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Checking Your Credit Score Won’t Hurt Your Credit Score

Posted By Jim On 01/02/2008 @ 8:13 am In Credit | 9 Comments

If you can remember back to high school physics, you might remember a concept known as Schrödinger’s cat. While a full explanation makes it sound extremely complicated (check Wikipedia [3] if you’re really interested), the basic idea is that a subatomic particle can exist in a combination of possible states and the act of looking at it, that is bouncing photons (light) on it, will actually change the state that it was prior to you seeing it. Anyway, the cat experiment, which is mostly just a thought/psychological thing and not something real, was a way for Schrödinger to explain what he meant when he supposed that the very act of looking at the cat changed whether it was dead or alive, since it had equal probability of being either. Now, how does this affect you and your credit score? Well, one would surmise that, since a credit score is affected by inquiries, if you were to request your credit score (make an inquiry) you would affect your credit score, right? Thankfully, no.

Fortunately for us, there are two types of inquiries known as hard pulls (or inquiries) and soft pulls (or inquiries). Hard pulls are the ones that stay on your credit history and is seen by anyone who looks at it, thus hard pulls can have an adverse affect on your credit score. Soft pulls don’t stay on your history as long and aren’t visible to everyone who looks at your credit history. Hard pulls can hurt your score, soft pulls will not.

For the purposes of my friend’s question, which was the impetus for this article, checking your own credit score is a soft pull – that is no one will ever see that you have done it so it won’t hurt your score. As for hard pulls, which generally are done by companies reviewing your account (not all companies do a hard pull, some will give you credit based only on a soft pull), those are the ones that can hurt your score (the exact amount it hurts isn’t well known put people estimate around 5-10 points each).

There are two more bits of credit score wisdom I can impart as a result of reading about it over the last few years:

  • Inquiries within a 30 day period by mortgage lenders are treated as one inquiry for the purposes of your credit worthiness. Since creditors understand that borrowers are going to be shopping around for a mortgage, they don’t penalize you for getting multiple inquiries in one 30 day period… just don’t wait too long because then it’ll start hurting.
  • Credit inquiries may take time to appear. There is a lag between when a pull is made and when it appears as part of your official credit history, balance transfer arbitragers have been taking advantage of this for years by applying for app-o-rama’s [4], massive numbers of cards in a short period of time.

So check your credit score if you want, it shouldn’t affect your score.

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[4] app-o-rama’s: http://balancetransferarbitrage.com/app-o-rama-balance-transfer-arbitrage-explained.htm

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