite television, phone service, the electric company…). Records of all of these inquiries will remain with you for 1-2 years. Most people have some inquiries; it’s just what happens as you go through life. It’s individuals that have many hard pulls during a short period of time that begin to see their credit score dragged down. Multiple inquiries represents irresponsible credit use to lenders and may demonstrate to them a desperation to get credit. This is just one of the reasons many recommend avoiding filling out every credit card application thrown your way.
Soft pulls are not visible on your credit report and thus have no affect on your score. Soft pulls on your credit report come from viewing your report yourself, along with any job-related requests that are made. Also, when your information is sent to companies for marketing purposes they can appear in the soft pulls section of your credit report, although they haven’t actually seen your credit report. This is most common when you’re sent pre-approval credit card offers in the mail. You can see your soft pulls when you view your credit report because they’re displayed on the consumer version. Businesses, however, can only view the hard inquiries on your credit report.
All in all, hard inquiries on your credit report don’t do much harm as long as the remain in small numbers and scattered over a period of time. The best way to avoid dragging down your credit report from inquiries is to avoid applying for credit whenever you get the chance. Turn down the offer to apply when you shop at department stores and retailers. Ignore the pre-approval notices in the mail if you don’t need a credit card. This is the best way to avoid taking an unnecessary hit to your credit score.
Your Right to Opt Out
Lastly, in regards to the pre-approval notices you receive in the mail, you have the right to opt out from receiving these solicitations. Credit card issuers receive your information when the credit bureaus sell your name. To opt out contact each of the three bureaus (TransUnion, Equifax and Experian) individually. You can also call 1-888-5-OPTOUT (1-888-567-8688). This will remove your name from mailing and telemarketing lists for two years. This opt-out feature has been in effect for over ten years and is thanks to the amended Fair Credit Reporting Act that requires credit bureaus to give consumers a way to opt-out when they don’t want their name and address sold for solicitations.