Taking loans to fulfil immediate financial requirements has become quite common. With this the importance of credit score has also increased manifolds. People have realized the importance of keeping the score high so that they get approved for loans easily, get the best credit card offers and the lowest interest rate possible. Even people who do not plan to take a loan in near future are keeping a check on their score, so that they don’t face any problems in future, if they need funds in case of an emergency.
Enquiring about your credit score helps you gauge your current situation, identify accounts that may be causing damage and find out ways to improve your credit profile. But some people have a misconception that such credit enquiries can damage your credit score. It is a complete myth that checking score frequently harms your score. There are some credit enquiries that are not good for your score. But those are hard enquiries. When you check your score yourself it is known as a soft enquiry. Let’s explore what hard and soft enquiries are in more detail.
When you submit a loan application, the lender requests for your credit score and report from the credit bureau. They use this information to analyse your past borrowing behaviour. Based on your score, they estimate the risk they are exposed to and accordingly decide whether to approve or reject the loan application. This score is also used to set interest rates and other loan terms. This type of enquiry made by the lenders is called a hard enquiry. All these are listed in your credit report and make up 10% of your score. While a single enquiry may result in only a slight dip, frequent hard enquiries indicate that you are applying for credit frequently. Such a credit hungry behaviour isn’t good for credit score. So one shouldn’t apply for multiple credit cards within a short span of time.
Soft enquiries include credit enquiry made by landlords, employers and insurance companies. Since these situations do not lead to accumulation of debt they do not affect your credit score. Even the background check made by lenders for preapproval of loan is a soft enquiry. A check made by credit card companies to see whether you qualify for promotional offers is also a soft enquiry. Similarly checking your own credit report is also counted as soft enquiry. Soft enquiries are not listed on the credit report and they are not factored in credit scoring models. Hence, they do not affect score negatively.
In fact checking your score is a good practice, it is often the first step in improving it. It helps one do a reality check as to how one’s credit habits are affecting the credit profile. In order to encourage people to take their score seriously, RBI has mandated the bureaus to provide a free credit report every year. Checking the report frequently also helps in keeping problems like identity theft at bay. One must check the free credit report every year to uncover any mistakes or inconsistencies.
So go ahead and check your free credit report as and when you want to. It will not have any negative effect on your score. In fact you can get a free credit report from each of the three bureaus every year. So you can check your report for free thrice in a year. It is a good way to keep track of your financial health.
If there is a sudden drop in your score, it may be either due to recording of incorrect information or misuse of identity. One can report such issues to the bureau and ask them to rectify the mistakes. Taking a peek into one’s credit score also motivates one to take actions to bring positive changes to the score. If you are working towards improving score a regular check will help you see the results of your efforts.