Many people are afraid to request a copy of their credit reports – or check their credit scores – out of concern it may negatively impact their credit scores.
Good news: Credit scores aren't impacted by checking your own credit reports or credit scores. In fact, regularly checking your credit reports and credit scores is an important way to ensure your personal and account information is correct, and may help detect signs of potential identity theft.
Impact of soft and hard inquiries on credit scores
When you request a copy of your credit report or check credit scores, that’s known as a “soft” inquiry. Other types of soft inquiries result from companies that send you promotional credit card offers and existing lending account reviews by companies with whom you have an account. Soft inquiries do not affect credit scores and are not visible to potential lenders that may review your credit reports. They are visible to you and will stay on your credit reports for 12 to 24 months, depending on the type.
The other type of inquiry is a “hard” inquiry. Those occur after you have applied for a loan or a credit card and the potential lender reviews your credit history.
Hard inquiries do affect credit scores, but if you’re making a large purchase - such as buying a house or securing a mortgage - and shopping around for the most competitive rates, multiple hard inquiries are generally treated as one hard inquiry for a given period of time, typically 14 to 45 days. That allows you ample time to check different lenders and find the best loan terms for you. This multiple-hard inquiry exception generally does not apply to credit cards. Find out more information on hard inquiries and your credit.
Getting your credit reports
The law entitles you to one free copy of your credit report every 12 months from the three major credit bureaus – Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion. Visit www.annualcreditreport.com to get your free copies.
When checking your credit report, it’s important to make sure all your personal information, such as your name and addresses, is accurate and there isn’t information you don’t recognize. In addition, make sure your account information is accurate and complete. Do the account balances, credit limits, and payment history look accurate? Is there account information listed that you don’t believe is yours?
If you see account information that you believe is inaccurate or incomplete on your credit reports, contact the lending company directly. You can also file a dispute with the credit bureau providing the credit report. See more about filing a dispute.