Shopping for a Loan? How to Find the Best Rate and Protect Your Credit Score

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Student Loan Hero Advertiser Disclosure

Our team at Student Loan Hero works hard to find and recommend products and services that we believe are of high quality. We sometimes earn a sales commission or advertising fee when recommending various products and services to you. Similar to when you are being sold any product or service, be sure to read the fine print to help you understand what you are buying. Be sure to consult with a licensed professional if you have any concerns. Student Loan Hero is not a lender or investment advisor. We are not involved in the loan approval or investment process, nor do we make credit or investment related decisions. The rates and terms listed on our website are estimates and are subject to change at any time.

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Rate shopping – it’s the responsible thing to do when shopping for a loan, right?

In reality, that answer is a bit more complicated than it seems. That’s because there’s a fine line between responsible rate shopping and taking an unnecessary hit on your credit score.

Here’s how you can tell the difference so you don’t end up crossing that line.

What happens when you’re shopping for a loan?

Did you know that your credit score could take a hit when you submit a loan application?

That’s because of something called a credit inquiry, which can occur with each application. There are two types: one type, a hard credit inquiry, affects your credit score. The other type, a soft credit inquiry, does not.

What’s a hard credit inquiry?

According to credit reporting agency Equifax, a hard credit inquiry occurs “when a lender or company makes a request to review your credit report as part of the loan application process.”

Therefore, if you apply for credit, there will be a hard inquiry.

What’s a soft credit inquiry?

A soft credit inquiry doesn’t happen when you’re submitting an application for credit. Therefore, it doesn’t affect your credit.

Credit reporting agency TransUnion describes a soft credit inquiry as “a more routine check that can be done without your permission.”

This type of inquiry happens when someone is checking your credit for other reasons. Experian, another of the big three credit reporting agencies, lists a few such reasons as such:

  • Pre-screened offers for credit.
  • Account reviews by your existing lenders.
  • Requests related to employment.
  • Requests for insurance purposes.
  • When you request your own credit report.

How do inquiries affect your credit score?

Essentially, applying for too many loans or lines of credit can make it seem as though you’re overextended and desperately need credit to meet your needs.

And since lenders naturally see this as a risk, these large amounts of hard credit inquiries can negatively affect your credit score.

How much does this affect your credit score? According to MyFico, it depends on your credit history:

“For most people, one additional credit inquiry will take less than five points off their FICO Scores. For perspective, the full range for FICO Scores is 300-850. Inquiries can have a greater impact if you have few accounts or a short credit history.”

No big deal, right? Well, as long as you don’t pull too many hard credit inquiries. Because when you hit that critical number, statistics start to hurt you:

“Large numbers of inquiries also mean greater risk. Statistically, people with six inquiries or more on their credit reports can be up to eight times more likely to declare bankruptcy than people with no inquiries on their reports.”

That said, it’s important to keep this in perspective, as inquiries are not the greatest factor in your credit score:

“While inquiries often can play a part in assessing risk, they play a minor part. Much more important factors for your scores are how timely you pay your bills and your overall debt burden as indicated on your credit report.”

In other words, your payment history and credit utilization are far more important. That said, the last thing you want is to lose out on a loan because you filed too many applications in search of the best interest rate.

So how can you make sure that doesn’t happen?

Can you protect your credit score while loan shopping?

Lenders know that putting in more than one loan application isn’t always an act of desperation. Rather, it’s a search for the best rate and terms.

So how can a lender tell the difference between “too many” hard credit inquiries and rate shopping? MyFico explains how:

“FICO scores ignore inquiries made [on mortgages, auto loans, and student loans] in the 30 days prior to scoring. So, if you find a loan within 30 days, the inquiries won’t affect your score while you’re rate shopping.”

That’s great for the first 30 days, right? But you still don’t want your credit score to take a hit after you’re finished rate shopping. If you do it right, it won’t:

“In addition, FICO Scores look on your credit report for rate-shopping inquiries older than 30 days. If your FICO Scores find some, your scores will consider inquiries that fall in a typical shopping period as just one inquiry.”

This typical “shopping period” can be as low as 14 days (when using older versions of FICO’s formula) or go up to 45 days (when using newer versions of the formula). The formula used depends on the lender checking your report.

Use shopping periods to your advantage

How can you maximize your rate shopping and loan application process to have a minimal detriment to your credit score? Shop fast and for the same amount.

If you apply for all the same types of loan (an auto loan, for example) and for the same amount ($20,000 for example), then that sends a clear signal that you’re rate shopping.

And, since you won’t be able to tell which model of the FICO score your lender is pulling, go ahead and try to keep it all within the shortest possible “shopping period” – 14 days.

Keep in mind that varying your loan amount or throwing a different type of loan into the ring (or worse, a credit card, which doesn’t fall into the same principles as loans) will result in another hard credit inquiry. Avoid doing this if at all possible.

In the end, if you shop for rates by applying for the same type of loans for the same amount within 14 days you won’t hurt your score. And if you find a lower rate by doing so, you’ll end up paying less over the life of your loan.

Interested in a personal loan?

LendingTree allows you to compare rates from multiple lenders by filling out one easy form. Advertiser Disclosure

Student Loan Hero Advertiser Disclosure

Our team at Student Loan Hero works hard to find and recommend products and services that we believe are of high quality. We sometimes earn a sales commission or advertising fee when recommending various products and services to you. Similar to when you are being sold any product or service, be sure to read the fine print to help you understand what you are buying. Be sure to consult with a licensed professional if you have any concerns. Student Loan Hero is not a lender or investment advisor. We are not involved in the loan approval or investment process, nor do we make credit or investment related decisions. The rates and terms listed on our website are estimates and are subject to change at any time.

Advertiser Disclosure

Student Loan Hero Advertiser Disclosure

Our team at Student Loan Hero works hard to find and recommend products and services that we believe are of high quality. We sometimes earn a sales commission or advertising fee when recommending various products and services to you. Similar to when you are being sold any product or service, be sure to read the fine print to help you understand what you are buying. Be sure to consult with a licensed professional if you have any concerns. Student Loan Hero is not a lender or investment advisor. We are not involved in the loan approval or investment process, nor do we make credit or investment related decisions. The rates and terms listed on our website are estimates and are subject to change at any time.

RATES (APR)loan amount
5.99% – 17.88%1 $5,000 to $100,000
5.69% – 35.99% $1,000 to $50,000
6.98% – 35.89%* $1,000 to $50,000
5.99% – 24.99%3 $5,000 to $35,000
5.99% – 29.99%4 $7,500 to $40,000
15.49% – 35.99% $2,000 to $25,000
compare rates on Lendingtree now
1 Includes AutoPay discount. Important Disclosures for SoFi.

SoFi Disclosures

  1. Fixed rates from 5.99% APR to 17.88% APR (with AutoPay). Variable rates from 6.49% APR to 14.70% APR (with AutoPay). SoFi rate ranges are current as of November 4, 2019 and are subject to change without notice. Not all rates and amounts available in all states. See Personal Loan eligibility details. Not all applicants qualify for the lowest rate. If approved for a loan, to qualify for the lowest rate, you must have a responsible financial history and meet other conditions. Your actual rate will be within the range of rates listed above and will depend on a variety of factors, including evaluation of your credit worthiness, years of professional experience, income and other factors. See APR examples and terms. Interest rates on variable rate loans are capped at 14.95%. Lowest variable rate of 6.49% APR assumes current 1-month LIBOR rate of 1.81% plus 3.08% margin minus 0.25% AutoPay discount. For the SoFi variable rate loan, the 1-month LIBOR index will adjust monthly and the loan payment will be re-amortized and may change monthly. APRs for variable rate loans may increase after origination if the LIBOR index increases. The SoFi 0.25% AutoPay interest rate reduction requires you to agree to make monthly principal and interest payments by an automatic monthly deduction from a savings or checking account. The benefit will discontinue and be lost for periods in which you do not pay by automatic deduction from a savings or checking account.
  2. To check the rates and terms you qualify for, SoFi conducts a soft credit pull that will not affect your credit score. However, if you choose a product and continue your application, we will request your full credit report from one or more consumer reporting agencies, which is considered a hard credit pull.
    See Consumer Licenses.
  3. Minimum Credit Score: Not all applicants who meet SoFi’s minimum credit score requirements are approved for a personal loan. In addition to meeting SoFi’s minimum eligibility criteria, applicants must also meet other credit and underwriting requirements to qualify.
  4. If you lose your job through no fault of your own, you may apply for Unemployment Protection. SoFi will suspend your monthly SoFi loan payments and provide job placement assistance during your forbearance period. Interest will continue to accrue and will be added to your principal balance at the end of each forbearance period, to the extent permitted by applicable law. Benefits are offered in three month increments, and capped at 12 months, in aggregate, over the life of the loan. To be eligible for this assistance you must provide proof that you have applied for and are eligible for unemployment compensation, and you must actively work with our Career Advisory Group to look for new employment. If the loan is co-signed the unemployment protection applies where both the borrower and cosigner lose their job and meet conditions.
  5. Terms and Conditions Apply: SOFI RESERVES THE RIGHT TO MODIFY OR DISCONTINUE PRODUCTS AND BENEFITS AT ANY TIME WITHOUT NOTICE. To qualify, a borrower must be a U.S. citizen or permanent resident in an eligible state and meet SoFi’s underwriting requirements. Not all borrowers receive the lowest rate. To qualify for the lowest rate, you must have a responsible financial history and meet other conditions. If approved, your actual rate will be within the range of rates listed above and will depend on a variety of factors, including term of loan, a responsible financial history, years of experience, income and other factors. Rates and Terms are subject to change at anytime without notice and are subject to state restrictions. SoFi refinance loans are private loans and do not have the same repayment options that the federal loan program offers such as Income Based Repayment or Income Contingent Repayment or PAYE. Licensed by the Department of Business Oversight under the California Financing Law License No. 6054612. SoFi loans are originated by SoFi Lending Corp., NMLS # 1121636. (www.nmlsconsumeraccess.org)
2 Includes AutoPay discount. Important Disclosures for Payoff.

Payoff Disclosures

  1. All loans are subject to credit review and approval. Your actual rate depends upon credit score, loan amount, loan term, credit usage and history. Currently loans are not offered in: MA, MS, NE, NV, OH, and WV.
3 Important Disclosures for FreedomPlus.

FreedomPlus Disclosures

  1. All loans available through FreedomPlus.com are made by Cross River Bank, a New Jersey State Chartered Commercial Bank, Member FDIC, Equal Housing Lender. All loan and rate terms are subject to eligibility restrictions, application review, credit score, loan amount, loan term, lender approval, and credit usage and history. Eligibility for a loan is not guaranteed. Loans are not available to residents of all states – please call a FreedomPlus representative for further details. The following limitations, in addition to others, shall apply: FreedomPlus does not arrange loans in: (i) Arizona under $10,500; (ii) Massachusetts under $6,500, (iii) Ohio under $5,500, and (iv) Georgia under $3,500. Repayment periods range from 24 to 60 months. The range of APRs on loans made available through FreedomPlus is 5.99% to a maximum of 29.99%. APR. The APR calculation includes all applicable fees, including the loan origination fee. For Example, a four year $20,000 loan with an interest rate of 15.49% and corresponding APR of 18.34% would have an estimated monthly payment of $561.60 and a total cost payable of $7,948.13. To qualify for a 5.99% APR loan, a borrower will need excellent credit on a loan for an amount less than $12,000.00, and with a term equal to 24 months. Adding a co-borrower with sufficient income; using at least eighty-five percent (85%) of the loan proceeds to directly pay off qualifying existing debt; or showing proof of sufficient retirement savings, could help you also qualify for the lowest rate available.
* Important Disclosures for Upgrade Bank.

Upgrade Bank Disclosures

* Personal loans made through Upgrade feature APRs of 6.98%-35.89%. All personal loans have a 1.5% to 6% origination fee, which is deducted from the loan proceeds. Lowest rates require Autopay and paying off a portion of existing debt directly. For example, if you receive a $10,000 loan with a 36-month term and a 17.98% APR (which includes a 14.32% yearly interest rate and a 5% one-time origination fee), you would receive $9,500 in your account and would have a required monthly payment of $343.33. Over the life of the loan, your payments would total $12,359.97. The APR on your loan may be higher or lower and your loan offers may not have multiple term lengths available. Actual rate depends on credit score, credit usage history, loan term, and other factors. Late payments or subsequent charges and fees may increase the cost of your fixed rate loan. There is no fee or penalty for repaying a loan early. Personal loans issued by WebBank, Member FDIC.

** Accept your loan offer and your funds will be sent to your bank via ACH within one (1) business day of clearing necessary verifications. Availability of the funds is dependent on how quickly your bank processes this transaction. From the time of approval, funds should be available within four (4) business days.

Our team at Student Loan Hero works hard to find and recommend products and services that we believe are of high quality. We sometimes earn a sales commission or advertising fee when recommending various products and services to you. Similar to when you are being sold any product or service, be sure to read the fine print to help you understand what you are buying. Be sure to consult with a licensed professional if you have any concerns. Student Loan Hero is not a lender or investment advisor. We are not involved in the loan approval or investment process, nor do we make credit or investment related decisions. The rates and terms listed on our website are estimates and are subject to change at any time.

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