A credit inquiry is when a potential creditor accesses your credit report. This can occur when you apply for credit.
For example, when you sign up for cell phone service, the provider checks your credit before they decide if they’ll work with you. If your credit is good, they’ll give you service. If not, they may refuse to work with you, or ask you to pay up front with a security deposit.
Your credit score is reduced every time someone makes an inquiry because each inquiry means a potential new account. As you’re wandering through the mall, allowing the check-out clerks to see if you’re eligible for a store credit card, you’re lowering your credit score. Please consider your priorities before allowing just anyone to check your credit. It’s not unusual to get declined for a reason of too many inquires.
Some types of major loan inquires will only count as one inquiry, as long as you don’t wait too long between. For example – if you are applying for a mortgage and are checking out several different lenders, then this is one inquiry as long as you’re doing it within a short period of time. Long periods will mean separate inquires. Note, that this is not true for student loans – each inquiry is separate and will reduce your credit score.