The scoring models take into account that the inquiries occurring within a 14 day window that are all from auto dealers or are mortgage applications are the result of shopping for the best terms and count them as one inquiry. Newer scoring models give you a 45-day window.
But, even though there have been three or more inquiries from lenders, because it was done in a limited amount of time, it counts as one on your credit report.
So getting back to your free report, you should be requesting it every 12 months from each of the three credit bureaus—Equifax, Experian, and Trans Union. Better yet, if you stagger them, you can get a free report every four months. Mark the dates on your calendar so you know when you requested the report and when you can request the next one.
To get your report, go to www.annualcreditreport.com. You can request the report online, by phone, or by mail. The easiest method is by mail. Online requests can be tricky for some people because of the security questions that are asked. If not answered correctly, the system kicks you out and it emails you a message that someone has attempted to access your report and you will have to wait two weeks to try again. Be careful where you go online to get the free report. Some websites offer a “free” report, but only if you sign up for their services at a monthly fee.
Nevertheless, I still find a lot of people who have never accessed their report. The importance of doing so is to find out if there is any inaccurate negative information there. Are there accounts indicated that you do not recognize? If so, someone may be using your identity to go shopping. In addition, the inquiry section within the credit report lets you know who has requested the report. If you’ve received an offer from a credit card company, it will appear as an inquiry on the report.
You can find out more about how inquiries affect your credit score at