What Is a Perfect Credit Score? (And How to Get One) [2022]

The “perfect credit score” is a bit of a misleading term because just being in the top tier of credit scores usually will grant you the same privileges as having the highest possible credit score.

Nevertheless, many people are interested or at least curious about how to obtain a perfect credit score and there are a number of things you can do to set yourself up to achieve that.

Here’s everything you need know about how to get a perfect credit score. 

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What Is a perfect credit score?

The perfect credit score is 850 on both the popular Vantage and FICO models, which have a range of 300 to 850.

But this is a bit misleading because credit scores that are much lower will usually give you all the benefits of a perfect credit score as described below.

Credit scores broken down

In case you need a refresher, here’s how your FICO score is calculated.

Your FICO credit score is determined in the following way:

  • Payment History (35%)
  • Utilization (30%)
  • Credit History (15%)
  • New Credit (10%)
  • Mixed Credit (10%)

Payment History (35%)

Payment history is the #1 factor for determining your credit score.

Late payments will stay on your credit report for 7 years, although some bankruptcies (Chapter 7 bankruptcy) will remain on your report for up to ten years!

Luckily, the negative effect of late payments and other negatives begins to lessen as more times passes, so although it might stay on your report for 7 years, the effect will usually only be felt for a limited amount of time (i.e., a few years).

How much a late payment affects your credit score depends on a mix of factors, including:

  • How late they were and the number of past due items listed on a credit report
  • The amount of money still owed on delinquent accounts or collection items
  • How much time has passed since any delinquencies, adverse public records, or collection items

Utilization (30%)

Utilization is your credit to debt ratio. You find this by dividing the amount of debt you have by your total credit limit. So for example, if you have a $10,000 total credit limit and owe $5,000 in debt, then your utilization is at 50%.

Credit History (15%)

The credit history category consists of the of the following factors:

  • Longest opened account
  • Average age of account
  • Time since newest account
  • Time since each account was last used

The most important of these factors is the age of the longest opened account while average age of accounts is second.

New Credit (10%)

This category is most known for its effect felt from hard inquiries.

Hard inquiries result when your credit is pulled for review by lenders and certain other institutions and they differ from soft inquiries in that the latter don’t affect your credit score.

Other factors besides hard inquiries in the new credit category are:

  • How many new accounts you have
  • How long it’s been since you opened your last account

Mixed Credit (10%)

This category evaluates your overall “mix” of credit lines.

So for example, it wants to see if you have a diverse range of credit consisting of different types of credit lines like student loans, auto loans, home loans, credit cards, etc.

If you need to freshen up your knowledge on credit reports, check out my introduction to credit scores and reports.

There are dozens of credit scores

There are tons of different types of credit scores so it’s good to know that there can be different types of perfect scores (850, 900, etc.).

Just like new software systems like Microsoft Windows are rolled out every few years, FICO every few years comes out with different editions of its scoring model.

For example, here are some of the previously released editions:

  • FICO 98 (1998)
  • FICO NextGen (2001)
  • FICO 04 (2004)
  • FICO Score 8 (2008)
  • FICO Score 9 (2014)
  • FICO Score 10 (2020)

Each edition is implemented in order to more accurately predict the credit worthiness of consumers based on new developments in modeling, testing, and research.

For example, when FICO Score 8 came out it lessened the blow that isolated late payments would have on a credit score, devalued the benefit of authorized users, ignored collection accounts of less than $100, and made high balances on credit cards more punishable.

Also, the FICO 9 model helps eliminates the negative effect of a paid collection account and also lessens the negative effect of medical collections.

Industry specific credit scores

FICO also develops industry specific FICO scores.

In addition to the “general” credit score, there are industry specific scores for the following:

  • Auto
  • Mortgage
  • Credit card 
  • Installment loan
  • Personal finance

These industry scores don’t typically follow the 300 to 850 scoring model of the general credit score so you might see perfect scores of 900.

But while the scores can vary, they are generally pretty close. Also, it’s never guaranteed that a given industry will use an industry specific score, since some choose to use the general scores.

Different bureaus

Each of these different industry versions also have different editions and also come in different versions based on the credit reporting agencies applying them (three major credit bureaus are Equifax, Experian and TransUnion).

So for example, you have your “general” FICO Equifax credit score in multiple editions, your “auto” FICO Equifax in multiple editions, and so on and so on.

That’s how you get to over 50 FICO credit scores (or even over 60 when FICO 9 is fully implemented) different types of credit scores. The chart below (via Bankrate) breaks this down in chart form which may help:


How many people have a perfect credit score?

According to CNBC of the 232 million U.S. consumers who have FICO credit scores, about 1.6 percent, have perfect 850s.

In the end, you don’t actually need an 850 to get the benefits of a perfect credit score, though.

In fact, the real perfect score is likely a 760. 

According to CNBC, a 760 can qualify you for the best mortgage rates while a 720 can qualify you for the best car loan rates.

The FICO mortgage calculator seems to back this up, lumping credit scores at or above 760 in with the best interest tier.

perfect credit score

So all you really need to do is try to get to that upper bracket of credit which usually is about a 760.

Once you get over that, there’s really nothing to gain in many situations, though it’s possible that in certain markets you might get a slight nudge if you’re closer to 780, 800, etc.

Personally, I would rather hover around 720 to 760 while being able to take advantage of awesome credit card rewards then worry about maintaining an 850.

However, if you really want that perfect score here are some tips.

5 Tips for getting a perfect credit score

#1 Your payment history needs to be squeaky clean

Payment history is the #1 factor for your credit score so it shouldn’t come as a surprise that you’re not going to have a perfect credit score if you have late payments, bankruptcies, liens, judgments, collections, etc. on your credit profile.

According to FICO data, “a 30-day delinquency could cause as much as a 90 to 110 point drop on a FICO Score of 780 for a consumer who has never missed a payment on any credit account.”

So you can imagine how difficult/impossible it would be to climb up into the mid 800s with negative marks showing on your credit report.

Those negative marks do lose their affect on your credit score over time, but when it comes to obtaining a perfect credit score,  you’re not going to get there with a negative history.

The good news is that you can still achieve a very high credit score even with negative marks.

The key is that there needs to be some time between the present time and your negative marks.

Also, if your credit report is littered with negative marks, that’s a very different situation from someone with an isolated one or two hiccups.

#2 Utilization needs to be low but not too low

You’re never going to have a perfect credit score if your utilization is high. And if you want to hit the perfect score, I’d shoot for somewhere between 2% to 4%.

Remember, having 0% utilization won’t benefit you as much as having a little bit of utilization.

According to MyFICO, Barry Paperno, consumer operations manager for FICO stated that a tiny reported balance can trump a zero balance. 

“In short, the lower a consumer’s credit utilization, the better, but having a small balance is slightly better than having no balance at all.”

In fact, according to TMF, “the average FICO high achiever (800+ FICO score) uses 4% of their overall revolving credit limit,” so that should give you an idea where your utilization should stay.

So if you’re shooting for a perfect credit score, you want to make sure that you’re paying off your credit card at the correct time so that your credit card statement will reflect a small balance that puts your utilization under 5%.

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#3 Credit Mix plays a role

Credit Mix makes up 10% of your credit score and it’s often considered the least important factor for your FICO score. Because of that fact, many people don’t ever think about credit mix.

But credit mix does play a role in obtaining a perfect credit score.

Practically speaking, mixed credit is important because FICO says having a variety of loans is necessary for earning a perfect credit score.

Here are the different types of credit:

Installment credit lines

For installment credit lines you usually pay a fixed amount each month until you pay down an entire balance due. Common examples of installment loans are:

  • Home loans
  • Auto loans
  • Student loans
  • Personal loans (can often be revolving)

Revolving credit lines

Revolving credit lines offer you a credit limit that you can utilize at whatever pace you want to. Common examples include:

  • Credit cards
  • Store credit cards (Macys’ card, GAP card, etc.)
  • Trade lines (credit line at a jewelry store or furniture store)
  • Personal loans

Open lines of credit

Open lines of credit are credit lines where you’re given an unspecified amount of credit usually on a monthly basis and expected to pay that balance in full each month. Many open lines of credit will not reflect on your personal credit report (unless you miss a payment).

Other open lines like charge cards do report on your credit report.

Common examples include:

  • Utilities
  • Charge cards

The ratios needed for mixed credit

It’s not clear what the ratio needs to be in order to maximize your credit mix but just having one of each type of loan probably helps a lot.

I’d venture to guess that if you had a few credit cards and a couple of installment loans, you’d probably be able to maximize that category.

Paperno at FICO and states that, “The number of each type of account is not as important for a person’s score as simply having experience with both types of accounts, either currently or within the recent past.”

There are two take-a-ways from this quote for me.

First, it’s important to note that the number of different accounts doesn’t matter much. This makes a lot of sense since a lot of people probably don’t have more than one type of home loan, auto loan, etc.

Second, the quote stresses that what is most important is having “experience” with “both” types of accounts.

That’s important to me since it seems to imply that what’s most important is just having a mixture of both installment loans and revolving credit, since those are the two major different types of credit lines.

My ultimate take-a-way from this is that if you only have installment loans or only have revolving accounts, you probably won’t be able to achieve a perfect credit score but having a couple of each will take you far in this category. 

You can read more about credit mix here.

#4 Credit history is huge

Credit history may only make up 15% of your credit score, but it’s essential for obtaining a perfect credit score.

Credit Karma reports that a “2011 study by SubscriberWise, a credit reporting agency for the communications industry, found the average length of a credit history for someone with an 850 FICO score was 30 years.

That tells you a whole lot about getting a perfect credit history — it’s just going to take time.

If you’re relatively new to credit and have accounts only a few years old, you’re probably going to struggle to get to the top and so I would not worry about getting a perfect credit score.

If it ends up happening great, but it’s not worth obsessing over when in reality you might be years away of obtaining it due to a lack of credit history.

#5 New credit can bring you down

When you apply for credit, you’ll typically see a drop in your credit score from the hard inquiry of a few points, depending on how high your credit score is.

So if you want a perfect credit score, you don’t want any recent inquiries on your credit report. 

Of course, not ever applying for credit would defeat the very purpose of achieving a perfect credit score in the first place.

But since the impact of hard inquiries usually diminishes after 90 days and falls off all together after one year, applying for new credit isn’t likely to drop you way below a perfect score if you’re already there. It would probably only be a matter of months until you’re back at a perfect credit score or near to it.

Tip: If you’re really focused on maintaining a perfect credit score then consider opening up small business credit cards since many of them don’t report to your personal credit report.

Opening those cards won’t show up as new accounts and won’t shorten your average age of your accounts, so it’s a great way to preserve your perfect credit score.

Perfect Credit Score FAQ

What is the perfect credit score?

The perfect credit score is 850 on both popular Vantage and FICO models, which have a range of 300 to 850. Other models may go up to 900.

How many people have a perfect credit score?

According to CNBC of the 232 million U.S. consumers who have FICO credit scores, about 1.6 percent, have perfect 850s.

How low does utilization need to be for a perfect credit score?

If you want to hit the perfect score, I’d shoot for somewhere between 2% to 4%.

How much credit history do you need for a perfect credit score?

A 2011 study by SubscriberWise found the average length of credit history for someone with an 850 FICO score was 30 years.

Do you need a perfect credit score for the best rates?

No, according to Informa Research the lowest rates offered on mortgage loans went to people with scores at or higher than 760. And, the lowest rates offered on various auto loans went to people with scores at or higher than 720.

Final word

Getting the perfect credit score is an ambitious goal but with questionable utility.

You’ll need to manage your credit score the normal way by making on-time payments, keeping your debt low, and avoiding too many new inquiries. And you’ll also have to have well-aged credit accounts and a mix of installment and revolving accounts to give yourself a good shot at a perfect credit score.

But in the end, just getting to about 760 is all that’s needed to reap the perks that come along with the perfect credit score in many cases.

How Does Becoming an Authorized User Affect Your Credit Score? [2022]

Becoming an authorized user can do wonders for your credit report but it can also do some harm if you’re not careful. Here’s a run down on how becoming an authorized user can affect your credit score.

How does becoming an authorized user affect your credit score?

Getting added as an authorized user can boost your score in some cases but it can also hurt your score if not done properly.

Keep reading below to find out everything you need to know about getting added as an authorized user.

The Basics

FICO determines your credit score in the following ways:

  • Payment History (35%)
  • Utilization (30%)
  • Credit History (15%)
  • New Credit (10%)
  • Mixed Credit (10%)

Thus, becoming an authorized user can improve your credit score by doing these things:

  • 1) Lowering your credit card utilization
  • 2) Improving payment history
  • 3) Increasing the average age of accounts
  • 4) Diversifying your credit (this factor plays a very limited role).

1) Lowering your credit card utilization

In my opinion, the best (and quickest) way to boost your credit score with an authorized user is to lower your credit card utilization.

Your credit card utilization is how much of your current credit line you are using. So by getting added to a card with a low utilization, you can bring down your own utilization and boost your score.

2) Improving payment history

Another great way to improve your credit score with an authorized user is to boost your payment history. Payment history is the number one factor (35%) for your FICO credit score so it is extremely important.

This can be especially helpful because some banks, such as Capital One, will backdate the open date to the date the original account was opened.

This means that if the primary cardmember had 10 years of solid payment history, you can benefit from that by getting added to their account.

3) Increasing the average age of accounts

Your credit history is only 15% of your credit score but you can give it a nice boost by getting added to an old credit card that back dates. Look to banks that are known to backdate like Bank of America, Capital One, Chase, and US Bank.

4) Diversifying your credit

Credit mix only makes up 10% of your FICO score and does not carry a whole lot of weight. In fact, it is most relevant to people trying to obtain a perfect credit score.

Still, if you only have installment loans which are loans like student loans, car loans, etc., then getting added to a credit card could be a fantastic way to diversify your credit mix.

Maximizing the effect of an authorized user account

To maximize the benefits of being added as an authorized user, your goal should be to get added as an authorized user to an account that:

  • 1) Has as close to 0% utilization as possible
  • 2) Has flawless payment history and no negative reports
  • 3) Is older than your average age of accounts.

1) Has as close to 0% utilization as possible

The ideal credit card utilization is above 0% but still very low, likely around 5% or so. But as long as you can keep your utilization between 10 to 20%, you are probably doing okay.

If utilization is the major factor holding you back then you can expect to see a pretty substantial bump by getting added to someone who has a very low utilization.

2) Has flawless payment history and no negative reports

As talked about below, sometimes negative marks from the primary account holder will damage your credit score.

So when seeking out someone to add you as an authorized user you need to make sure that they have a squeaky clean payment history and that they will continue to make on-time payments.

Related: How Does Payment History Affect Your Credit Score?

3) Is older than your average age of accounts

If you have a very thin credit profile meaning that you don’t have a lot of accounts and they are very young then you want to find an account that has been around for a long time.

And remember, you also want to make sure that that bank will report and backdate the authorized user account. Otherwise, your average age of accounts will not benefit.

Weighing the factors

While the three factors above can help guide your decisions, you always need to keep in mind what factors matter the most for your credit score.

For example, if utilization is your sole problem and you can knock it down significantly by getting added as an authorized user, then that should take precedent over your average age of accounts.

For example, let’s say you have one maxed-out credit card with a $1,500 credit limit and that credit card is 5 years old. So your overall utilization is 99% and your average age of accounts is 5 years.

Now, let’s say you could be added to someone’s card with a $10,000 credit limit but the card is only sixth months old.

This will bring down the average age of accounts for you to around 2.5 years but it will knock your utilization down to 13%.

Since utilization carries way more weight in determining your credit score than your average age of accounts, it would make sense to jump on as an authorized user.

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How much can your score benefit?

How much your credit score can increase all depends on various factors that are at play, so it’s impossible to predict in any specific way.

Generally speaking, however, if you have a very thin profile, then bringing down your utilization and increasing your average age of accounts can have a substantial effect on your credit.

Anywhere from a 20 to 50 point increase is certainly obtainable, although YMMV.

Just don’t expect too much benefit.

The credit bureaus employ formulas to minimize the benefit to those who are solely trying to bolster their score with these tactics called “piggy backing.”

This means that you probably will start to hit a point of diminishing returns after being added as an authorized user to several credit cards.

And if it looks like you are engaging and suspicious activity to boost your score, that is certainly not going to help.

Make sure the new account is reported

Not all banks require you to provide a social security number when adding someone as an authorized user but it all depends.

American Express will usually ask for a social security number at some point while banks like Chase don’t.

If the person adding you is associated with you (e.g., you share the same address), then there may be a better chance for the banks to report it to the authorized user’s credit report but you should always follow up to ensure that it gets reported.

Authorized users and hard pulls

I’m not aware of any bank that conducts a hard pull on your credit when being added as an authorized user.

And it really wouldn’t make sense for them to do it — after all, you’re not liable for the payments in anyway so you couldn’t really pose a true risk to banks.

Although, if you ran up a crazy high balance I guess you could indirectly pose a threat to them but that’s another story.

Negative marks on the primary cardholder’s account

According to Credit Karma:

The VantageScore 3.0 model only includes positive information from authorized user accounts. On the other hand, the FICO model includes positive and negative marks from legitimate authorized user accounts…

There may even be differences based on the credit bureau policies.

For example, Experian may remove an authorized user’s account from the credit report if the primary account becomes derogatory.

Other bureaus like TransUnion and Equifax will likely report both positive and negative information.

Thus, you should expect for negative remarks on the primary cardholder’s account to affect your credit score.

They might not always count against you but I would just assume that they will, unless you know 100% for sure that they don’t.

So before you go requesting to be added to different credit cards do your best to get assurance that the credit history on that account is as flawless as possible.

Related: Understanding the Different Types of Credit Scores

Is the primary cardholder reliable?

Make sure you that the person adding you as an authorized user is not irresponsible.

If they end up maxing out the credit line that you’re added to, your utilization will go way up and your credit score will likely go way down!

Although you wont be personally responsible to pay the credit card bill, you will “pay for it” with a lower credit score.

Removing yourself as an authorized user

Usually, removing yourself as an authorized user is simple.

You contact the bank and tell them you need to be removed and they take you off. It is usually instant but may take a short while to show up on your credit report.

If it doesn’t show up as removed or if you want to expedite the process, simply file a dispute with the credit bureaus.

Just remember that your score might go down if you were relying on that account to lower your utilization, maintain a longer average age of accounts, etc.

Business accounts

Most, if not all, authorized users on business credit card accounts will not be reported to your personal credit report.

Therefore, being added to a card like the Chase Ink Business Cash, should do you no harm but also no good in terms of your personal credit report.

Authorized user FAQs

How long does it take for an authorized user account to show up on a credit report?

When you become an authorized user on a credit card, the credit card should show up on your credit report within a month or two.

What is the minimum age to be added as an authorized user?

The minimum age is determined by the bank. 18 is a common minimum age but some banks allow younger authorized users to be added.

Will negative marks on the primary cardholder’s account affect my credit score?

Different credit models treat negative marks on the primary card holder’s account differently. Equifax and TransUnion will likely report both positive and negative information but Experian may not report derogatory marks.

How much can your score go up from being added as an authorized user?

The amount your score can go up depends on the factors that are holding you back and is nearly impossible to predict but in some cases you can expect a 20 to 50 point bump if you get added to the right account.

Will lenders know if my account is an authorized user account?

Yes, typically your credit report will display your responsibility as an authorized user which will let the lender know you are not the primary cardmember.

Is there a hard inquiry for getting added as an authorized user?

In most cases, there should not be a hard inquiry when you get added as an authorized user but you should check with the bank beforehand.

Final word

As you can tell, there are several ways that becoming an authorized user can benefit your credit score. It usually boils down to what factors are holding back your score and how that authorized user account can help improve those factors.

So by strategically seeking out an authorized user account, you can address the needs that are holding you back the most and see the most improvement.

Credit Pulls Database Guide: Experian, TransUnion, or Equifax? [2021]

Virtually every time you apply for a line of credit, such as a credit card, your credit report will be hit with a credit pull. But not every credit pull is equal and not every credit pull affects all of your credit scores.

This comprehensive article will first explain what credit pulls are and the difference between hard pulls and soft pulls. I’ll then show you how to find out which credit bureau (Experian, TransUnion, or Equifax) a bank will pull from when you apply for a credit card by utilizing credit databases. 

What are credit pulls?

Credit pulls are when an entity, usually a lender, “pulls” your credit report to review your creditworthiness (i.e., how likely it is that you will responsibly borrow and pay back funds).

There are two different types of credit pulls: “soft pulls” and “hard pulls.” Knowing the difference between these two is very important.

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Soft pulls

Soft pulls do not affect your credit score.

These can be done by lenders for things like pre-approvals but they are probably most commonly done when you check your credit score using something like Credit Karma or other times when something like a background check is done on you.

Hard pulls

Hard pulls are just like soft pulls except that they do affect your credit score. These are almost always done when you apply for a credit card or for any type of financing (home loans, car loans, etc.). And they can even happen for things like utilities and cell phones.

Unlike soft pulls, you want to limit hard pulls because they affect your credit score, as explained in more detail below.

How do credit pulls affect your credit score?

It’s really helpful to understand how credit pulls (hard pulls) affect your credit score.

Hard pulls affect the “New Credit” category of your FICO score which accounts for only 10% of your total credit score. Below is how your credit score is determined:

  • Payment History (35%)
  • Utilization (30%)
  • Credit History (15%)
  • New Credit (10%)
  • Mixed Credit (10%)

Each time your credit report is pulled, your credit score will likely drop a few points, typically 3 to 5 points. For people with more established credit profiles, this drop might be even smaller. For people with weak credit scores, this drop could be larger (even over 10 points.)

The good news is that your score will bump back up over the course of a few weeks or months. After 12 months, the credit pull won’t even effect your FICO credit score and after two years it will drop off entirely. To read more about how hard inquiries affect your credit score, click here

Why does it matter which credit bureau will be pulled?

You might be wondering why it even matters which credit bureau will be pulling your credit score. Well, there are a few important reasons why it matters.

Mitigate damage to your credit report

  • It’s important to give your credit report a break every now and again. By alternating credit bureaus pulled, you’ll be able to mitigate the dings to your credit report.

For example, if you have three recent hard inquiries on your Experian report and you can choose to apply for a card that will pull from only TransUnion, that will allow you to give your Experian score a break.

Minimize appearance of hard pulls

  • Many credit card issuers don’t like to see a dozen plus inquiries over the past year or two, so by trying to go for certain bureaus, you can minimize the appearance of being a credit savage.

Using the same example as above, if you were to apply to a bank that pulls TransUnion they would not technically see your recent Experian inquiries. So it would not look like you are aggressively pursuing credit as much as you are, which is a good thing. 

Utilizing your “cleanest” credit report

  • Some banks will not approve you if you have negative marks like late payments or collections on your credit report. So by knowing which banks pull which credit bureau, you can avoid those banks at least until more time passes and your negative marks don’t mean as much.

It is not uncommon for derogatory remarks or certain types of negative reports on your credit to only be reported to one or two bureaus. Some banks will deny you even if those negative marks are very old. So if you have one report clean from any negative marks and you can rely on that one report for a credit card application, that can help you get approved.

Utilize your highest credit score

  • Sometimes your credit score can vary dramatically between the bureaus in which case you’d obviously want to go for banks who might use your higher score.

Remember that just because one or two credit bureaus are pulled, your new account will still likely show up on all three of the major credit bureaus. This is great because if you only have one good credit report like TransUnion, you can leverage that one to get new cards which will eventually boost the score of your other credit reports!

Are credit pulls worth it?

Credit pulls are absolutely worth it when you’re able to secure a much-needed loan or pick up one of the best rewards credit cards. 

When you’re earning hundreds (or even thousands of dollars) in credit card rewards, a short-term ding on a credit report is well worth it.

How to find out which credit bureau will be pulled

The truth is that all we have are imperfect tools to work with to determine which credit bureau will be pulled.

With that said, we also have certain trends that we can base our predictions on. These trends and tools can at least help us make an educated guess as to which bureau will be pulled.

I’ll start by identifying which credit card issuers are known for pulling certain bureaus and then get into the different methods for figuring out which bureau will be pulled by using databases.

Credit card issuer trends

The information below is based on my experience with dealing with these issuers for myself and for many others over the past few years. It’s also based on a review of the data found in CreditBoards. Understand that your experience could differ greatly from my findings below.

American Express

American Express loves to pull Experian.

For every single one of my Amex issued credit cards over the past few years, they have always pulled from Experian (and only Experian). However, sometimes they can mix it up and pull from another bureau like TransUnion. But if you apply for an Amex card, you can almost always count on Experian being pulled. 

  • Note: If you are a current Amex customer, they typically only do a soft pull if they reject you for a credit card and sometimes only do a soft pull when they approve you!


Barclaycard is great because they usually pull from TransUnion. This allows you to give your other credit reports a break as they’ll sometimes only pull from TransUnion (bot not always).

Capital One

Capital One likes to invite everybody to the party and they pull from each of the three credit bureaus. In the past you could freeze one bureau like Experian to save yourself the hard pull, but recent data points show that’s not always successful.

This “freezing” technique can work for other credit card issuers, too. But you need to pay close attention to what works and what doesn’t since these type of things can be in flux sometimes. For more info on this check out the DOC’s article here.


Chase is a hard one to predict. I’d say expect an Experian pull and one additional bureau but it could be very location-specific.


Citibank will mostly pull from Experian and Equifax and in rare cases TransUnion. Expect for Citi to pull from at least two credit bureaus.

As you can tell, it’s hard to pinpoint which bureau will be used for the credit pulls. But you can use the tool below to narrow your focus by region and potentially get a more accurate idea of what to expect.

Creditboards Credit Pull Database

The Credit Pull Database on Creditboards.com is the most popular source for checking which credit bureau will pull your credit for a credit application.

The key is to remember that the data you’ll find is usually self-reported. This means that it could be inaccurate, outdated, or perhaps even anomalous data that doesn’t accurately represent a given segment of society.

But that’s okay, because at least we have guiding posts for the data on credit pulls.

As long as you always remember that the data you’re relying on may not be 100% correct in every scenario, you won’t be surprised if your experience doesn’t accord with the data you found.

Using the Credit Pull Database

The Credit Pull Database is extremely easy to use.

Just click on this link and you’ll be able to search by the following criteria:

  • Consumer State
  • Credit Reporting Agency
  • Date applied
  • Approved

You do not have to select all of the details. I selected Texas and Equifax and found credit pulls data points for the following banks:

  • NFCU
  • Wells Fargo
  • Discover
  • PenFed
  • US Bank
  • USAA
  • Chase

In addition to the credit bureau data you can also see other relevant data points. You can see user details like:

  • The applicant’s ZIP Code
  • The date applied
  • Whether or not they were approved for the credit card
  • Their credit score
  • Credit limits
  • Random comments

The comments can be really helpful because you can find out if people were approved with things like bankruptcies on their credit report. Also, if there were multiple credit bureaus pulled sometimes people will report them in the comments.

Tip: Use the free app WalletFlo to help you travel the world for free by finding the best travel credit cards and promotions!

Alternative methods for finding credit pulls

Reddit spreadsheet

The folks over at Reddit have put together a spreadsheet with credit card application data. The spreadsheet includes even more criteria than CreditBoards such as income, average age of accounts, and how many accounts have been opened in the past 3, 6, and 12 months.

This data is incredibly useful but may not be as voluminous as CreditBoards.

The data also might be skewed in favor of people with better credit scores since I imagine the demographics of those who frequent that forum are from more affluent sectors of society or at least have better credit scores.

Personal credit reports

You can also search your own credit reports to see which credit bureaus were pulled in the past. The issue with this is they they won’t show up beyond 2 years. Also, the credit bureaus could change what bureaus they pull from.

You can check your credit score for free with Credit Karma (TransUnion and Equifax) and FreeCreditReport.com (Experian).

Credit card issuers who do soft pulls

Outside of the Amex exceptions mentioned above, there aren’t many other issuers that will conduct a soft pull of your credit when applying for a credit card.

So what can you do?

You can try out something called the “Shopping Cart Trick.”

There are a few steps that you’ll need to follow but if you’re successful, it’s actually possible to get approved for a credit card without ever having a hard pull on your credit card. It’s not going to be a huge credit line, but at least it’s something.

Read more about how that method works here. Note that this method does not work as much as it used to.

Credit limit increases

Before you ever request a credit limit increase from a bank make sure you inquire with whether or not they conduct a hard pull on your credit report.


American Express will not conduct a hard pull when you request a credit limit increase. To request an increase, you typically want your account to be open for 60 to 90 days and will likely shoot for an increase of 2X to 3X your credit. If you would like to find out more about how to request a credit limit increase with American Express click here.


Barclays will usually do a hard pull when you request a credit limit increase but they are pretty generous when it comes to auto increases.

Capital One

Capital One will conduct a soft pull. You can find out more about how to get a credit increase with a Capital One here. 


Chase will conduct a soft pull — read more about getting Chase credit limit increases here


Citi will do both hard pulls and soft pulls but they should notify you beforehand. Just call the number on the back of your card to inquire with a rep of whether or not you’ll get a hard pull or soft pull. Read more about Citibank credit limit increases here. 


The process varies for Discover. If they accept your initial request, that’s usually a soft pull but if you’re trying to get a larger credit line increase, then that could result in a hard pull.

Final word

In the end, you’ll probably have to leave some of this stuff up to chance.

But it’s still a good idea to check these resources out so that you can at least give it a shot at trying to navigate your way through the hard pull landscape. Even if you only get it right 50% of the time, those instances could still work in your advantage and allow you to minimize damage to your credit score.

Does Getting New Credit Cards Hurt Your Credit Score?

One of the first questions that people tend to have before jumping on new credit cards is whether or not their credit score is going to be hurt if they apply for multiple credit cards.

The answer to this question can hinge on a number of factors like prior established credit history, payment habits, and a few other things. However, generally speaking, getting approved for new credits will not hurt your credit score and will usually even improve it!

This article will walk you through why getting new cards should improve your credit score.

Tip: Use WalletFlo for all your credit card needs. It’s free and will help you optimize your rewards and savings!

Utilization and Payment history (65%)

The great news for people who want to apply for a lot of credit cards is that the primary factors that affect your credit score are your: 1) payment history and 2) utilization.

In fact, these factors are estimated to account for 65% of your credit score! For responsible credit card consumers, opening up new credit cards will only allow these factors to continue to benefit your credit score over time and here’s how.

Payment History (35%)

Payment history is the most important factor in determining your credit score.

If you have paid all of your car loans, student loans, previous credit cards, etc. on time, then you’re in luck because your payment history will only continue to benefit your score over time as you add more cards to your credit portfolio.

If you have some late or missed payments then it’s going to be more of a headache for you. You’ll generally have to wait seven years for late payments to be removed, though you can always try your luck with goodwill letters and contacting your creditors.

The good news is that if you can get a few approvals then your monthly payments on these new cards can help “dilute” your negative payment history and bring your payment history closer to 100% satisfactory a lot quicker.

Since payment history is so important to your score you need to realize the importance in remembering to always make timely monthly payments.

As mentioned, maintaining responsible payment habits will increase your score over time but there’s always the risk that with more payments to remember you might be more susceptible to missing a payment (just something to think about).

Still, the important take-a-way is that the most important factor for your credit score, payment history, will be positively affected as you open up new credit cards and responsibly make your payments on time.

Utilization (30%)

The second most important factor for your credit score is utilization (how you pay off your credit card bills). This is also known as your “credit-to-debt” ratio. You can figure out your utilization by dividing your outstanding balance by your overall credit limit. For example, if you have a credit limit of $30,000 but have $10,000 worth of debt, then you divide 10,000 by 30,000 and you get a utilization score of 33%.

There are two things looked at with this score: your overall utilization and the specific utilization on each card.

Overall utilization

This considers every line of revolving credit that’s currently open. This percentage needs to be as low as possible. Generally, under 10% is thought to be excellent but I keep mine at about 4% to keep my score as high as possible and to avoid paying interest on my accounts.

Opening up new credit cards can create a snowball effect that benefits your utilization and ultimately your credit score. Here’s how this snowball effect works.

First, it becomes significantly easier to keep your utilization low once you get approved for additional cards. Let’s say you had one credit limit of $5,000 and $1,000 of outstanding debt. Well, your utilization would be 20%. If you could only get approved for one card with an additional $5,000 credit limit you could cut your utilization down to 10%, increasing it from “good” to “excellent.”

This decrease in your utilization then leads to a bump in your credit score but the effect doesn’t stop there.

When it’s time for you to apply for your next credit cards the banks will see: 1) an improved credit score and 2) that other banks found you to be a low credit risk since they offered you additional credit.

This will lead to additional approvals with often even higher credit limits, which of course leads to more easily maintained lower utilization. So now your $1,000 of debt may only account for 5% of your utilization or potentially even less.

The cycle then repeats itself and goes and on, continuously lowering your utlliization, building up your payment history, and ultimately increasing your credit score.

Specific Utilization

Your overall utilization is  more important than the specific utilization of each card but having a high utilization on a single card can still hurt your credit score, especially if you don’t have many credit accounts. Your specific utilization for each card needs to be 30% or lower for optimal results, although there’s usually more wiggle room for specific utilization than overall utilization.

Where having a high utilization on a single card can really hurt is with specific banks. Some banks may not want to extend you additional credit if you have a high utilization on a single card issued by them so it’s always a good idea to avoid having a maxed out (or close to maxed-out) card even if you don’t think it’s significantly damaging your score.

Getting new credit cards can help you indirectly with your specific utilization because some banks like Chase will allow you to transfer credit lines from other cards. So if you were near 50% on a Chase Freedom card and got approved for a Sapphire Preferred, you could also transfer some credit from the Sapphire line to the Freedom line to decrease the utilization.

The Takeaway

The takeaway on this is that at least 65% of what determines your credit score should be positively affected by getting new credit cards. This means that on average the benefits of getting new cards will outweigh the negative effects and your credit score should rise in the long-run.

We can’t discuss the good without the bad. Even though the benefits to opening up new credit cards outweighs the negative factors, here’s a look at some of the factors that can hurt your score when applying for new credit cards.

Two factors that will negatively affect your score

The things that are going to hurt you are: 1) credit history/average age of accounts and 2) new accounts.

Credit history/Average age of accounts (15%)

Your credit history aka average age of accounts (“AAoA”) is the factor most detrimental to your score when getting new credit cards. Applying and getting approved for new credit cards will (almost) always bring down your average age of accounts and thus work to counteract the benefits to your credit score.

How much damage will be done depends on a lot on what your current credit portfolio looks like. If you have some established accounts from years ago, then a new credit card will only have a minimal impact. If you have a thin profile and do an “app-o-rama” where you apply for 3-5 cards at once, you’re AAoA will take a serious hit and lower your credit score, at least temporally.

Thus, while a single new credit card shouldn’t hurt you too much (if at all), it all depends on your personal credit history in terms of how much damage will be done with multiple cards.

Related: Does Closing Your Credit Card Hurt Your Credit Score?

What can you do to limit the damage?

If you have a thin credit report, there’s not too much you can do to protect your average age of accounts from being hurt once you start applying for tons of new credit cards. However, there are a few things that can help.

Adding yourself as an authorized user to older credit cards. The bad news is that this will often show up as a new account on your credit report. Still, adding yourself to one or two old cards can provide you with a decent boost.

The second way is to utilize small business credit cards. Most business credit cards do not show up as new accounts on your personal credit report and so they won’t lower your average age of accounts.

New Credit (10%)

The second way applying for new credit cards can negatively affect your score is buy impacting your new credit category. New credit accounts for 10% of your credit score. The main factors in this are hard-pulls and the opening of new accounts.


Contrary to what many believe, hard pulls aren’t a huge knock on your credit. Usually, a new hard-pull will bump your score down 2-5 points but only temporarily. The negative effect of a hard-pull tends to diminish within about 60 to 90 days so they don’t really present long-term trouble for your score.

New Accounts

New accounts can hurt your score a little more, however.

One way credit cards hurt your score is if you pursue many new lines of credit in rapid succession. This makes you look desperate for credit to banks and therefore more of a credit risk. Getting one new card shouldn’t look bad but getting 5 cards in one week will cause some damage to your score. Thus, if you plan on pursuing multiple cards it makes sense to be as patient as possible when planning out your applications.

Note: if applying for a mortgage loan or car loan you need to be extra sensitive to the effect of new accounts on your credit.

An additional way that new accounts damage your score is that they lower your average age of accounts. Again, this is not a major concern for people only considering applying for a small amount of cards, especially if they have an established credit history.

One thing to keep in mind if you’re planning on applying for several cards is that it is not uncommon for your credit score to dramatically rise and fall during the process. As hard pulls, new accounts, new utilization percentages, and payment history change, they are all calculated in unique ways and given different weight at different times.

Your credit score could dip 30 points in January and then rise 40 points in February, only to fall 8 points in March and rise 2 points in April. The important thing to remember is that if you responsibly manage your payment history and utilization (worth 65%) your score should always rise in the long run.

Credit Mix: A neutral factor? 

Credit Mix (10%)

Credit mix is considered to be the least important factor for your credit score, so I’m just including it for the sake of completion.

Credit mix considers both the number of credit accounts and the variety of them. For most people new to credit cards but currently paying on an auto loan, student loans, mortgage, etc., their score should benefit with new credit card accounts.

However, in the end, this factor probably isn’t going to affect your credit score too much either way, so I wouldn’t make it a deciding factor when choosing whether or not to apply for a credit card.


At least 65% of what affects your credit score should be benefited with new credit cards. 10% may or may not be benefited, and only a remaining 25% may be negatively affected by pursuing new cards.

Therefore, on average, there’s more benefit than harm done to your credit score when you apply for new cards and so long as you’re responsible, you shouldn’t worry about damage to your credit score when applying for new credit cards. 

Why Did My Credit Score Go Down After Opening Up A Credit Card?

A lot of people are disappointed to find out that their credit score has gone down after opening up a new credit card. In some cases the credit score goes down twice, once directly after an application and then again sometime around a month or two later. This causes a lot of worry but it’s completely normal when this happens and it’s only temporary. Here’s what’s likely going on when this happens.

How is a credit score determined?

To understand what’s happening, you first need to have a good grasp on how credit scores are determined. There are a number of different types of credit scores but the one most commonly used is the FICO model. Your FICO credit score is determined by the following categories:

In this instance, the biggest factor that will be negatively affected is the new credit category that makes up 10% of your score. New credit looks two major things affected here: recent inquiries and new accounts opened.

Tip: Use WalletFlo for all your credit card needs. It’s free and will help you optimize your rewards and savings!


When you apply for a line of credit, the lending institution will typically do a hard pull on your credit report. (I say “typically” because some banks such as American Express do not always conduct a hard pull on your credit report.)

For many, this hard pull results in about a 3 to 5 point drop in your score. But that is just the average drop you would typically expect.

For lower credit scores or for people with thin credit profiles this drop could be much higher (even over ten points). This is especially true if you have back to back inquiries within a matter of days or weeks.

For those with more established credit reports (or people with perfect credit scores) the drop could be negligible. I’ve even heard reports of people not seeing a drop at all in their credit score, though that seems to be pretty uncommon.

Most of the time, the drop in your credit score from a hard pull will be instant. In fact, I have even seen a hard inquiry notification show up before a credit card application is finished processing.

If you check your credit score right before and after you submit an online application for a credit card you will likely see that your score has already dropped. The good news is that the negative effect of these inquiries will diminish in roughly 60 to 90 days.

At that point your score should start to recover or already be completely recovered from the hard pulls. After 12 months, the hard pulls will no longer affect your FICO score and after 2 years the inquiries will disappear entirely from your credit report.

A lot of people are aware of the first drop caused by hard inquiries, but I still get emails from people who are concerned when their score inexplicably drops a second time, usually around a month later. There is often a simple explanation for this.

Related: How Do Credit Inquiries (Hard Pulls) Affect Your Credit Score?

New accounts opened

In addition to hard pulls, new accounts will also often drop your score but it may not be instantly. this is because some banks take a few weeks (or even months) to report a new account to your credit report. For example, many times it takes approximately 45 to 60 days for an American Express account to appear on your credit report.

When that new account is reported, it brings down your credit score even more. Just how much it goes down depends on factors like your credit history and how many other recent accounts you’ve opened.

If you have a thin credit profile and you were to open more than one account at one time then you could see a pretty significant drop in your credit score that happens a month or so after your initial drop from the hard inquiries.

Some people feel the need to panic when this happens but they have to remember that their score will eventually go up as a little bit of time goes by.

A credit score will jump up even quicker if those new accounts also helped bring down that person’s credit card utilization and it’s possible that within 120 days you could see a score make a dramatic jump back up so that the credit score rises to a point much higher than it was before that first hard inquiry brought it down.

Related: Does Getting New Credit Cards Hurt Your Credit Score?

Other factors

Sometimes there is not a clear explanation for why your credit score has dropped. It’s possible that after a new account appears on your credit report there is no change to your score or perhaps even your score goes up only to go down a month or two later.

In some cases you may just have to chalk up the change to complicated algorithms that are working in the background. But other times you might just need to look a little bit closer to find the culprit.

It is possible that applying for a new card and opening up a new account could affect other factors in your credit report (besides new accounts) that have an impact on your score. For example, your new account might be affecting your utilization in a negative way and you may not be realizing it.

If you still don’t know what is going on my recommendation would be to just wait 60 to 90 days to see what happens to your credit score. (Obviously, you also want to verify that there are no errors on your report that could potentially explain the drop in your score.)

Also, make sure that you are checking the same type of credit score and the same model. There are different types of FICO scores and it is possible that your score could drop if you are viewing an older or newer version.

Related: How Accurate Are Credit Karma Credit Scores?

Final word

If you’ve just opened up a credit card or two and you’ve seen your credit score take two different drops back to back, don’t worry — this is completely normal. Just wait it out for a couple of months and make sure you are responsibly using your credit cards and you will eventually see your score jump back up very soon.

How To Remove Student Loan Late Payments From Your Credit Report

This is the story of how I was able to remove student loan late payments from my credit report. 

As soon as I found out the amazing travel benefits created by some of the best travel credit cards I was anxious to jump into signing up for new cards and redeeming miles for some amazing trips.

Unfortunately, living abroad in the UK had caused a rift in communication between myself and one of my student loan lenders and I wasn’t aware that my in-school deferment had not been applied.

So one day, as I’m getting ready to start applying for some credit cards, I go to and check my credit score and I see it’s in the 500s and showing SIX late payments! (Six loan accounts were considered separate for payment purposes.)

Thus, my hopes for getting any kind of worthwhile credit card were pretty much gone and I started to deal with the realization that it would take about 7 years for these negative marks to be removed.

There had to be a way to remove student loan late payments…

I figured that there had to be something that I could do and so I started to do some research and slowly but surely started to gain some hope. The following account is how I successfully used the FTC Advisory Opinion on Section 623(a)(2) to get six late payments removed from my credit report.

Tip: Use WalletFlo for all your credit card needs. It’s free and will help you optimize your rewards and savings!

First Step: Goodwill Letter

The first thing to know is that these creditors are legally obligated by the Department of Education (DOE) and Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) to report these late payments and are not supposed to change what they report unless what they reported was inaccurate.

So don’t go into this with the mindset that the creditors should just change their mind and do as you ask. With that said, the first step to trying to get these late payments removed is to write a goodwill letter, which is basically just a letter where you contact them and ask them to be sympathetic or understanding to your cause and offer you a second-chance.

If you had a traumatic event like a death or illness take place around that time, this is something you probably want to bring up. Still, some have had success with just “fessing up” and admitting that they screwed up.

If you don’t know what a goodwill letter is or what it should look like just do some basic Google research… there are tons of examples out there.  But for your reference, I’ve included the goodwill letter I sent below.

My Goodwill Letter

To Whom It May Concern,

My name is Daniel (DOB: XX/XX/XXXX) and I have an account with XXXX loans (ref #XXXXXXXXXX) .

I recently had an informative phone conversation with a representative of XXXX and was explained why I had late payments reported on my credit score. Back in the fall of 2014, I was under the impression that a notice of deferment was being sent to my loan providers and that I would not have to worry about my existing XXXX loans until the fall of 2015. However, this notice did not arrive to XXXX until December 2014, over 60 days after I had a payment due in September. As a result, the late payment was reported to my credit score.

Letters from XXXX were sent out to my address in XXXX. However, I was enrolled in school abroad during this time and I had issues with my mail forwarding. On top of that, my email and phone number were not updated with XXXX Thus, I was not receiving any communication from XXXX. (I have since updated both my phone number and email address).

I realize that this was not a mistake made by XXXX; but rather, a mistake on my end for not ensuring that the notice of deferment was sent and received promptly. However, after seeking some advice on how to go about the situation, I was informed that creditors, such as XXXX have discretion to remove negative reports in certain instances. I am hoping that XXXX can understand that while I failed to submit a timely payment, I was enrolled full-time and thus eligible for a deferment.

With that in mind, I respectfully request that XXXX consider removing the late payments reported to the credit bureaus. I am fully committed to maintaining prompt payments and am open to enrolling in auto-payments if such an option would help with the requested removal.

Please let me know if you need any information from me.

Thank you for your time and consideration,

The Response to My Goodwill Letter

The goal of the letter was to show that I was: 1) taking responsibility of the late payment and 1) that I was open to do what I needed to do to assure them that it would not happen again. Unfortunately, I was not successful.

The goodwill letter actually backfired on me a bit. They sent me a response back saying that since there was no mistake on XXXX’s account and that I had admitted fault they were not allowed to remove the late payments from my report.

I was very bummed and kind of regretted even sending in the letter since now it looked like I may have made matters even worse by admitting fault on the record. Yet, I wasn’t quite ready to give up and I decided to do a little bit more research just in case.

Related: How Does Payment History Affect Your Credit Score?

FTC Advisory Opinion on Section 623(a)(2) of the FCRA

And that’s when I stumbled upon the FTC advisory opinion on Section 623(a)(2) of the FCRA which changed everything.

This advisory opinion basically states that a student loan provider is required to both update and correct information provided to credit reporting agencies when that information is provided.

There’s dispute as to whether this means removing late payments entirely from a credit report or merely to updating that the report to reflect that a payment status is no longer delinquent or past due.

There’s a huge difference between the two because in the latter situation your payments may no longer show that they are currently delinquent but in the former scenario your payments are completely removed from your credit score.

Thus, I changed my strategy from employing the nice-guy, apologetic tone (“I screwed up and am sorry”) to going with a more aggressive and authoritative style and actually asserted that this loan provider was in violation of Section 623(a)(2) by not removing my late payments.

The below is the letter that I responded to the loan provider with. This time I sent the letter via certified mail.

August 25, 2015

My Name and Contact Info

Loan Provider Contact Info

Re: Late Payment Removal/  Ref # XXXXXXXXXX

Dear Sir or Madam:

This correspondence is in response to the XXXX August 17, 2015 letter I received regarding my goodwill request to have late payments removed from my credit score report. In the letter I was told that such reports could not be removed due to regulations promulgated by the DOE and the FCRA. Contrary to these assertions, by failing to update previously reported information, XXXX is in violation of Section 623(a)(2) of the FCRA.

I have attached an FTC advisory opinion which interprets Section 623(a)(2) of the FCRA. The issue posed in the advisory opinion is how a lender is to handle a situation when subsequent information updates a report that was allegedly accurate when it was made but no longer is accurate in the present time (i.e., the identical situation I am currently in).

The advisory opinion states that the Section 623(a)(2) of the FCRA addresses the duty to correct and update information by “furnishers,” or persons who furnish information to consumer reporting agencies (“CRA”) such as credit bureaus. In particular, this section requires a person that “has furnished to a consumer reporting agency information that the person determines is not complete or accurate” to “promptly notify the consumer reporting agency of that determination” and provide any information needed to make it complete and accurate. Thus, on its face, this provision requires a furnisher to provide corrected or updated information to the consumer reporting agency that it had reported to originally. This duty extends to all student loan accounts reported to CRAs, regardless of whether they were accurate at one point, because the section requires the furnisher both to “update” accounts as well as to “correct.”

XXXX representatives told me that because the delinquent payments were accurately reported in November of 2014 that any subsequently initiated deferments would not allow for XXXX to update reports to CRAs to show that the payments were not late and actually in deferment. However, Section 623(a)(2) clearly shows that the reports must be updated/corrected regardless of whether they were accurate at one point.* 

All of my XXX accounts that were part of the September 2014 late payments show deferment status effective as of “9/15/14.” Also, I was enrolled full time before any payment in September became due. Therefore, my credit reports do not currently accurately reflect previous payment statuses with XXXX, both as they actually existed and as XXXX has recorded them. I am thus requesting that in compliance with Section 623(a)(2) of the FCRA that the six accounts showing a 60-day late payment in November 2014 be updated and/or corrected and removed.

In the event that these reports are not immediately updated to accurately reflect my payment status during November 2014, I intend on filing disputes with each credit bureau in addition to official complaints with the FTC, CFPB, BBB, and pursue other legal routes if necessary.

Please respond within 14 days of the date of this letter with an update to this matter.

Very Truly Yours,

[*Footnote: For the record, I do not agree that XXXX ever “accurately” reported the status of my loans. Since my July 28th email, I have discovered that all other loan providers timely processed the deferment leaving me to suspect a processing error on behalf of XXXX. In addition to the possible Section 623(a)(2) claim, I intend on disputing the processing of my deferment if need be.]

As you can see, the tone was much different from the email I had previously sent. There are a few points to consider about my situation and the letter I sent.

  • I sent the letter as an attorney (e.g., I signed “Name, Esq.”). That representation in addition to the attaching the Advisory Opinion and supplying my own quasi-legal analysis of that opinion could’ve played a role in lending more gravity to my argument.
  • The footnote above was meant to let them know that I no longer suspected the error to be my mistake (as they reiterated in their original response to my goodwill letter). Since other loan providers had timely processed my deferral (which was not sent from me) I thought I had a good argument that they were the outliers and likely the party who made the mistake.
  • Keep in mind this was for an in-school deferment — it was indisputable that my loans qualified for deferment. I say that because there may be some differences if you are trying to argue that your loans should’ve been in forbearance or some other status allowing for delayed payments. I don’t know that for sure, however. It may not make a difference but that is just something I’m saying to take note of.

Tip: Use WalletFlo for all your credit card needs. It’s free and will help you optimize your rewards and savings!

The Response to the Advisory Opinion Letter

In a couple of days I received a letter via snail mail that upon further consideration my payment history was being revised!

Within a few days I logged in to check and my credit report for another matter and noticed it had shot way up — they had removed my late payments!

And what was great was that my credit score had made an astronomical leap. The removal of the late payments coincided with me paying of all my credit card debt and a slew of hard-pull inquiries dropping off my report so my credit score jumped from the 500s to the 800s!

I couldn’t believe the change and I was on my way to getting some pretty great credit cards.

When you research the authority of Section 623(a)(2) and this FTC advisory opinion you’ll come across a lot of varying accounts and opinions. There are a lot of accounts of using this opinion not working and some others who have had success like I did.

Don’t get too discouraged by the negative accounts. I almost never sent in my second letter because it seemed like a wasted effort but thank God that I did… I don’t even want to think about where my credit score would still be right now if I hadn’t.

If you have some late payments that hit while you were supposed to be in an in-school deferment status or in forbearance then I definitely recommend giving this method a try.

Try the good-will letter first and if that doesn’t work then you’re next step could be using the FTC advisory opinion Section 623(a)(2). Remember, there’s no harm in trying.

Please note: I no longer offer services to assist with these issues and due to an extremely high volume of requests, cannot respond to emails on this subject. 

How Accurate Are Credit Karma Credit Scores? [2021]

A lot of people (including myself) rely on Credit Karma to monitor their credit score to make sure everything stays up to par. It’s a very easy and free to use tool so it is very understandable that it is one of the most popular ways to keep track of your credit score. But exactly how accurate is Credit Karma?

In this article, I will talk about whether or not Credit Karma is accurate and some of its potential shortcomings as well as its strengths. I’ll also show you how to find a more accurate credit score that can better predict your credit approval odds.

How accurate is Credit Karma?

Credit Karma is an accurate way to check your Vantage credit score with TransUnion and Equifax. However, there are a few issues with this.

One issue is that most lenders utilize the FICO model and Credit Karma uses the VantageScore Model which means that the scoring system is different from most lenders. So it is not so much that Credit Karma is inaccurate; it is just that it utilizes a model that most lenders do not use.

The second issue is that Credit Karma does not provide you with an Experian score. Many lenders, including many credit card issuers, like to pull your credit score from Experian.

If your Experian credit report has different marks on it compared to your Equifax or TransUnion report, then there could be a large discrepancy between your Credit Karma score and what the credit card issuer sees. You can read on more here about which credit card issuers pull from which credit bureaus.

Tip: Use WalletFlo for all your credit card needs. It’s free and will help you optimize your rewards and savings!

What is the VantageScore Model?

The VantageScore Model was originally developed in 2006 and the VantageScore Model 3.0 debuted back in 2013. There is currently a 4.0 model as well but it has not been as widely adopted as it has only been out since 2017. VantageScore Model 3.0 is used for other credit services like Credit Wise, Chase Journey, etc. 

The VantageScore Model Credit Karma uses is pretty similar to the FICO model but it has some key differences. It uses the same FICO range of 300 to 850 for the score and stresses many of the same factors as FICO — it just gives them different weight and has some slightly different criteria for calculating them.

Here are the 3.0 factors according to Credit Karma:

  • Payment history (about 40%)
  • Age and type of credit (about 21%)
  • Credit utilization (about 20%)
  • Balances (about 11%)
  • Recent credit (about 5%)
  • Available credit (about 3%)

Here are the factors for the FICO model.

  • Payment History (35%)
  • Utilization (30%)
  • Credit History (15%)
  • New Credit (10%)
  • Mixed Credit (10%)

Payment history

Just like the FICO model, payment history is the number one factor.

It makes sense the number one concern for a credit score is to determine how big of a credit risk you are. Your track record with paying your bills on time is the number one indicator for that so it is no surprise that it is the most influential factor for both models.

However, payment history appears to be even more important for the VantageScore Model since it weighs in at 40% versus 35% for FICO.

The 3.0 model will not penalize you for collections which have been paid which is a departure from some FICO models. That right there can make a huge difference for people who have multiple items in collections and have paid them off.

FICO models will only allow you to have payment history if you have six months of established history. Meanwhile, you can have payment history under the Vantage model with only one month of payment history. This trips a lot of people up sometimes because they can pull up a credit score with Credit Karma but they still are not able to pull up a FICO score.

Age and type of credit

This is different from the FICO model because account history and the types of credit are two of the three least important factors for FICO. One of the big differences for the VantageScore Model is that it does not consider closed accounts when determining the age of your accounts. FICO will continue to count your closed accounts until 10 years after they are closed.

So your average age of accounts will often be significantly lower with the VantageScore Model. This is why people like me who have opened up and closed a lot of cards have a significantly lower VantageScore Model Score than FICO — the average age of our accounts is significantly lower and it carries more weight.

Credit utilization and balances

Credit utilization is only about 20% of your Vantage score. Meanwhile, it is the second most important factor for your FICO score. So if you have maxed out cards or cards with high balances it should hurt you less for your Credit Karma score but be much more impactful for your FICO score.

It is a little confusing to me what the difference is between utilization and balances, though. Credit Karma states, “[balances] refers to the total amount of recently reported balances (current and delinquent) on your credit accounts.”

So to me it sounds very similar to utilization. I think that this could be more focused on individual utilization, which would be the individual balances on each of your accounts. Regardless, it sounds like it is equally important to keep your balances down for both of these types of credit scores.

Related: Should You Pay off Your Credit Card Balance Each Month?

Recent credit

Your recent credit is going to look at new accounts just opened and also new inquiries. One big difference here is that the Vantage models will combine related inquiries within a 14 day window. Meanwhile, newer FICO versions count multiple credit inquiries of the same type within a 45-day period as a single inquiry. 

Therefore, if it took you 3 1/2 weeks weeks to find an auto loan and you had multiple inquiries within those weeks, that could have had a bigger impact on your Vantage score versus your FICO score.

Available credit

Available credit is the least important factor for the 3.0 model. According to a VantageScore® Solutions report, prime consumers keep $20,000 to $22,000 worth of credit they don’t use. At only about 3% of your score, this factor is almost completely a non-factor.

Is Credit Karma really that inaccurate?

The difference between your FICO Scores scores and your Credit Karma scores can be quite extreme. There are reports of people with Credit Karma scores over 700 with both bureaus but with FICO scores in the lower 600s.

Other times, the opposite might be true. Your Credit Karma score could be much lower than your FICO score. It all depends on the make up of your specific credit profile.

Should I even bother with the Credit Karma score?

Since most major lenders utilize the FICO model, you need to be very cautious about relying solely on your Credit Karma score. As I have shown, in some instances, this score can be really different from your FICO score like when you only have a couple of months of credit history or when you have closed a lot of credit card accounts.

Sometimes a lender might have a hard cut off for approvals or for certain interest rates. For example, if your score is below 700 your interest rate could go up another 1% or 2%. Or if your score is below 650 you might not be able to get approved for a certain loan or card.

In those cases, when you were dealing with hard cutoffs, it becomes very important that you get a truly accurate and up-to-date score. This is especially true if you are dealing with a large sum of money like in the case of a mortgage.

In those situations you would want to stray away from Credit Karma and do what you can to obtain an official FICO score. It will also benefit you to try to figure out exactly which credit score model your lender uses, since there are many different versions of FICO score.

And some point you might actually run into a lender that uses the Vantage score model (many lenders do use it). If they are pulling from Equifax for TransUnion then Credit Karma could be very useful for that lender.

Where can I get accurate FICO credit scores?

There are a few ways that you can get a FICO score.

Many find it easy to sign-up for Experian.com and utilize that to get their FICO score (they offer a free 30-day trial membership). If you are just in it for the free score, make sure that you cancel your membership. 

Sometimes MyFICO offers a free trial so be on the lookout for that.

You can also get one free credit report from each of the three major credit bureaus (TransUnion, Equifax, and Experian) once every 12 months from annualcreditreport.com. But note that that is usually just the report (though I’ve been given the score once in the past before).

Many credit card issuers will now allow you to check your FICO score for free. So if you have a credit card account with any of the major issuers like Chase, American Express, Discover, Capital One or many others you should look into checking for a free score.

Credit Karma credit score simulator

Credit Karma has a special tool that allows you to see what might happen to your credit score if you take certain actions. For example, you can predict the effect on your credit score if you open up a new loan or credit card. I have played around with this tool in the past, and found it to be somewhat accurate but nothing that I would definitively rely on.

The biggest shortcoming of this simulator is that it only allows you to tweak one element at a time. In reality, when you make a change on your credit report, several factors are probably going to be affected and that can make a huge difference.

So feel free to play around with the tool but keep in mind that the outcome of your changes could be very different.

So is Credit Karma ever useful?

I think that Credit Karma is still very useful for a lot of people and here is why.

Easy to use

First of all, it is just a very easy to use app and it is a great way to keep track of your Equifax and TransUnion credit reports. If you’re concerned with trying to see how many accounts you have open or how many recent inquiries you have had, then Credit Karma can be extremely useful.

For example, you might want to calculate your 5/24 status and Credit Karma can be a great way to do that (although I’d probably use annualcreditreport.com).


Credit Karma offers insights when you are reviewing your credit report. These insights will tell you what factors are affecting your score the most, and whether or not those things are positive or negative.

If you already are well-versed in credit reports, then these insights really won’t tell you anything that you don’t already know. But for people who are still learning how credit scores work, these insights can be very helpful.

The insights can also tell you things like if you are paying too much for your interest rates. I have not relied on these type of insights in the past so I am not sure how helpful or accurate they are.

Credit monitoring

It also can be very handy when you are just trying to monitor your credit report. You should get notifications or emails whenever a new account is opened or an account is closed. And you should also get notified in the event you ever have a late payment or some other negative mark on your credit report.

Sometimes Credit Karma can get a little annoying when they send me notifications “reminding” me that my payment history is still 100%. These emails tend to give me mini heart attacks because all I see is a notification about my payment history and I could do without those.

Disputing items

You can also use Credit Karma to dispute items on your credit report. So if you are in the process of trying to clean up your credit report, then Credit Karma could actually be a good way to start. Typically, I like to dispute the items directly with the credit bureau. However, it is convenient to utilize a third-party like Credit Karma for a lot of people.

And even if you don’t utilize Credit Karma to initiate the dispute, it can still be a very useful way to get organized when preparing to dispute an item.

Debt repayment calculator

You can utilize the debt repayment calculator to figure out how long it will take you to pay off some of your bills.

Unclaimed money

Credit Karma also has a feature that allows you to view if you have any unclaimed money. You might be entitled to collect a couple of hundred bucks and not even realize it.

Final word

Credit Karma is not the most accurate tool that you want to use for most lenders since they use a different scoring model (FICO). Generally speaking, Credit Karma can give you a good idea of where your credit score stands. However, if you have had a lot of activity such as multiple closed accounts, the score that it gives you will often be skewed and much lower than what your FICO score is.

With that said, I still think that it is a great tool to use that can help you monitor your credit and it is free so there really is no hurt in giving it a shot.

How Do Credit Inquiries (Hard Pulls) Affect Your Credit Score?

A lot of people often wonder if credit inquiries hurt their credit score or wonder what the difference is between a hard pull and a soft pull. There’s a big difference between the two and becoming informed about what kind of credit inquiries affect your credit score (and how much they do) can help you make better decisions when pursing credit cards in order to preserve your credit score. So here’s the low down on how credit inquiries affect your credit score. 

What’s a credit inquiry?

An inquiry is when an an entity pulls (or retrieves) your credit report for review. There are two different kinds of inquiries or “pulls”: soft pulls and hard pulls.

Tip: Use WalletFlo for all your credit card needs. It’s free and will help you optimize your rewards and savings!

What’s the difference between a hard and soft pull?

A soft pull is an inquiry that does not do damage to your credit score. It can be performed even without your permission. 

A soft pull will still show up on some credit reports but it should never result in a drop in your score or be categorized under the “inquiry” category that really matters to lenders (the one where hard pulls go). Soft pulls usually result from credit card pre-approvals, personal credit checks from places like Credit Karma or Credit Sesame, and various other checks like those from employers. (Employers must always receive permission to conduct a credit check according to the FCRA, however.)

A hard pull is a different story. A hard pull on your credit can only be done with your permission and will almost always result in a temporary drop of your credit score and is something that you want to constantly keep an eye on.

What counts as a hard pull?

Generally, any time you apply for a loan, whether it be a home loan, car loan, student loan, personal loan, business loan, etc., you’ll incur a hard pull (see below about combined inquiries). Also, opening new credit cards (even many store credit cards), some bank and credit union accounts, new phone accounts, new cable/internet service accounts, and new utility accounts can often result in hard pulls.

Even getting auto insurance quotes, applying for apartments, and renting from rental car agencies (usually only if paying cash) can result in hard pulls to your credit. And finally, if you ever agree to any kind of background check (especially one from a financial institution), there might be a chance for a hard pull. 

Sometimes hard pulls occur due to error, so you should always try to verify whether or not an entity will perform a hard pull and try not to take “we don’t know” as an answer. Someone within the chain-of-command should always be able to provide you with a clear answer.  

How do hard pulls affect your credit score?

FICO determines your credit score in the following ways:

Hard inquiries fall into the “New Credit” category that accounts for 10% of your score. Other factors in this category are:

  • How many new accounts you have
  • How long it’s been since you opened your last account

I don’t think FICO releases exactly how these factors ultimately impact the 10% category of new credit but they have provided us with some guiding information that I’ll discuss below.

Related: How to Raise Your Credit Score by 200 Points

Why does an inquiry hurt your credit score?

You always have to look at these things trough the perspective of a lender. When people are pursing credit, there’s usually a reason why. They want access to credit in order to use that credit. For someone who hasn’t shown an established history of managing credit, the pursuit of credit is questionable since they will likely be using that credit and it’s not clear that that they will be able to manage it (i.e., pay it back).

Also, if someone is pursuing multiple lines of credit, it’s a sign that they might be in financial trouble or are getting ready to accumulate a lot of debt, which might make them a risk until they prove they can handle their credit. That’s why inquiries hurt your score because they’re meant to signal to lenders that you are doing something that could potentially make you a credit risk.

And that’s why the negative effect is only temporary and doesn’t affect people with longer credit histories as much because once you’ve proven you’re responsible, your pursuit of additional credit is no longer indicative of a credit risk.

How long do hard inquiries remain on your credit report?

Hard inquiries will remain on your credit report for two years.

How much do credit inquiries affect your credit score?

Generally, a new hard inquiry will temporally drop a credit score by 2 to 5 points.

The more established your score is the less the impact a hard credit inquiry will have. This means that if you have an established and rock solid payment history with multiple accounts spanning 10+ years, then a hard inquiry will have a very small impact on your credit score. In fact, it’s possible you may only experience a negligible (and some even say nonexistent) effect on your score in some instances.

However, if you have a bad credit score and little to no history then the impact will be higher — sometimes much higher.  Some people have reported drops of 12 or more points from inquiries.

In addition, if you have multiple hard inquiries and new accounts, it’s possible that each new inquiry will count more against you. The reasoning goes back to you being considered a credit risk.

Consider that people with 6 or more inquiries on their report can be 8 times more likely to declare bankruptcy than people with no inquiries. If you’ve got an established credit history obviously this stat wouldn’t apply and FICO would probably realize that. But if you’re just starting out, it’s easy to see how so many inquiries could significantly damage your credit score.

How long will hard inquiries affect your credit score?

Hard inquiries will only affect your FICO credit score for 12 months. This is tremendous news for those of us who have racked up many credit card inquiries over the past two years. However, you don’t always have to wait for a year for hard inquiries to lose their effect.

It’s generally accepted that hard inquiries begin to lose a lot of their negative effect on your credit score after about 60 to 90 days. This is why some people wait 90 days in-between applying for multiple credit cards. This probably is somewhat dependent on your credit history and score. The better those things are the less amount of time it will probably take for your credit score to rebound or for the inquiries to lose their effect.

Do hard pulls hurt my chances of getting a mortgage?

First, if I were planning to buy a house I’d probably sit out from applying for credit cards for 6 to 12 months, leaning more towards 12. This would definitely be the case if I knew my potential lender used FICO.

But this might still make you curious about the impact of inquiries that are over one year old. Would those count against you when trying to get a mortgage?

I’ve spoken with a (respected) mortgage lender about this issue and this is the response I received verbatim:

“We don’t really look at the number of inquiries but rather if those inquiries have resulted in new debt. If they are just inquiries that didn’t result in new debt then we don’t care about them.”

That means that they are more concerned with installment loans like personal loans, car loans, etc., and wouldn’t care about additional credit card accounts (unless those potentially resulted in new debt).

I know lenders can vary dramatically, so don’t take this advice to be universal. However, it’s good to know that even if you have inquiries that will take another 12 months to fall off your report (i.e., inquiries over 1 year old), they may not have any negative impact on you getting approved for a mortgage. Again, always check up on this stuff with your local real estate experts and lenders, since I’m sure this varies.

Some hard pulls on your credit are combined

FICO can detect when you’re shopping around for the best interest rate for an installment loan for a house, car, or even student loan (I’m not sure what other loans qualify for this). When it detects this, it lumps the inquiries into one. So, for example, if you went car shopping and had your credit pulled 8 times in a week, those inquiries should only impact your credit score as if they were one single inquiry.

Related: Can You Pay for a Car with a Credit Card?

The time period in which inquiries will be combined varies based on the credit score model. Generally, the time period is 30 days but it can be as soon as 14 days or as long as 45 days. Personally, I’d try to keep the inquiries as close together in time as possible (like within 7 days) but that’s just because I like to play things like this conservatively.

Another instance when hard pulls can be combined is when you apply for credit cards from the same bank at the same time. Some banks, such as American Express, will allow you to apply for multiple cards at once and the bureaus that receive the credit pulls will combine them.

This doesn’t work 100% of the time but if you apply for credit cards within minutes of each other, you’ll have a good shot at combining hard pulls and thus reduce the negative impact on your credit score.

Can you remove hard pulls from your credit report?

If there’s a hard pull on your credit report that you know is not supposed to be there you can dispute it. There have been controversial ways to remove hard pulls in the past but I’m not going to get into those since they are mostly dead (if not all dead) and they can often be more hassle than they are worth.

Keep in mind that if you aggressively dispute things on your credit report (especially if you do so without justification), your credit report can become subjected to heightened fraud protections. This can be a real pain when you’re pursuing multiple credit cards because it might bring unwanted attention to your applications and lead to denials, since you’ll often have to call in and may not be able to get auto-approved. Just something to think about.

Remember, it’s still just 10% 

Remember that credit inquiries only make up a portion of your “new credit” category and that category only counts for 10% of your total score.

With that said, if you have a lower credit score and/or a thin credit profile you may want to try to space out credit card applications (that don’t combine inquiries) to avoid huge dips in your credit score. Spacing them out every 90 days or so would be a good idea. Even if you do push it too quickly in the beginning and cause your score to take a huge dip, don’t worry. That dip should only be temporary. Just take a break from applications for a few months and you’ll probably see your score rise back up.

And as stated, if you have a high credit score along with an established credit history, inquiries will probably be a non-issue for you.

Can I avoid hard pulls when applying for a credit card?

Yes, some people have luck avoiding hard pulls when they apply for credit cards by utilizing something called the shopping cart trick. You can read more about how this trick works here.

How Long Do Hard Inquiries Stay on Your Credit?

A very common question that I see come in often is: how long do hard inquiries stay on your credit?

It’s an important question and understanding both the short-term and the long-term impact of a hard inquiry is very important.

Here’s a rundown of everything you need to know about hard inquiries, including how long they remain on your credit report.

Credit score basics

Most lenders use the FICO model, so that what I’ll use in this article.

Your FICO score is determined based on the following categories:

  • Payment History (35%)
  • Utilization (30%)
  • Credit History (15%)
  • New Credit (10%)
  • Mixed Credit (10%)

You can find out more about how your credit score is determined here

Tip: Use WalletFlo for all your credit card needs. It’s free and will help you optimize your rewards and savings!

The “New Credit” category

As you can tell by the breakdown above, payment history is the #1 factor that affects your credit score. Second is credit card utilization (which is how much of your current credit limits you are using).

So where do hard inquiries fall?

Hard inquiries fall into the “New Credit” category which accounts for 10% of your score. Other factors that are considered in this category are:

  • How many new accounts you have
  • How long it’s been since you opened your last account

So it’s important to remember that hard inquiries only affect a portion of 10% of your total credit score.

That’s not a lot but that doesn’t mean that you should disregard the impact of hard inquiries.

While the numerical impact may be minimal, having too many of these on your credit report can make getting approved for credit and good interest rates very difficult.

So it is vital that you properly manage the pace at which you incur hard inquiries.

Tip: Use WalletFlo for all your credit card needs. It’s free and will help you optimize your rewards and savings!

How long do hard inquiries stay on your credit report?

Hard inquiries will remain on your credit report for two years.

On occasion, hard inquiries will not drop off your credit report or they may take extra long to drop off. If for some reason you see a hard inquiry on your credit report that is over two years old you should dispute/report it as inaccurate ASAP.

How much do hard inquiries affect your credit score?

Overall, a hard inquiry will usually drop a credit score by 2 to 5 points.

There are some additional things to consider about this.

Good credit scores are affected less

The more established your score is the less the impact a hard credit inquiry will have.

Let’s say that you’ve got a credit report with 100% payment history and multiple established credit lines with ages over 10 years.

In that case, a hard inquiry will have a minimal impact on your score of maybe only a couple of points.

Some even say you can even get away with no damage to your score at times.

Still, I would generally expect there to be some type of dip in your credit score after getting a hard inquiry even if you have a superb credit report.

Bad credit scores are affected more

Let’s say you have a very weak credit profile. Maybe you have a low credit score and little to no credit history.

If that’s the case, then the overall impact from the hard inquiry may be much worse.

It’s possible that your score could drop 10 points or more. This can be very discouraging to people trying to build up their credit score but as shown below the negative impact is only temporary.

Lots of new inquiries will make it worse

Finally, let’s say that you’ve just opened up a hand full of credit cards over the past few months.

In that case, you would have several back-to-back hard inquiries.

When you get an additional hard pull, you’ll probably feel the sting of that hard pull much worse than someone else with fewer inquiries.

And it makes sense that this would be the case.

If you are aggressively applying for credit lines there is a good chance that you are in a tough financial position. Credit card enthusiast aside, most people don’t go around applying for multiple credit lines when everything is gravy.

Therefore, banks will be more worried about lending to you and that is why the credit score drops.

How long do hard inquiries affect your credit score?

The short-term

Hard inquiries begin to lose much of their negative impact after about 60 to 90 days.

This is why some people wait 90 days in-between applying for multiple credit cards.

If you are trying to apply for a number of credit cards in order to maximize your rewards, then I would recommend to wait 90 days between applications.

The long-term

Hard inquiries will only affect your FICO credit score for 12 months.

FICO discounts hard pulls entirely after 12 months, so if you find your credit score lower than you think it should be, you can rule out hard pulls as the cause after one year from your latest hard pull.

Banks still looks at these

One extremely important thing to know is what while FICO may not factor in your inquiries that are over a year old, banks will.

Many banks are interested in seeing how many new accounts and how many new inquiries you have over the past two years.

If you’re applying for a credit card, you might have to try to explain why you have so many credit inquires.

The reason is that there are statistics that show that people with many inquiries might be less responsible and more prone to bankruptcy.

So just because hard pulls will lose their affect on your FICO score after 12 months, that does not mean that you’re in the clear with every financial institution.

Can I avoid hard pulls when applying for a credit card?

It is possible to avoid hard pulls when applying for credit cards. Once upon a time you could utilize some thing called the shopping cart trick but that doesn’t seem to be as reliable as I once was.

Some issuers such as American Express will not always perform a hard pull so by applying for their credit cards you can sometimes avoid the hard inquiry.

If you are concerned about hard inquiries then you can always do a little bit of research to see what credit bureaus are pulled by banks when you apply for credit cards.

By knowing which credit bureaus are pulled, you can strategically apply for credit cards while minimizing the impact from the hard inquiries.


How much do hard inquiries affect your credit score?

A hard inquiry will generally drop a credit score by 2 to 5 points. However, if you have a weak credit profile or have multiple recent inquiries the negative impact could be much worse such as over 10 points.

How long do hard inquiries affect your credit score?

Hard inquiries begin to lose much of their negative impact after about 60 to 90 days. However, they will only affect your FICO credit score for 12 months.

How long do hard inquiries show up on your credit report?

Hard inquiries will remain on your FICO credit report for two years. However, they will only affect your FICO credit score for 12 months.

Final word

Hard inquiries stay on your credit report for two years but lose their impact after 12 months. But you still need to be mindful of how these hard inquiries will make lending institutions view you as a credit applicant.

How to Raise Your Credit Score by 200 Points [2021]

Are you trying to improve your credit score by 200 points or more? Are you wondering what is actually possible and realistic in terms of improving your credit profile?

Well, I once increased my credit score by 200 points in a matter of months and so I am uniquely qualified to tell you how it can be done.

It’s definitely not something that everybody can do but there are different steps you can take to at least come close to your credit goals.

In this article, I’ll break down everything you need to know about boosting a credit score by a couple of hundred points.

How your credit score is calculated

Before jumping into the different ways to bolster your credit score and credit report, it helps to have a general understanding of how your score is determined.

FICO determines your credit score in the following ways:

  • Payment History (35%)
  • Utilization (30%)
  • Credit History (15%)
  • New Credit (10%)
  • Mixed Credit (10%)

I’ll show you how each of these factors can be improved below but the key take away is to note that not every factor is weighed the same (or even close to the same).

Tip: Use WalletFlo for all your credit card needs. It’s free and will help you optimize your rewards and savings!

The strategy

The trick with raising your credit score is that you have to strategically address the deficiencies in your credit score in order to see maximum benefit.

For example, if payment history is dragging you down and you are focusing on getting your utilization down from 30% to 5%, that is only going to do you so much good.

There is rarely a “one size fits all” approach to improving your credit so you want to take each factor and analyze it individually to see where your best opportunities for improvement are.

Factors to improve your score by 200 points

Below are the factors that you want to think about when trying to improve your credit score by a large amount. You won’t need to address all of these factors but it will help to know which ones to pursue and how much they can benefit your score.

Payment history

Payment history is the number one factor that determines your credit score.

The harsh truth is that in most cases if you have missed a payment or multiple payments and if that is the main blemish on your credit report, there may be nothing you can do except wait for that negative mark to diminish.

Late payments will take seven years to disappear from your credit report which sounds very depressing but the good news is that the full negative impact from the late payment will begin to diminish much quicker than seven years.

How badly a negative payment will affect you depends on a few factors.

One major factor is how late the payment was.

A late payment of 30 days is much less worse than a late payment of 90 or 120 days. Also, having one isolated late payment is not as bad as having multiple late payments.

So if you have several late payments and some of those are 90 days or more, you will need to keep your expectations realistic because your path to a 200 point increase is going to take much more time.

Another aspect to consider is that different credit models will penalize you differently for late payments.

The most recent model known as the FICO 10 increased the penalty for late payments but that model will likely not be used widespread for a while because it is so new.

If you don’t want to just “wait out” the effect of your negative payment and want to be proactive, one of the first things that you can do is send a goodwill letter.

This is basically a letter that just asks the entity that reported the late mark to be sympathetic and remove the late payment.

Many times this is a “Hail Mary” approach because many businesses will not remove the late payment. But because it is so easy to draft a goodwill letter and to send it off it is usually recommended to give it a shot — you never know if luck might be on your side.

Another approach is to do some research of your own to see if there is any argument that your late payment should be removed.

I did this back when I had late payments removed from my credit report for student loans. Admittedly, I have a background in law so this was more practical for me but I don’t believe you need to go to law school to attempt it.

I was able to find some regulations that I believed called for my late payments to be removed and I sent a firm letter to the financial institution and they ended up removing the late payments.

This helped catapult my score and it is the main reason I was able to increase it by over 200 points.

In some cases, you can take a more aggressive approach and hire an agency or an attorney to contact the business/collections and request the late payment to be removed or negotiate some type of deal.

I’ve personally done this with success in the past.

It required my client to pay a portion of the outstanding payment and the collections agency agreed in exchange to remove the late payment from the credit report.

This can be a very risky approach for a couple of reasons.

First, you need to have all of these things in writing because it’s possible a shady collections company could take your money and simply not remove the late payment.

Second, there are a lot of people out there who will happily take your money in order to improve your credit report but they may not always have the expertise or the skills to get late payments removed.

Others might even resort to somewhat unethical tactics to get the late payments removed.

So I would be very cautious about paying anyone who is promising that your late payments will get taken off your credit report.


The easiest way to increase your credit score by a substantial amount is to reduce your utilization.

Credit card utilization is also called your credit to debt ratio and it looks like at how much of your current credit lines you are currently using.

So for example if you have $10,000 in total available credit and you are using $3,000 of that, your utilization is 30%.

This factor makes up 30% of your credit score so if it is the main factor holding you back, simply paying down your credit cards can be the only step necessary to see a huge boost in your score.

Typically, I recommend getting your utilization down to somewhere around 5% if possible although just getting it to 30% can do wonders for some people.

You don’t want it to hit 0% because in the eyes of lenders you look like someone who does not use their credit which means you may not be as experienced in managing it.

So if you are trying to optimize your credit score try to keep your utilization around 1% to 5% by paying your bill off at the right time.

A fast and easy method for increasing your utilization is to get added as an authorized user to someone else’s account.

If that other individual is responsible and you can trust them to not miss a payment, and they have a high credit limit, your credit score can benefit a lot from them.

Another solution is to do a balance transfer to a business credit card that does not report to your personal credit report.

This will allow your credit card balance to essentially disappear, thus boosting your utilization instantly.

Related: How to Improve Your Credit Score Fast

Credit history

Another way that getting added as an authorized user can help boost your credit score is to lengthen your credit history.

If you only have very limited credit history such as one credit card that has been open for six months, you could get added to an established credit card that has been around for years or even decades.

This would help dramatically increase your credit history but there are some caveats.

First, credit history is only 15% of your credit score so it is not a super influential factor. Payment history and utilization are far more important.

Also, the most important factor for credit history is the age of your oldest account so if your oldest account is very young there is only so much you will be able to do.

You could still go the authorized user route in that case but credit models have ways to decrease the benefit to authorized users, so the benefits you gain from getting added as an authorized user will hit a ceiling at some point.

Related: Does Closing Your Credit Card Hurt Your Credit Score?

New credit

The new credit category makes up 10% of your score, and it looks at two major things: recent inquiries and new accounts opened.

Typically, a hard inquiry will only drop a credit score around three to five points. But if you have a lower credit score, that drop could be much more significant.

This is especially true if you have multiple hard inquiries.

So it is paramount that if you are trying to increase your credit score, you need to avoid applying for a lot of credit because those inquiries could do a number on your score.

The other factor is new accounts opened. You’ll want to limit the number of new accounts if you are trying to bump your score up by 200 points.

One thing to note is that in some cases you will need to open up new accounts in order to begin establishing your credit history and building up your credit profile.

So if you are trying to increase your score by 200 points in the long run, then applying and opening accounts makes sense and you will just have to deal with the temporary drop knowing that it’ll pay off in the long run.

Related: Why Did My Credit Score Go Down After Opening Up A Credit Card?

Credit mix

Credit mix looks at how diverse your different credit lines are. There are two major types of credit lines: installment and revolving credit lines.

To optimize this category, you would want to have a mixture of something like credit cards and installment loans which include auto loans or home loans.

There are a couple of considerations to think about with this category though.

First, this only makes up 10% of your credit score and is considered the least important factor. Often, the only people who truly care about this factor are those striving for something like a perfect credit score.

Second, the consequences of obtaining some of these loans are pretty high because they typically are higher amounts that require more long-term obligations.

So you definitely don’t want to go rushing into obtaining loans just to benefit your mixed credit.

For those reasons, I would make mixed credit the lowest priority when trying to bolster your score a couple of hundred points.


Is it possible to increase your credit score by 200 points?

It is possible to quickly increase your credit score by 200 points but it is not easy and you may have to rely on a little bit of luck. For most people, increasing their score by 200 points is a more medium to long-term goal.

Should I pay someone to get late payments removed?

Getting late payments removed from your credit report can be extremely difficult and so you should be cautious about paying anybody who makes promises about removing late payments. With that said, it can be done.

What is the easiest way to improve my credit score?

If utilization is holding back your score, then paying down your credit card debt is the easiest way to increase your score.

Final word

Improving your credit score by 200 points is usually a medium term to long-term goal depending on the steps you take and the factors that need to be addressed.

However, in some cases you might be able to increase your credit score by 200 points in just a month or two like I did. It might require a little bit of luck and a lot of research but it can be done.

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