Do credit checks affect your credit score?
A research by finder.com.au has found that almost two-thirds of Aussies don’t know their credit score, with 2.7 million too scared to check it. There seems to be a big gap between what a credit score really is, and the common perception of what having a credit check does and doesn’t mean. So let’s clear this up for once and for all.
Credit enquiries are classified into two categories; hard enquiries and soft enquiries.
The critical difference is that a hard credit inquiry may impact your credit score and stay on your credit reports for about two years, while a soft credit enquiry won’t affect your score.
What is a hard enquiry?
Hard enquiries occur when a financial institution, such as a lender or credit card issuer, checks your credit report because you’re applying for credit.
A hard inquiry can have a minor affect on your score or at worst – it may lower your score. It serves as a timeline of when you have applied for new credit.
In most cases, a single hard inquiry won’t play a huge role in whether you’re approved for a new card or loan. On the other hand, multiple hard enquiries in a short span of time can lead lenders to consider you a high risk customer. Why? Because it sends them a message that you are in financial distress (even though it may not be the truth). So you may want to think twice before applying for several credit cards within the period of a few months.
Hard enquiries examples:
- Personal loan applications
- Mortgage applications
- Student loan applications
- Car loan applications
- Credit card applications
- Apartment rental applications
What is a soft enquiry?
A soft credit check is a type of enquiry that doesn’t affect your credit score. It happens when you check your own credit, or lenders, employers and other parties review your credit. But, these enquiries are not associated with lending decisions.
Your credit score is an essential piece of information and checking it regularly is an important way to better understand your current credit position and may also help you detect any inaccurate or incomplete information. It’s a good idea to check your credit reports at least once a year.
Soft enquiries examples:
- Personal credit checks
- Pre-approved credit offers
- Insurance applications
- Account reviews by current creditors
- Employment applications
Access to your credit report
You can check your credit score for free once every 3 months. Visit https://www.oaic.gov.au/privacy/credit-reporting/access-your-credit-report/ for more information.
You can request a copy of your credit report from the credit reporting bodies below:
The bottom line is, if you practice responsible credit habits (making on-time payments, maintaining low balances), the sporadic hard credit enquiries should have a very minor impact on your overall credit score.