Why Inquiries Can Change Credit Scores

woman holding blank touch screen device
Dear Experian,

Why does my score change with inquiries?


Dear ADM,

A "hard" inquiry is a record that your credit report was accessed in response to an application you submitted. These inquiries provide insight into your financial situation that the rest of the report may not.

"Soft" inquiries are the result of reviews that are not for credit or that you don't initiate. They include getting your own credit report, preapproved credit offers, employment inquiries and reviews by existing lenders. They do not affect credit scores in any way.

Why Inquiries Have an Impact on Credit Scores

The primary reason hard inquiries influence credit scores is that they indicate you may have acquired new debt that does not yet appear on your report. Additionally, multiple applications within a short period of time may be a sign that you are having financial difficulties and are seeking credit to stay afloat or to live beyond your means.

Lenders want to be sure you are not in danger of overextending yourself before agreeing to extend additional credit.

The Impact of an Inquiry Depends on Your Credit History

The overall impact of an inquiry on your credit scores depends on your unique credit history, but will always be small in comparison to other negative issues such as late payments or very high balances. The more recent the inquiry, the greater the impact will be, but an inquiry alone will never be the reason for an application to be declined.

Federal law requires that inquiries be listed as a risk factor with your credit scores if they account for even a single point, so they are almost always included. But, inquiries are usually the last factor because they have the least impact.

Still, it is a good idea to be selective about applying for credit. You may not want to apply for new credit if you know you are planning to make a major purchase soon, such as a house or a car.

Thanks for asking.
Jennifer White, Consumer Education Specialist

The purpose of this question submission tool is to provide general education on credit reporting. The Ask Experian team cannot respond to each question individually. However, if your question is of interest to a wide audience of consumers, the Experian team may include it in a future post and may also share responses in its social media outreach. If you have a question, others likely have the same question, too. By sharing your questions and our answers, we can help others as well.

Personal credit report disputes cannot be submitted through Ask Experian. To dispute information in your personal credit report, simply follow the instructions provided with it. Your personal credit report includes appropriate contact information including a website address, toll-free telephone number and mailing address.

To submit a dispute online visit Experian's Dispute Center. If you have a current copy of your personal credit report, simply enter the report number where indicated, and follow the instructions provided. If you do not have a current personal report, Experian will provide a free copy when you submit the information requested. Additionally, you may obtain a free copy of your report once a week through December 31, 2022 at AnnualCreditReport.