What is a hard inquiry and how does it affect credit?
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What is a hard inquiry and how does it affect credit?

January 10, 2023
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What is a hard inquiry and how does it affect credit?

Loans have been helping people for a long time. You can apply for a loan to cover medical expenses or unexpected household expenses. However, the process is not as simple as it seems. To obtain a loan, consumers must undergo a credit check.

What is a background check and how does it affect credit?

A background check is a process in which a customer's transaction history and ability to pay is reviewed by the lender. It impacts subsequent financial activity and credit score. In order to avoid problems and build a good reputation, it is necessary to become familiar with the industry and go into more detail.

What is a credit check?

A credit check is a process that ensures that customers are reliable applicants. It means that lenders send an application to the credit bureau to check payment and transaction history. However, remember that the process must be allowed by law and try to avoid hacking and data leaks. Never give your personal information to unconfirmed people.

There are two types of inquiries: hard inquiries and soft inquiries. For example, a hard inquiry will have an impact on your credit score and will most likely change it. However, it is up to you to decide whether these changes are positive or negative. To avoid getting into trouble, apply for credit only when necessary.

Consumers usually get loans when they need money to buy a car, a house, medical expenses, etc. In contrast, a discreet inquiry does not affect the credit rating. Instead, it is requested for personal reasons, such as checking credit history.

What is a comprehensive survey?

Whenever a consumer applies for a new loan, a full investigation is conducted. It is requested by a credit bureau and must be provided to complete the loan. The procedure also includes the use of the customer's social security number. A full investigation is mandatory and cannot be overlooked in the credit application process.

It provides a creditor's full report and some details such as credit history and credit score. However, this type of check is done only after the application is approved. Customers can reject the application but risk not getting the loan.

It is always possible to know if a check has been made on a person's account-it always leaves a mark in the form of a slight drop in score. Information from a check remains in the credit history for two years.

Some customers apply for several loans during this period. It is best to wait a while, pay a small amount, and only then apply for a new loan. Otherwise, the lending institution will consider you an unreliable and risky customer, which could lead to cancellation of the loan application.

Examples of serious injuries

The most difficult investigation occurs in the case of large purchases. In this way, lenders ensure the safety and reliability of the transaction. However, there are many situations where consumers need money, so let's look at some examples of difficult inquiries you can make:

  • Renting an apartment
  • Student loan
  • Personal loan
  • Credit card
  • Car loan
  • Mortgage application

Please note that this is not a verified list of applications, which may vary. If you want to be sure that your situation is suitable for a loan, ask the company, financial institution or credit card issuer directly.

What is a simplified application?

A discrete survey does not appear on the report and does not affect your credit score. There are many reasons why consumers ask for it. One reason is marketing. Credit bureaus and credit companies have a close relationship. As a result, the credit companies have modified the discrete survey to identify borrowers who meet their mortgage underwriting requirements.

The other benefit is to help customers find a loan. Credit union departments typically use this feature. They ask for a national insurance number, which allows them to make pre-qualification offers and softer inquiries. Some credit unions may provide loan terms through a confidential application.

The initial reason for the survey is a personal credit report. A large percentage of consumers want to receive regular reports containing detailed information about their financial accounts. The credit bureaus provide this type of information. In addition, a free annual report is sent to all consumers.

Examples of minor injuries

Sometimes it is difficult to classify credit and understand whether it meets specific conditions. To be more specific, there are some cases where credit checks can be considered both hard and soft: for example, internet credit, utilities, cable, or cell phone.

However, let's get to know some examples of soft inquiries:

  • Employment verification, such as a background check;
  • "Pre-qualified" insurance quotes;
  • "Pre-qualified" credit card offers;
  • Regular credit score checks.

Most small transactions that do not put lenders and customers at risk can be considered discrete investigations.

What is the difference between "hard" and "soft" credit investigations?

The difference between a "hard" and a "soft" credit investigation is easy to understand. First, the impact on your credit score. In the case of a hard survey, it will change a little, usually going down a little. In the case of a soft survey, the opposite is true. It does not affect anything and can sometimes even lead to better loan offers.

The objectives of the application are also slightly different. Lenders conduct a soft survey to provide pre-qualified offers. In comparison, the in-depth investigation is conducted by the lender and lender in a loan application for a thorough credit check.

In addition, a thorough investigation is a more serious process because it requires the approval of both parties. The customer must accept or reject the request for a full investigation, while the lender must conduct the full check and make a decision. An indirect investigation does not require such measures and can be carried out without your consent.

Why thorough investigations are important

When applying for a loan, a wide range of factors are taken into account. The thorough investigation plays the final role in deciding whether you are reliable and able to obtain credit. In addition, all lenders requesting your credit report can only see the most difficult questions.

Therefore, the greater the number of applications, the greater the risk of not being able to repay the loan. Therefore, before applying for a loan, you should inquire about the conditions.

The term of the loan is two years. This is not a fixed condition, but it is very helpful in establishing a good credit rating. Once you have obtained a loan and an application, it remains on your file for two years.

For this reason, it is best not to take out any more loans during this period. Take your time to repay the loan. Once the application has been removed from your file, you can apply for a new loan if you need one.

How does a hard inquiry affect your credit score?

Many people fear that a hard inquiry will affect their credit score until it expires. However, a hard inquiry is a one-time impact check. It changes your credit score only during the loan process. Afterwards, the number remains in your credit history, but it does not change much.

Your credit history plays an important role in determining the size of the survey. According to FICO, the maximum number of points you can lose is 10, but most consumers see their score drop by five points or less. Of course, there are exceptional cases where people are subjected to further investigation.

In any case, if you have a good credit history, your score will not be affected much or at all. The situation is different for consumers with a bad credit history: a thorough investigation may cause them to lose more points. However, it is essential to develop a good score and a good credit history.

How to minimize the impact of difficult credit inquiries?

In many cases, difficult inquiries have hurt customers' scores, and they have been unable to get back on track with a stable spending history. However, to avoid problems and minimize the impact of difficult inquiries, it is necessary to follow some simple tips that can make a difference. It is essential to be financially literate and able to think rationally about such an important issue.

Don't apply just to apply

Sometimes consumers apply for credit simply because they want to see how it works and get a little extra money. Unfortunately, they do not get to the bottom of the matter and do not know the terms of the loan application. Then, when the "hard inquiry" part comes, they take the test and lose points for nothing.

So heed the advice: take the loan only if you have to and if you have no other choice. Choose the option that suits you best. Remember to do the proper research to find the most suitable and convenient option for you.

Plan your rate search

Do not be in a hurry. Planning is a characteristic of the great and wise mind. Take the time to search the Internet for different options. Find out the pros and cons of each rate you choose. Consider fees, risks and remaining term.

Also, while you wait and research, a better opportunity may present itself. Otherwise, you will have to apply for several loans, which will lower your credit rating. Another good idea is to look for pre-qualification tools.

This way you can check whether you meet the eligibility requirements without affecting your score and be sure of how to proceed should the need arise.

Avoid applying for a large number of new credits at the same time.

As mentioned above, it is dangerous to apply for extra credits all at once. There are many reasons for this, but the main one is the possibility that the application will be cancelled.

When creditors or lenders see that you have taken out more than five loans in a short period of time, they wonder if you are able to repay them all.

The decision is supported by other factors, such as monthly income and expenses. Experts recommend that the interval between two loans should be at least six months. This will ease the payment process and make you a responsible and reliable customer.

However, if you can wait a few years until there are signs of difficult investigations into your credit history, it is best to opt for this option.

Can you avoid a difficult investigation?

A difficult inquiry is a complex process that damages your score. Therefore, customers do not want to confront it. But unfortunately, there is no way to avoid it when applying for a loan. But here's a tip: several difficult inquiries are made during the verification process.

Therefore, by taking the right approach, you can significantly reduce the impact of the investigation and avoid negative consequences.

First, it is always good to think before applying for a loan. Do you need money? Are there other options and solutions to your problem? Are you able to repay? Ask yourself these questions whenever you think about applying for a loan, because once you get in, there is a point of no return. Also ask for a simplified survey to find out if your account is subject to an unauthorized investigation.

How long do detailed inquiries stay in your credit file?

Once consumers have applied for credit and gone through the credit investigation, they should be aware that the mark remains for a long time. It stays on accounts for 24 months and only affects the score for half that period, about 12 months.

It may slightly reduce the number of points available to you, but no more than 10. If you have a good credit history, it is possible that applications may not be removed at all and the survey will only be a mark on your loan.

How to dispute credit inquiries

A hard inquiry should remain in your credit file. This allows lenders to see how much credit you have at the time of the inquiry and how quickly you will be able to repay it. Therefore, it is not possible to eliminate this type of hard inquiry.

However, if you feel that an inquiry is unauthorized, you can send a letter of objection to the bureau. The bureau will review it and remove it from your report. The bureau will review your file until it is considered perfunctory.


When a person applies for a mortgage, he or she must undergo a verification process. This process has two directions: a hard inquiry and a soft inquiry. The former requires legal authorization and allows creditors and lenders to receive a full report on consumer accounts.

There is no way to avoid the hard inquiry, but to minimize its impact. When applying for a loan, consumers should be aware of the consequences of a lower score.

Covert investigation works in reverse. It does not require the customer's consent and does not affect the credit score. In most cases, individuals use it for personal purposes. There are also a number of details to consider.

For example, the difference between surveys, why this step is mandatory, and the possible consequences of each. Read the article carefully and take notes to avoid repeating the same mistakes when applying for new credits.

Destiny Richardson
Written by
Destiny Richardson
Loans Credit, Cards
Destiny Richardson is a seasoned professional with 10+ years of global experience in the field of Investment Banking, Mergers and Acquisitions, and CFO. My area of expertise is Finance, Financial modelling, Fundraising, Investment Thesis, Mergers & Acquisitions, Market Research & Strategy work for startups as well as mid size companies. Destiny Richardson is a qualified Chartered Accountant (equivalent to CPA) and a graduate in commerce also hold Masters degree - MBA from leading universities in Asia / Europe. Due to my nature of work and love for travelling, I have been to more than 20+ countries.