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Will Interest Rate Shopping Hurt My Credit Score?

Written by Diane Moogalian on October 14, 2012 in Credit  |   10 comments

If you’ve ever bought a house or car, your research probably included some interest rate shopping. Even if you have a great credit score, you don’t know if the interest rates offered at a dealership or your own bank are really the best you can…

If you’ve ever bought a house or car, your research probably included some interest rate shopping. Even if you have a great credit score, you don’t know if the interest rates offered at a dealership or your own bank are really the best you can get until you check out what other lenders are offering.

While this is a smart financial move, a lot of people worry about what this will do to their credit score—especially if they are gearing up to make a big purchase. Certain kinds of credit inquiries do impact your score, but there is a built-in allowance for interest rate shopping.

Most credit scores are not affected by multiple inquiries from auto or mortgage lenders within a short period of time—usually 30 days. In these cases, multiple inquiries will be treated as a single inquiry, and this will have little or no impact on your credit score.

However, shopping around for interest rates usually means you’re preparing for a big purchase. To best protect your credit, there are a few things to keep in mind:

  • Apply for the same type of loan for the same amount. It’s fairly evident on a credit report that when five lenders pull your credit for a $300,000 mortgage loan, you’re not buying five $300,000 homes.
  • Conduct your business as quickly as possible. While the 30-day grace period is no myth, you might want to treat it as a weeklong grace period. Figure out which lenders you want to check out and do all your applications within a few days.
  • Do not apply for other forms of credit during this time period. Applying for too many loans or lines of credit at once could make you look like a higher risk to creditors.

Different types of inquiries

Remember, not all inquiries are created equal; only a hard inquiry will impact your credit score. A hard inquiry is when a mortgage lender, landlord, bank, or other creditor accesses your credit report because of a transaction you initiated. The key here is that you initiated this inquiry by asking for a line of credit from a lender.

The other two types of inquiries generally do not have any effect on your score. A soft inquiry is initiated by someone other than you, such as a lender or creditor. Think of the promotional offers you get in the mail. You didn’t ask for that pre-approved credit offer, but someone at the company pulled your information.

A personal credit inquiry also does not impact your score—you can pull your credit any time you want. And if you are about to apply for a loan or do some interest rate shopping, you should pull your credit report and score so you have a better idea of what kind of interest rates you’ll be offered.

10 comments

  1. Liam says:

    Here’s a personal finance question (since your Twitter account’s bio invites them): What government or industry regulator oversees Equifax’s and TransUnion of Canada’s business practices?

    Or, put another way, given the awesome power Equifax and Canada’s other credit reporting agency wields anonymously (and without having to qualify the information you provide about Canadian citizens that could potentially ruin their lives), I’d like to know what independent regulator, ombudsman, or financial industry overseer I can turn to, to file a complaint against Equifax?

    You see, without making any effort whatsoever to verify the information, Equifax keeps reporting erroneous credit data about me via “my” credit report to any organization (or employer) that may inquire. This is not an acceptable business practise by any industry’s standard, most especially the financial industry’s.

    But then, if it’s “my” credit report, why should I have to pay your organization (or any) to have access to it? Let’s save that thought for another blog comment on another day.

    Back to my initial question: I asked this of one of your “customer care” phone representatives after paying money to get access to an email that provided me with a long distance number to speak to one of you. That first long distance phone number led to a recorded message of course. From there I managed to get another long distance phone number that really did lead to a live human being. Mind you, I had to take time off of work to call Equifax since it’s “customer care call centre” hours are an inconvenient 8am-5pm Eastern, Mon to Fri only. For those of us that are employed, you could make your call centre people available until at least 6 or 7pm Eastern during the week and/or on Saturdays. Given your website is a throwback to a bygone era, this was a most disappointing experience. It appears you’re intentionally making it difficult for the average person to contact you. It’s no easy feat. Did I mention I’m a paying customer?

    But I digress …

    I managed to get one of your “customer care” phone reps on the line and I asked him that question: What government or industry regulator oversees Equifax’s and TransUnion of Canada’s business practices? Who can I talk to or file a complaint with over Equifax’s suspect business practices? He rambled on aimlessly with some nonsensical text book answer but I cut him off and forced him to admit that he didn’t know. I felt badly for him in a way. But it’s totally unacceptable for your staff to be as clued out as the Canadian people are with regards to getting a straight-up answer to the aforementioned question(s).

    You supposedly recorded the phone conversation, go listen to it. (BTW, I recorded the phone conversation too for security and training purposes & in order to be able to serve Equifax better in the future)

    Do you have the courage to post my comment and then respond to me here in a reasonable amount of time? I would welcome that. It’d be the first time Equifax provided me with decent customer service. Regardless, I’m just getting warmed up. You’ll hear from me again.

    • Jennifer Freeman, Equifax Blog editor says:

      @Liam — We forwarded your concerns directly to Equifax Canada, and received the reply below. If you would like to send your contact information to chief.privacy.officer@equifax.com, they would like to try to resolve your issue directly. Thanks for reaching out with your concerns.

      ***

      Equifax is committed to collecting, using and disclosing the most accurate information reasonably available to it. If you have reviewed your credit file and believe that an item is not accurately reported, please complete the Consumer Credit Update Form which accompanies the consumer credit file you receive from Equifax and mail it to: Equifax Canada, Consumer Relations Department, Box 190 Jean Talon Station, Montreal, Quebec, H1S 2Z2. You may also call Equifax Consumer Relations at 1-800-465-7166.

      From time to time, Equifax customers may cease reporting information to Equifax. In order to maintain the accuracy of your information, when this occurs, Equifax will remove all information previously provided by that customer from your credit file within 60 days of the cessation of reporting.

      We do this to ensure that incomplete information does not inaccurately reflect on your credit file. For example, if a customer was reporting payments on a 5-year term loan and ceased reporting, the file would reflect outstanding payments, which may be inaccurate

      Upon receipt of your Consumer Credit Update Form regarding the information that you are disputing, Equifax will contact the source of the information reported in your credit file to verify the item. If we are unable to confirm a particular piece of information, we will remove it from your credit file. If we receive updated information from the person or company that provided it, we will adjust the information in your credit file.

      If we make any changes to your credit file as a result of request or dispute you submitted, we will send you a revised credit report showing the changes. We will also, upon your request, send your revised credit file to any Equifax customer who may have recently received your credit report.

      If the source of disputed information confirms that it is accurate, Equifax will not make any change to the information. We will provide you with the name of the source and a telephone number at which you can contact them. Upon your request, Equifax will also include a statement about the disputed information on your credit file.

      If at any time personal information that we have collected about you changes, we encourage you to contact Equifax so that we can update our records. This is important because it will, for example, help potential credit grantors verify your identity and review your credit history when you apply for credit. It will also ensure that we are able to communicate with you about products or services you have purchased and inquiries you have submitted.
      . What if I disagree with the conclusion of your investigation?

      If you are not satisfied with the conclusion of our investigation into any information in your credit file, you may provide us with a brief written statement to be included in your credit file. This statement will be included on any future credit report.

      If you feel that Equifax has failed to meet its obligations to you, you may make a complaint to the Equifax Chief Privacy Officer, to your provincial Registrar of Credit Reporting Agencies, to the Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada, or to your applicable provincial Information and Privacy Commissioner.

      Chief Privacy Officer

      Equifax Canada Inc.

      5650 Yonge St., 13th floor

      Toronto, ON M2M 4G3

      chief.privacy.officer@equifax.com

  2. Sally G Osborne MD says:

    I also wonder about consistency in Equifax reporting of my credit to me and to lenders. Several times over several years I paid for the complete score, but within several days, two lenders told me that my Equifax score reported to them was more than 70 points lower. The lenders were Bank of America, Penn Financial, and perhaps another bank. Can you explain?
    Furthermore, isn’t it a conflict of interest/perhaps a catch 22 that the banks report info to the credit score agencies & then get a score back that allows them to increase the interest rate when they report unnecessary negative info to the scorers. For instance, I have been divorced for over five years and Bank of America will not release me as a co-borrower on two line of credit/credit cards that my ex had always used (without me both before & after the divorce) almost to the max. They should at least note as they report to you that I have not used that credit source for x number of years, but it allows them to stick me with a nigher interest rate so why should they bother to clarify the true picture. I have very little revolving debt because I pay off my AmEx platinum fully each month.

    • Rob says:

      I paid $15.95 for my Equifax score and two days later, when I went to refinance my car, it was about 11 points lower than they had reported! That makes no sense to me… It cost me $15.95, a hard inquiry on my CBR, and the disappointment of finding out that I went from qualifying for a 3.99% rate to 13.50%. I am very disappointed in the service Equifax has provided. They have far too much power over the average consumer and know how to use it to their advantage. I would also like to see Liam’s question answered in a straight-forward manner. It’s unfortunate if you cannot trust those who are supposed to protect your credit.

  3. Rachelle Wilkins says:

    I’m not commenting on the above statement however; I too have a question about reporting. Equifax was quoted above as stating they notifiy the creditor and either remove the negative information or give you the option of writing a brief statement to dispute and keep on file. My question simply is: “Who do they contact”. I have a foreclosure that was reported on my credit report. This was reported a year after the actual foreclosure that was done illegally (that’s another story). To date I have not been able to get this removed from my file nor have I been given the information of who Equifax ontacted to confirm the negative reporting. Why is this negative reporting information not being passed on to the consumer? It appears that an investigation is not done by the credit reporting agencies, they just take the creditor’s word for it, but fail to believe the consumer. Given the state of the credibility of creditors today I would think credit reporting agencies would take more of an interest in protecting the consumer, rather than just taking the creditor’s word for it. Why isn’t documentation to support the creditor’s reporting given from the credit report agencies to the consumer. My guess, there isn’t any supporting doucments. Just an e-mail or phone call. Wish it was that easy for me the consumer. I have written numerous letters, complaints etc. and still have the negatvie reporting on my file. So I ask Equifax “What can be done about this?”

  4. Elizabeth says:

    We just sold our home without any credit issues or loss. The sale of the home was a cash transaction. When we applied for a new mortgage we found our score had dropped over 50 points. When we called Equifax to inquire about the drop they indicated the reason for a lower score was due to closing the loan in less than 2 years of refinancing. We explained the loan was not closed it was paid off. The comment for correction was to wait awhile and maybe the score would go up again. We are trying to build a new home. What can we do to correct?

    • EFX Moderator, EM says:

      Elizabeth, great question. In this case, paying off the account had the consequence of closing the account. It’s great that you paid off a debt, certainly. Closing an account isn’t necessarily a bad thing if it’s paid as agreed. Here are basic tips on improving your creditworthiness but they can take time. I hope this helps and good luck with your new home.

  5. Scott says:

    Liam asked a question many of us are curious about and it was nice to see it posted but unfortunately it remains unanswered and indeed a swagger of buerocratic word speak so most forget the question altogether. The response in fact clearly avoids answering. So, essentially it leaves one to believe that in fact NO-ONE is regulating Equifax? Could this be true in a nation that regulates car salesman is noone minding the helm of the most personal and powerful portion of our financial lives?!?
    Liam clearly asked, “What government or industry regulator oversees Equifax’s and TransUnion of Canada’s business practices?” The response given includes other departments of Equifax. This is an unacceptable answer. So, please respond to this question with, “Noone” if indeed that is the case or disclose the regulator. Thank You

    • Haris says:

      I have become a mmeber of Equifax b/c I made the mistake of pulling all three reports at the same time and I am trying to take control of my debt and better my score and have found the monthly report to be very helpful at which I could cancel at anytime. My question however is: Is there a particular date in the month that is wisest to pull my new report? For instance should I pull it on the 1st of the month or the 15th?


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