An inquiry is simply a record that someone has looked at your credit report. There are two types of inquiries: soft and hard.
Soft inquiries are usually initiated by others, like companies making promotional offers of credit or your lender conducting periodic reviews of your existing credit accounts. Soft inquiries also occur when you check your own credit report or when you use credit monitoring services from companies like Experian. These inquiries do not impact your credit score.
Hard inquiries are the result of a person's application for credit or other services.
Hard inquiries can affect credit scores because they represent potential new debt that doesn't yet appear in the credit report as an account. However, the effect they have on scores is minimal and short term.
Typically, any impact drops off dramatically after a month or two because there will either be a new account entry, which then becomes the key risk indicator, or there is no new account, which means the inquiry doesn't represent any risk.
All inquiries remain two years from the date of the inquiry. Generally, you cannot have them removed before that time unless they are the result of fraud.
Keep in mind, hard inquiries alone will never be the sole reason that an application is declined. There will always be something more serious that causes the inquiries to become a deciding factor.
When a person receives a credit score they also should get a list of the risk factors that most affected the score. There are generally four and sometimes five factors, and they are usually listed in order of importance. Inquiries are referred to as the "fifth factor" because they always are the least important.
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Scoped on: 12/8/2016