There are dozens, possibly even hundreds of credit related myths floating regarding the subject of credit scores. As a credit expert I spend a large portion of my time debunking these myths and educating consumers, Realtors, and even loan officers about the real impact which various actions will have upon a person's credit scores. Out of the many, many myths I encounter on a weekly basis one of the most frustrating credit misconceptions that I hear repeated is the idea that checking your own credit will harm your credit scores.
Let's set the record straight right from the beginning. There is a 0% chance that the action of pulling your own personal credit reports for review purposes will damage or hurt your credit scores in any way, shape, or form. In fact, you could even check your own credit reports 100 times per day if you desired and doing so would not have any negative impact upon your credit scores whatsoever. The reason this particular myth is so frustrating is because it deters many consumers from doing the very thing - checking their credit - which they should be doing on a regular basis.
What Are Inquiries?
Whenever you or anyone else pulls a copy of one of your credit reports a record of the credit pull is placed on the report. This record is known as an inquiry. Inquiries are placed upon your credit for multiple reasons, but perhaps the most important reason is so that you as a consumer can know who has had access to your credit. (Credit Tip: keeping an eye on who has accessed your credit reports can be an effective tool to help you monitor for potential identity theft.)
Hard Vs. Soft Inquiries
Inquiries which do not have any impact upon your credit scores, such as those which occur when you pull your own credit reports and those which occur when a creditor prescreens your credit before sending you a credit card offer, are known as soft inquiries. Not only do soft inquiries have no impact upon your credit scores, but they are also only visible to you when you pull a copy of your consumer credit report. If a lender pulls a copy of your credit report no soft inquiries will appear on it.
Hard inquiries are those which do have the potential to damage your credit scores. A hard inquiry can occur when, for example, a credit card issuer pulls a copy of your credit reports to review as part of an account application. Of course, not all hard inquiries will damage your credit scores - that is a myth as well - but they do at least have the potential to do so. (To learn more about how hard inquiries are calculated into your credit scores you can read "How Many Points Will an Inquiry Lower My Credit Scores?")
Why You Should Check Your Credit
Now that you know it is safe to check your own credit reports it is important to understand why you should check your credit reports. Credit report errors occur much more often than most consumers realize. In fact, the FTC released a study in 2013 which estimated there to be around 40 million errors on the credit reports of US consumers at the time.
Of course you have the right to expect accurate credit reports. You are even entitled to accurate credit reports under the Fair Credit Reporting Act. Yet, it is ultimately up to you and you alone to monitor your credit and to ensure that errors do not occur. When errors do occur then you have the right to dispute them - either on your own or with the help of a reputable professional.
Thankfully, you also have the right to access a free copy of each of your 3 credit reports every year at AnnualCreditReport.com. There are also many credit monitoring sites which all you the ability to view all 3 of your reports and your credit scores together conveniently. Here is a link to some of my favorites: CLICK HERE.
Michelle Black is an author and leading credit expert with over 13 years of experience, the credit blogger at HOPE4USA.com, a recognized credit expert on talk shows and podcasts nationwide, and a regularly featured speaker at seminars up and down the East Coast. She is an expert on improving credit scores, budgeting, and identity theft. You can connect with Michelle on the HOPE4USA Facebook page by clicking here.