Does Checking My Credit Score Lower It?
Checking your own credit score won’t lower it. But other credit checks might have an effect on your score
Ever wonder if checking your own credit scores will lower them? Great question! The short answer is no—checking your credit scores yourself won’t hurt them. However, other types of credit checks could cause your scores to drop—though the drop could just be temporary and only by a few points.
Read on to learn more about the two kinds of credit checks—soft checks and hard checks—and how only hard checks can lower your scores.
What’s a Soft Credit Inquiry?
According to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB), a soft check—also known as a soft inquiry—is a review of your credit file and existing accounts. Soft inquiries don’t impact your credit scores.
Examples of Soft Credit Inquiries
Credit bureau Experian® explains that soft credit checks may happen for things like:
- Viewing your own credit reports and scores.
- Opening a bank account.
- Credit checks by employers.
- Pre-qualified or pre-approved credit card offers.
What’s a Hard Credit Inquiry?
Also known as a hard check, a hard inquiry happens when a lender checks your credit report after you apply for credit.
“When you apply for credit, you authorize those lenders to ask or ‘inquire’ for a copy of your credit report from a credit bureau,” credit-scoring company FICO® explains.
Examples of Hard Credit Inquiries
FICO says that you could trigger a hard inquiry by:
- Applying for a credit card.
- Requesting a credit limit increase.
- Applying for a loan.
- Applying for a mortgage or to rent an apartment.
- Opening accounts like phone, cable or internet.
How Could Hard Credit Inquiries Affect Your Credit Scores?
According to FICO, a hard inquiry can cause your credit scores to drop—usually by just a few points. That’s because, as the CFPB explains, credit-scoring models generally look at how recently—and how often—you’ve applied for credit.
How Long Do Hard Credit Inquiries Stay on Your Credit Reports?
Hard inquiries may stay on your credit reports for up to two years. However, hard inquiries that are more than a year old might not affect your scores.
As Equifax®, one of the three major credit bureaus, explains, “Hard inquiries serve as a timeline of when you have applied for new credit and may stay on your credit report for two years, although they typically only affect your credit scores for one year.”
FICO confirms that this is how their credit scores work: “Although FICO Scores only consider inquiries from the last 12 months, inquiries remain on your credit report for two years.”
Ways to Help Manage Hard Credit Inquiries
When you know what can trigger hard inquiries, you may be able to better manage their impact.
Here are some other tips to help you manage hard inquiries on your credit:
- Check whether you’re pre-approved or pre-qualified. Before you apply for credit, pre-approval or pre-qualification can help you compare options and find the right fit. With the pre-approval tool from Capital One, for example, you can find out whether you’re pre-approved for some of Capital One’s credit cards before you even apply. It’s quick and only requires some basic info. And it won’t hurt your credit scores since it only requires a soft inquiry.
- Apply only for credit you need. As the CFPB explains, “Credit scoring formulas look at your recent credit activity as a signal of your need for credit. If you apply for a lot of credit over a short period of time, it may appear to lenders that your economic circumstances have changed negatively.”
- Shop for a mortgage or a car loan in a short time frame. When you apply for some types of credit, each application results in a hard inquiry. But that may not always be true for mortgages and auto loans. Shopping for auto or home financing over a short amount of time—14 to 45 days, according to the CFPB—could be counted as a single inquiry.
- Monitor your credit. Regularly checking your credit reports can help you stay on top of factors that impact your credit—including hard inquiries. You can get free copies of your credit reports from each of the three major credit bureaus—Equifax, Experian and TransUnion®—by visiting AnnualCreditReport.com.
CreditWise from Capital One is another easy way to monitor your credit. With CreditWise, you can stay on top of your VantageScore® 3.0 credit score and TransUnion credit report for free—even if you’re not a Capital One customer. With the CreditWise Simulator, you can even explore the potential impact of your financial decisions before you make them.
Keep an Eye on Your Credit Inquiries
Remember: Checking your own credit scores is an example of a soft inquiry. And soft inquiries don’t impact your credit scores.
Hard inquiries, on the other hand, happen when a lender checks your credit report after you apply for credit. And since hard inquiries do affect your scores, you’ll want to control how many “hard” hits your credit takes.
Monitoring your credit can help you keep an eye on where you stand.
Government and private relief efforts vary by location and may have changed since this article was published. Consult a financial adviser or the relevant government agencies and private lenders for the most current information.
We hope you found this helpful. Our content is not intended to provide legal, investment or financial advice or to indicate that a particular Capital One product or service is available or right for you. For specific advice about your unique circumstances, consider talking with a qualified professional.
Your CreditWise score is calculated using the TransUnion® VantageScore® 3.0 model, which is one of many credit scoring models. It may not be the same model your lender uses, but it is an accurate measure of your credit health. The availability of the CreditWise tool depends on our ability to obtain your credit history from TransUnion. Some monitoring and alerts may not be available to you if the information you enter at enrollment does not match the information in credit file at (or you do not have a file at) one or more consumer reporting agencies.
The CreditWise Simulator provides an estimate of your score change and does not guarantee how your score may change.