Can you remove hard inquiries from your credit report? Yes, you can delete these items from your file under narrowly defined circumstances.

Although, the effort could prove pointless because any improvement in your credit score will be nominal, and you are probably overlooking an issue that could be far more problematic.

The bureaus will not erase authorized inquiries but will get rid of unauthorized entries connected with identity theft. However, your financial future is at risk when a crook steals your name, social security number, date of birth, and address history.  

Therefore, writing a dispute letter to the agencies or filing a lawsuit are not the first things you want to do when someone pulls your report without your permission.

What Happens After Removal?

Do not be surprised when nothing happens after you remove a hard inquiry from your credit report. The entries naturally fall off your file after 24 months, but their significance to your credit score often ends well before that time.

For example, the FICO score only considers inquiries from the last twelve months and ignores those that remain on file longer.[1] Also, other considerations can make the younger entries meaningless.

Point Increase

Nobody can accurately estimate the number of points your credit score might increase after the removal of hard inquiry from your report. While a brand new entry could subtract one to five points, its later deletion does not necessarily balance out the equation.

For instance, each of these factors could affect whether your score goes up or not after the entry goes away.

  • Multiple shopping inquiries from mortgage, student, and auto lenders grouped into 30 days count as one since many consumers want to get the lowest interest rates for major purchases
  • Inquiries appear only on the file of the bureau furnishing the report, which means that the scores at the other agencies are unaffected
  • The impact to your credit score shrinks over time to zero based on how long it has been since you applied for a new account (see next section)

Length on File

Hard inquiries stay on your credit report for two years (24 months). However, their impact on your credit score has a much shorter shelf life and can diminish to nothing well before the entry falls off on its own.

For example, consider how hard inquiries help the equations to predict future delinquency. The new entry appears on your consumer report immediately after you apply for a new account and acts as an early warning signal that the lender might approve a new tradeline with unknown characteristics.

  • Revolving vs. installment
  • Secured vs. unsecured
  • Account limit or principal amount

New credit activity makes up 10% of your rating. Therefore, the hard inquiry could affect your credit score in three distinct ways.

  1. During the first 30 days, the bureau has no additional information about the possible new borrowing relationship, which translates into the one to five-point drop due to the uncertainty.
  2. Approved accounts begin appearing on bureau files 30 to 60 days after the hard inquiry, rendering the early warning signal meaningless because the equations now know the trade line characteristics.
  3. Lenders do not report declined applications to the bureaus, which means the significance of the early warning wanes after 60 days since most underwriting decisions happen very quickly.

Removing Hard Inquiries from Report

The process for removing hard inquiries from your credit report is anything but fast, boosts scores for only on a tiny subset of entries, and introduces you to the dark world of thieves and questionable characters.

  • Unauthorized access to your file is a sign of identity theft, which means that your focus should be elsewhere
  • Services to delete authorized information resort to deceptive practices to achieve a dubious goal

Letters

Crafting a hard inquiry removal letter to the credit bureaus makes sense when you can demonstrate that the entries are unauthorized. While doing so may result in a short-lived boost in your score, it overlooks a much bigger problem!

  • The Federal Trade Commission provides a free letter template that you can copy, edit, and then submit as a PDF to dispute any unauthorized inquiries connected with identity theft.[2] Bear in mind that the bureaus will erase only those entries associated with fraud, which can be challenging to recognize and prove.
  • Many legitimate transactions can appear fraudulent when you are unfamiliar with the company pulling your file. For example, third party banks often operate behind the scenes of other customer-facing entities.
    • Branded retail credit cards
    • Medical and dental payment plans
  • Identity theft is an enormous problem that dwarfs any negative score impact connected with a hard inquiry. A new tradeline in your name could appear shortly that will quickly become delinquent. Plus, collection agencies might begin calling and or file suit to recoup debt that is not yours.

Therefore, consumers with a legitimate reason to get rid of hard inquiries should immediately shift their attention to identity theft remediation instead. Why focus on a tiny, short-lived score boost, when a far more significant problem looms?

Services

Beware of any hard inquiry removal services touting their ability to address authorized entries. Any company promising to delete truthful information from your file is, by definition, a shady operator. Be careful about sending this outfit your hard-earned money.

The bureaus will reject any disputes of sanctioned inquiries as this information belongs to your file. Therefore, many deletion services resort to questionable tactics such as “bumpage.”

The theory behind bumpage is that the agencies have practical limits to the number of legitimate items they can store for each consumer. The approach requires you to pull a copy of your consumer report 60 to 70 times or more, which supposedly causes the system to push older hard inquiries off of the file to make room for the newer soft entries.

Of course, you must repeat this process for the other two bureaus as well. Therefore, make sure that you factor in the cost of pulling your file up to 200 times, as it probably is not worth the investment, given the modest, short-term score improvement.

Footnoted Sources:

[1] My FICO Inquiry Effects

[2] Federal Trade Commission Dispute Letter Template