Q: Hey there’s a good promotional offer on this credit card I’ve had my eye on for a while now. Haven’t applied for a new card in years and recently I heard that opening a new credit card will hurt your score. Is that true?
A: Will applying for a new credit card lower your score? Probably. But by how much? Well that depends…
There are 2 types of credit checks – soft and hard (hmm… easy opportunity for a joke here but I’ll leave that out). The latter – hard credit inquiries – are the type that might negatively impact your score.
Anytime you apply for credit – whether it be a card, loan, or even a new phone account – a credit check is performed. This is almost always a hard credit check and yes, it will show up on your credit report for 24 months. Fortunately, the FICO scoring model will only count them during the first 12 months, with their greatest impact is during the first 6 months.
So how much does applying for a credit card affect your credit score? Well, the higher it is, the more likely it will be hurt.
- If you have an extremely high FICO score of say 810, one credit inquiry may knock that down by as much as 10 points (based on experience and consumer feedback).
- However for “many people” the impact of applying for a new credit card will be “less than 5 points” or it “may not affect their FICO score at all” (source: MyFICO).
- For those with below-average or bad credit, the chances of it negatively impacting your score are lower, in comparison to someone with good to excellent credit (source: consumer feedback).
When you shouldn’t – and should – be worried
If you plan on applying for a mortgage or home loan within the next 6 months, then it’s probably best to not apply for any new credit cards right now. Even though the FICO score impact will probably be minimal, it’s better to be as squeaky clean as possible with major loans such as these.
But if a mortgage or home loan is not happening within the next 6 months, then I wouldn’t worry about possibly getting hurt with a [slightly] lower score. Remember 12 months from now that inquiry won’t affect your score whatsoever.
Actually if you don’ have plans to finance a home in the near future, then right now is actually the best time to apply for credit cards. Why? Because the average age of your credit accounts is part of your credit score. So if you’re going to get new card(s) you might as well do it now, so they have time to age. That way by the time you do apply for a mortgage or major loan, those new credit card accounts will be year(s) old and that should help boost your credit worthiness, assuming you manage your accounts responsibly.