In short, yes. Applying for a new credit card can impact your credit score negatively. However, the impact only lasts momentarily, as even negative marks have a chance to be resolved and even fall off your report after some time.
What Is an Inquiry on Credit?
When you apply for a credit card or a legally authorized person — including yourself — will access your credit report, a credit inquiry appears on your report. There are two types of credit inquiries: soft inquiry and hard inquiry.
A soft inquiry, also referred to as soft pull or soft credit check, usually occurs when a company or a person reviews your existing credit accounts. It can also happen when you check your credit report from credit reporting companies like Equifax. Since these inquiries do not add up to credit score calculations, they won’t affect your credit score in any way.
A hard inquiry, also called a hard pull or hard credit check, happens when a financial institution such as a credit card issuer or a lender performs a credit check to evaluate your creditworthiness. Hard inquiries can temporarily impact your credit score. Find out why below.
That said, whether soft or hard, inquiries will never be the reason for your credit card denial.
How Applying for a Credit Card Can Hurt Your Credit Score
When you apply for a credit card, your card issuer will check your credit report to ensure that you’re eligible. This triggers a hard inquiry. Hard inquiries affect your credit profile, leading to a slight dip in your credit score. Taking on a new credit card signals an additional risk, which is the reason this affects your score.
Hard inquiries can damage your credit score, but this effect is temporary. While a single inquiry won’t have a significant impact, several hard inquiries could hurt your credit score, particularly if it’s less than stellar or borderline to begin with.
How Much Does a Credit Score Drop When Applying for a Credit Card?
There’s no set number of points for each inquiry. But things such as your credit history and recent credit activity can determine the number of points an inquiry will have. If your credit profile is healthy, you don’t have to worry much because the impact a single inquiry can have on your credit score is relatively small.
Hard inquiries often last on your credit report for two years, but if you pay your debts on time, your credit score has a chance to rebound within a couple of months. Plus, credit scoring models like those from FICO and VantageScore no longer count hard inquiries in score calculations after one year.
In addition to other factors, such as credit utilization ratio and payment history, your length of credit history can influence your credit score. When credit scoring models examine your length of credit history by looking at the average age of your accounts on your credit report, your credit score may go down slightly.
When Should You Apply for a Credit Card?
Deciding when to apply for a credit card largely depends on your needs. If you’re in a tight financial situation and a credit card can help you cover your expenses, nothing should prevent you.
However, keep in mind that your credit score may be negatively impacted if you apply for multiple cards within a short timeframe. This is because lenders and card issuers must check your credit report, which will trigger several hard inquiries. Many hard inquiries on your credit report in that small time can hurt your credit score.
The key here is to apply for one card and wait for its approval. If your application is denied, applying for another card will represent a credit risk. In such a case, you may want to consider an alternative like a personal loan, provided you’ll be able to pay it off on time.
So, does applying for a credit card hurt your credit? Yes, because it signals some lending risk. While a credit card can be a helpful tool when you don’t have enough cash to cover your expenses or want to earn rewards like points or miles, it could result in a negative outcome if you misuse it. But that shouldn’t prevent you from applying for a credit card, provided that you have a positive and stable credit history.