A FICO score does not take into account any involuntary inquiries made by businesses with whom you did not apply for credit, inquiries from employers, or your own requests to see your credit report. For many people, one additional credit inquiry (voluntary and initiated by an application for credit) may not affect their FICO score at all. For others, one additional inquiry would take less than 5 points off their FICO score. Inquiries can have a greater impact, however, if you have few accounts or short credit history. Large numbers of inquiries also mean greater risk: People with six inquiries or more on their credit reports are eight times more likely to declare bankruptcy than people with no inquiries on their reports.
What happens when you apply for credit?
When you apply for credit, you authorize the lender to ask for a copy of your credit report. This is how voluntary inquiries appear on your credit report. The inquiries section of your credit report contains a list of everyone who accessed your credit report within the last two years. The report you see lists both voluntary inquiries, spurred by your own requests for credit, and involuntary inquiries, such as when lenders order your credit report to offer you a pre-approved credit card.
Will my FICO score drop if I apply for new credit?
If it does, it probably won’t drop much. If you apply for several credit cards within a short period of time, multiple inquiries will appear on your report. Looking for new credit can equate with higher risk, but most credit scores are not affected by multiple inquiries from auto or mortgage lenders within a short period of time. Typically, these are treated as a single inquiry and will have little impact on the credit score.
What to know about “rate shopping.”
Looking for a mortgage or an auto loan may cause multiple lenders to request your credit report, even though you’re only looking for one loan. To compensate for this, the score counts multiple auto or mortgage inquiries in any 14-day period as just one inquiry. In addition, the score ignores all mortgage and auto inquiries made in the 30 days prior to scoring. So if you find a loan within 30 days, the inquiries won’t affect your score while you’re rate shopping.
Improving your FICO score.
If you need a loan, do your rate shopping within a focused period of time, such as 30 days. FICO scores distinguish between a search for a single loan and a search for many new credit lines, in part by the length of time over which inquiries occur.
Generally, people with high FICO scores consistently:
- Pay bills on time.
- Keep balances low on credit cards and other revolving credit products.
- Apply for and open new credit accounts only as needed.
Also, here are some good credit management practices that can help to raise your FICO score over time. Re-establish your credit history if you have had problems. Opening new accounts responsibly and paying them on time will raise your FICO score over the long term. Check your own credit reports regularly, and before applying for new credit, to be sure they are accurate and up-to-date. As long as you order your credit reports directly from the credit bureaus, or through an organization authorized to provide credit reports to consumers, such as myFICO®, your own inquiries will not affect your FICO score.