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.
Diane Moogalian is vice president of operations for Equifax Personal Information Solutions. Prior to joining Equifax in 2007, Diane held several strategic roles with leading financial services companies.
The information contained in this blog post is designed to generally educate and inform visitors to the Equifax Finance Blog. The blog posts do not give, and should not be assumed to provide, personalized tax, investment, real estate, legal, retirement, credit, personal financial, or other professional advice. Before making any financial decision, you should always consult with the appropriate professionals who can explain your options, rights, and legal responsibilities, and advise you on any tax, legal, credit, or business implications that may result from those decisions. The views and opinions expressed by the authors of blog posts are their own views and may not be the views or opinions of Equifax, Inc. and/or its affiliates.