Credit Inquiries

A credit inquiry is a request for a copy of your credit report from one or more of the three credit bureaus, Experian, Equifax, or TransUnion. Credit inquiries fall into two categories: soft and hard inquiries. Soft inquiries don’t impact your credit score, while hard inquiries may make your credit score go down, especially if there are more than two or three hard inquiries in the last two years.

Soft Inquiries

A soft inquiry occurs when you request a copy of your credit report for yourself. Soft inquiries do not impact your credit score. It’s important for you to request your credit reports regularly to insure that the information on them is accurate. Three companies in the U.S., Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion, keep track of your past and current credit activity and provide credit reports to lenders. You’re entitled to receive free copies of each of your credit reports, in accessible formats including PDF files, Braille,, large print, and audio, once a year by visiting www.anualcreditreport.com, or by calling (877) 322-8228. If you’re deaf or hard-of-hearing, you can use the TTY service by calling (800) 821-7232. It’s also easy to obtain summaries of your credit reports through a number of sources including your bank, usually through their mobile banking app, your credit card companies, also through their mobile app, and any number of online services such as Credit Carma or freecreditreport.com. Despite their names, though, many of these services aren’t entirely free and may even be identity theft scams. www.anualcreditreport.com is the only federally mandated and authorized way to request copies of your credit reports online. It is a fully accessible site, sponsored by Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion, offering alternative text for images, a “skip to” link to skip past links, and content and forms structured to work well with screen readers and screen magnification programs. A complete list of accessibility features can be found at www.annualcreditreport.com/accessibility.action.

Hard Inquiries

A hard inquiry occurs when someone else requests copies of your credit reports when you apply for services with them. This typically happens when you apply for a credit card or loan, but it can also occur when you apply for a job or rent an apartment. A hard inquiry may make your credit score go down, but don’t panic. It won’t go down much  and hard inquiries disappear from your credit reports entirely after two years. A successful approval for credit may make your credit score go up, though, because you may have more credit to borrow from. One of the best ways to raise your  credit score is to start using a little credit early in life and consistently pay it back without missing or making any late payments, but if you’re just starting out you may still have a low credit score. This is normal and your credit score will go up as you gradually apply for new credit cards or loans once or twice a year.