You've probably thought about checking your credit score every now and then. You may be pulling your report occasionally from the credit bureaus or you may have active credit monitoring in place (recommended!). Either way, this question may have crossed your mind; does checking your credit score lower it, and if it does, why does this happen?
There is more than one explanation for credit score changes. We'll discuss this in detail but first a quick overview of your credit score. Find out what impacts it and what isn't a big deal.
Overview of your credit score
Basically, your credit score shows how well you manage the credit available to you. Some factors that determine your score include how much credit you use, how quickly you pay off that balance, how long you’ve been using credit, and if you have any dings against your record (such as foreclosures and bankruptcies). These are all things you want to keep in mind as you consider your credit score.
This brings us back to the big question: does checking your credit score lower it? The short answer is, yes and no. So, why does checking your credit score lower it?
A key factor to this is any inquiries made on your credit. Hard inquiries can affect your score while soft inquiries don’t. Let's go over how these credit inquiries work to decide: does checking credit score lower it when related to these things?
Types of credit inquiries
There are two credit inquiry types, and they don't all affect your score in the same way. Hard inquiries will make your credit take a hit, whereas soft inquiries will not. Let's look in detail at the differences.
Hard credit inquiries
While it’s a little ironic, applying for a loan or other big purchase and having your credit checked will likely lower your score. These hard inquiries signal that an increase in debt is probably on its way, and they are done so the lender can see what you'll be like as a borrower.
While these aren't a problem on an occasional basis, it's important to be aware of how often a hard credit inquiry is done so your credit score doesn't suffer.
Hard inquiries typically occur when you apply for credit. For instance a mortgage, a car loan, a credit card, student loans, or personal loans. They also occur with things like renting an apartment depending on the rental process.
These hard inquiries (or hard pulls) will likely stay on your record for about two years. You can minimize their impact by being strategic about when you authorize them. Know exactly what's happening with your credit at all times.
For example, FICO scores may not even be affected by multiple inquiries if they’re made within 30-45 days of acquiring a new loan. This allows you to shop around and have multiple lenders check your score. (Learn more about how your FICO score affects your finances).
Hard inquiry mistakes or questions
Also, mistakes happen, including on your credit score. Your report may show a hard inquiry that occurred without your permission. This could be identity theft, an authorization you simply forgot about, or some other error.
You have the power to dispute it with the credit bureau, or even reach out to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. Just remember that you can’t dispute a hard inquiry simply because it lowered your score. You can only flag hard pulls that occurred without your permission.
Soft credit inquiries
There are different types of inquiries. Maybe you're wondering, does checking my credit score lower it every time? This is a common question and fortunately, there's a simple answer.
The counterpart to the dreaded hard inquiry is a soft inquiry. These “soft pulls” aren’t tied to official credit or loan applications and don’t affect your credit score. If you check your credit score on a site like Credit Karma, your score is not going to drop.
Soft inquiries are more general, rather than being tied to a specific loan application. The most common soft inquiry is when you check your own credit score. You may do this to see what you can do to make changes before a purchase.
It’s standard practice for credit card companies, lenders, and insurance agencies to use these checks to pre-qualify or pre-approve you for offers. Soft credit checks are also used by employers and landlords during background checks. That said, some credit bureaus do still record the soft inquiry on your report.
The main difference between a hard and soft inquiry
The main difference between a hard and soft inquiry is whether you’re actually applying for credit or a loan. An actual application means you've given the lender permission to check your credit for that application. If you did, it will likely be tracked as a hard inquiry.
Otherwise, the check is generally reported as a soft inquiry. This includes when you check your own credit. And this is a good tool to use, especially when you're building a better credit score.
How does checking your credit score lower it?
Are you wondering, "Does checking my credit score lower it?" No, not in most cases. Soft inquiries—like when you want to keep tabs on your own score or background checks—should NOT affect your credit score.
It’s the hard inquiries that will temporarily lower your score. These hard pulls are a necessary sacrifice when you’re ready to make a big financial decision, like a loan or new line of credit. Don’t be afraid to ask the person or business you’re working with if their check will be classified as a hard or soft credit inquiry so that you can plan accordingly.
The United States has three major credit bureaus. These are Equifax, Transunion, and Experian—which aggregate data from many sources into a single report. You can also check your report before any major loans to make sure you’re in good shape before a hard inquiry comes your way.
If you want, you can also get a free credit report from annualcreditreport.com. But why does checking your credit score lower it? As you now know, checking out your free credit score won't affect your finances, it's just the hard inquiries.
What does lower your credit score?
Several things can positively and negatively impact your score. Does checking credit score lower it? Not when you do it as a soft inquiry, but there are still other things that could change your score.
You should be aware of these and work to make your credit better over time. But remember that credit is determined by a number of factors. It's important not to get overly concerned about your credit score on a daily basis, but do be ready when you know that a hard inquiry is on its way.
If you don't make a payment on time, this can negatively impact your score. Stay up to date on all payments to ensure that this massive part of your score helps you. Try to make sure every payment you make is early and not late.
Types of credit
The types of credit you have, like student loans and credit cards, matter quite a bit, and more diversity is usually better. Installment and revolving credit mixes are best, which means both credit cards and long-term loans. Be sure that your credit is showing that you can handle various credit situations.
Length of credit history
You want a long credit history. The more time you've had credit for, the better. Seven years is a good amount of time to make a positive impact on your score, so start as soon as you're able.
Credit utilization ratio
Your utilization ratio is important. Utilizing higher than 30% of your credit at one time could have a negative impact. When you put something on a credit card, know your utilization ratio and if the purchase will put you over this percentage, consider waiting.
Potential new credit accounts
If you're still asking why does checking your credit score lower it, remember that a hard credit inquiry will happen when you apply for credit. So think twice about those credit card offers beforehand, as your score will be lowered a bit.
This doesn't mean never applying for new credit cards, but be strategic.
Track and maximize your credit score
Now that you no longer have to wonder if checking your credit score lowers it, you can stay more informed of your credit status. As you work your way toward that perfect score, remember that you do have some say in how your report looks. In fact, there are several factors that you control.
Avoid any credit missteps you can. Your score may drop with late and missed payments or when you allow your credit debt balances to grow. And closing an old account can also cause a dip in your score, as well as any bad marks on your credit report.
While your credit score doesn’t give a full picture of your financial health, it’s a key piece to your overall money puzzle and creating a financial plan. Having a great credit score can really improve your life. This is especially true as you do things like rent an apartment or buy a house, or apply for a loan.
A lowered credit score depends on many factors
So now you know, does checking your credit score lower it? It depends on the type of inquiry. Hard inquiries may lower your credit score, while soft inquiries generally do not.
Having a higher score can mean better terms on new loans, mortgages, and credit cards. These things on their own don’t add much value to your life, but they’re tools you can leverage to reach your goals. So it's important to try to keep your score high.
If you are working towards a higher credit score, don't give up! Remember to be mindful of inquiries and check your own score on occasion. Your hard work will pay off and you'll soon discover the benefits of having great credit.