A credit score is a three-digit number between 300 and 850. Different credit scoring companies determine your credit score by considering various factors in your credit report. The higher your score, the more trustworthy you appear as a borrower. Your credit score and history are confidential information and accessible to only selective entities with explicit authorization.
Your credit score may not be affected if you check your credit report by yourself for free. But if a lender or credit card issuer does, it might. Either way, a “credit inquiry” or “credit check” will appear on your credit report. It indicates that you or a lender pulled your credit score for verification. A credit report comprises your credit history, which the lenders may be interested in checking.
If you have applied for credit, the lenders or card issuers will most likely be listed on your credit report.
There are two types of credit inquiries:
- Hard Inquiries:
“Hard inquiries,” also known as “hard pulls,” can cost you points. They occur when someone pulls your credit history to determine whether to extend credit (or additional credit) to you. These probing questions should not be conducted without your written consent.
Hard inquiries are noted in your credit report for up to 2 years and happen when applying for a mortgage, personal, or business loan. These inquiries will let other lenders and credit bureaus know (when they inquire) that you’ve actively applied for new credit. Some of the examples of Hard Inquiries are:
- Credit card applications
- Auto loan applications
- Mortgage applications
- Student loan applications
- Apartment or house rental applications
- Opening a new utility service or cell phone account
- Soft Inquiries:
When you check your credit score, it can be considered a “soft inquiry.” So, when you run a soft credit check, it does not affect your score. It’s different when a lender or credit card company pulls your credit score. Since these are soft inquiries, they don’t need your explicit consent nor show up in your credit report. Some of the examples of “Soft Inquiries” are:
- Auto insurance quotes
- Checking your credit score
- Background checks and employment verification by prospective employers
- Mailed pre-approved credit card offers
Which credit score should be used and how to monitor it?
There are numerous types of credit scores, each with multiple versions. So, when you sign up for a monthly membership at various sites, you can access your credit score. Unlike free credit score sites, which only display one score, you’ll see scores used by auto lenders, mortgage lenders, and other lenders who use industry-specific scoring models.
Hence, use the same credit score and version each time when monitoring your credit score. You’d be comparing apples and oranges otherwise. Most credit scoring models measure the same things but may weigh them differently and use different scales.
Because there is usually little difference between credit scores, access to those scores is generally not worth the monthly fee. If you’re concerned about your credit score, don’t sign up for a paid service. Instead, use a free monitoring tool, keep your credit card usage to a minimum, and pay all your bills on time. These strategies will assist you in raising your credit score and qualifying for lower interest rates.
Since soft inquiries don’t lower your credit score and are not reflected in your credit history, you can always check your credit score when necessary or before applying for new credit. Also, most of the hard inquiries will affect your credit score, and each hard inquiry will knock out 5 points off your score, but during the first 12 months only. However, as the initial inquiry date recedes, the impact of hard inquiry will reduce.
Your banks, credit card issuers, or Experian can help you access your credit score for free. You can also sign up for a paid credit monitoring service to monitor your credit score. So, periodically checking your credit score (e.g., monthly or quarterly) will help you improve your score and help you track your credit progress.