When you apply for a loan or a line of credit, your lender will request access to your credit history and credit score from at least one of the three main credit reporting bureaus–Experian, Equifax, and Transunion. The credit bureaus track borrowing and payment activity and calculate credit scores for individuals.

A request to access an individual’s credit report is called a credit inquiry. Credit inquiries are also sometimes called credit checks or credit pulls.

Credit bureaus track and report on credit inquiries made into your credit history. Inquiries into your credit history remain on your credit report for up to two years, though not all credit inquiries impact your credit score.

 

Soft Credit Inquiries

Any credit inquiry that is not related to an application for credit is referred to as a soft credit inquiry.

Examples of soft credit inquiries:

  • Checking and monitoring your own credit
  • Credit checks are done by potential employers
  • Checks are done by existing creditors as part of regular account maintenance

Soft credit inquiries have no impact on your credit score.

 

Hard Credit Inquiries

Credit inquiries directly related to an application for credit are called hard credit inquiries.

Examples of hard credit inquiries:

  • Applying for a new credit card
  • Applying for car financing
  • Applying for a mortgage

Hard credit inquiries indicate that an individual is potentially planning to increase his or her debt load. To lenders, more debt means a higher risk that a borrower won’t be able to pay back existing or future debts. Because of the increased risk, hard credit inquiries have a negative impact on your credit score.

 

Impact of Hard Credit Inquiries on Your Credit Score

For most individuals, the negative effect of a single hard credit inquiry is small: usually less than five points off of your overall credit score. (Borrowers with short credit histories or little-reported borrowing activity may be affected more.)

Credit bureaus also recognize that shopping with multiple lenders for a single loan is not the same as seeking multiple loans. Most credit scoring models allow a shopping window, where hard credit inquiries of the same type made in a short time frame only count as a single negative event on your overall credit score.

Still, it’s best to be cautious about hard credit inquiries. In the months leading up to your home purchase, don’t apply for credit you don’t need. Even a slightly lower credit score can mean higher interest rates or fewer loan options for your mortgage.

At Morty, we recommend waiting until you are less than two months from your target closing date to pull your credit scores into your Morty profile.

A hard inquiry into your credit too early may lower your credit score, which can hurt your mortgage application when you are actually ready to secure financing for your home purchase.