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4 steps that can successfully remove inquiries from your credit report

Learn how removing incorrect inquiries from your credit report can improve your credit score.

Lenders use details from your credit report, including the number of inquiries that’ve been made, to help them determine your eligibility for financial products.

Since inquiries can temporarily drop your credit score by a few points, they can ultimately affect your score. You shouldn’t have to deal with a negative drop in your credit score for credit inquires that you never authorized. Let’s find out what a credit inquiry is and how to dispute and remove any incorrect inquiries from your credit report in order to keep your credit score in good shape.

What is a credit inquiry?

Every time you apply for a credit product, such as a credit card, a loan or a line of credit, the lender you’ve applied to will submit a request to review your credit report. This is recorded on your credit report as a “hard credit inquiry”. While a few inquiries is usually fine, too many hard inquiries on your credit file can suggest to lenders that you’re not able to manage credit responsibly and may lead to a declined application.

A “soft credit inquiry” is when you or a creditor who you already do business with checks your credit report. Another common soft pull of your credit can be when a business or lender checks your credit report to prescreen you to see if you’re eligible for a product, such as when your bank sends you an offer to open a line of credit. Soft inquiries have no affect on your credit score or report.

Can I remove an inquiry from my credit report?

You can’t remove a legitimate inquiry from your credit report.

The only inquires that can be removed from your credit report are those that are incorrect or erroneous, such as if a lender made a hard pull on your credit without proper authorization from you. In these cases, you can submit a request to have the inaccurate details removed from your report.

How long do credit inquiries stay on my credit report?

For a legit credit inquiry, you’ll usually have to wait three years to have a hard inquiry taken off your credit report — though it’ll only impact your credit score for a few months if you make on-time payments. On the other hand, a soft pull on your credit report can only be seen by you and has no effect on your credit score whatsoever.

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How to dispute a credit inquiry

It’s important to check your credit report once or twice a year to make sure no errors or false inquiries have been listed. Here’s how to get started:

  1. Review your credit report.

    Start by getting a free copy of both of your credit reports from the credit bureaus and go through all the credit inquiries listed. Count the total number of inquiries and reference them against the inquiries you know you’ve made — like any recent loan or credit card applications. Flag any unfamiliar inquiries that you don’t recall approving. Remember that you’ll want to go through both your Equifax and TransUnion credit reports to check for errors.

  2. Follow up on suspicious inquiries.

    If you’ve identified an inquiry you don’t remember approving, contact the lender associated with the inquiry. Find out what the inquiry was made for to figure out whether you approved it or not.

  3. Submit a dispute letter.

    If you’ve followed up on unfamiliar inquiries and still feel that authorization was not properly given, you can send a letter to the credit bureaus to request removal of the incorrect inquiries. Make sure your request is to the credit reporting agency who provided you with your credit report, as details may vary between them. For example, if you got your credit report from Equifax, you’d submit a request to Equifax to have the error removed and then check with TransUnion to see if the same false inquiry is listed. You can also contact the lender in question and ask them to send the credit bureau a letter on your behalf.

  4. Wait for an outcome.

    The credit bureau you filed a request with will then review the details before providing you with an outcome. If you’re unsuccessful, the listing will remain. If your request was successful, it’ll be removed.

    Did you know?

    You can unknowingly give approval for an inquiry simply by checking a box on a form. For example, if you consent to receiving credit limit increase offers on your credit card and then accept an offer, it could lead to a new inquiry on your credit report. This is why it’s important to always read the fine print.

    What about inquiries from fraud?

    If you’ve found an inquiry on your credit report that you believe to be fraudulent, submit your request to dispute the fraudulent inquiry with the correct credit bureau and then request for them to place a security freeze or a fraud alert on your account. A fraud alert typically stays on your credit report for six years, while a security freeze will put a stop on any new accounts from opening under your name and prevent inquiries without your permission.

    How do I know if I have “too many credit inquiries”?

    There is no concrete number of how many credit inquiries is too many. If you’re concerned about the number of inquiries on your credit report, the first step is to get a free copy of your credit reports. It’s not so much about the number of inquiries, but more so the time between them.

    For example, if you’ve applied for five credit cards in a period of three months and have five hard inquiries as a result, it’s likely to be considered as a negative detail on your report. In contrast, having five hard credit inquiries listed over a period of five years will have far less of an impact – or perhaps no impact at all.

    What to do if you think you have too many inquiries on your credit report

    If you’ve looked at your credit report and think the number of credit inquiries listed could have a negative impact on your credit score, you can start to improve your credit score in other ways.

    • Limit new applications. Keep the number of credit inquiries on your report down by only applying for cards and loans when it’s necessary. Applying for one account at a time and waiting a few months between applications can keep inquiries to a minimum.
    • Pay your accounts by the due date. Information about late payments can have a negative impact on your credit score, so always aim to make payments by the due date on your statements.
    • Settle outstanding debts. If there are debts you can afford to pay off now, doing so could help show lenders you’re responsible with money — and save you some cash that would have otherwise been paid toward interest charges.

    Bottom line

    It’s good practice to monitor your credit report frequently to make sure there are no unauthorized inquiries that could damage your creditworthiness.

    Removing credit inquiries you haven’t authorized from your credit report can slightly repair your credit, however, if you find other items listed like accounts you never opened or accounts you’ve settled that have misinformation regarding payments, take care of those first because they weigh much heavier on your credit score.

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