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4 Surprising Things That Cause A Hard Inquiry

, by Kelsey

When you're focusing on improving your credit, every bit of credit activity is crucial. You've been tirelessly working to pay off debt and manage your credit responsibly. The last thing you need is for a hard inquiry to hit your credit report and potentially impact your FICO® Scores.

What's an inquiry?

Inquiries occur when someone checks, or inquires about, your credit. They are often also called credit checks. There are two categories of credit inquiries — one that your FICO Scores consider and one that doesn't.

A "hard" inquiry occurs when you authorize a lender or other entity to view your credit reports and FICO Scores. Since you authorized this inquiry, it's often called a "hard" inquiry. Hard inquires can impact your FICO Scores as they signify that you're looking for new credit and the data shows that people seeking credit are more risky than those who are not.

The other category is often called a "soft" inquiry. It's a little different. This type of inquiry occurs when either you pull your own credit or a creditor does for a pre-approval or account review.   In other words, this type of inquiry does not signify that you're looking for new credit. Because of this, it does not impact your FICO Scores.

It's important to note that depending on your full credit picture, if the hard inquiry impacts your FICO Scores, it is typically by a few points. For most people, one additional credit inquiry will take less than five points off their FICO Scores. But when you're working hard to improve your scores, you're likely trying to avoid any setbacks — even a few points. We get it. So if you're worried about hard inquiries affecting your FICO Scores, be sure to avoid these surprising triggers.

4 Surprising Things that May Cause A Hard Inquiry

  1. Paying for a rental car with a debit card

A lot of car rental agencies will require that you pay with a credit card. This is in order to ensure you'll be liable for any damages not covered by your agreement. The companies that do let you pay with a debit card will often include a clause in your agreement that allows them to check your credit. If they do check your credit, this would be posted as a hard inquiry.

  1. Getting a new cell phone plan

Most cellphone providers will check your credit before approving you for a contract. Similar to lenders, cell phone companies pull your credit in order to evaluate your risk. They want to see how likely you are to pay your cell phone bill on time. This type of credit check is a hard inquiry.

  1. Requesting a credit line increase

Your credit card company may surprise you with a credit limit increase at any time. Some will check your credit first to make sure your credit standing still meets their requirements. If they do this without telling you, it's treated as a soft inquiry. However, if you request a credit limit increase from your creditor, and thus initiate the process, a credit check would be considered a hard inquiry.

  1. Getting a business credit card

Many companies will offer their employees a corporate credit in order to cover business-related expenses. What many employees don't know is that some corporate credit cards require a personal guarantee. They want to make sure you can pay your bills on time if you were ever to rack up bills that aren't paid by the company. This type of corporate card will pull your credit before you're approved, resulting in a hard inquiry.

Have you ever been surprised about a hard inquiry? Let us know so we can add it to the list! Learn more about credit inquires.


Equal parts project manager, content marketer, social strategist and writer, Kelsey is a marketing manager at FICO and financial health enthusiast. Focused on making meaningful connections with consumers on their way to financial fitness, Kelsey is always good for a creative tip on how to keep your budget in check.