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I know this will depend on personal factors, but let's aim for a rule of thumb. They say not to apply for credit anytime before asking for a loan, and this question is not specifically for that question, but it would help answer exactly how long before. The real question is the FICO score point differences between the decrement for a hard inquiry for a credit card and the increment for a every month that maximum credit building strategies will add to the score (in terms of credit usage out of available credit and payment times). Not sure if it is the FICO or the credit report I should be concerned about after a credit card application. Please confirm.

Hard numbers would be nice, but I will settle for a ratio. The ratio being (1 hard inquiry : 1 month of maximized credit building).

BONUS: Will I have to wait twice as long if I apply for two credit cards in the same day (as is usually suggested)?

** The question primarily pertains to a credit card application, but if the answerers want to prevent the need to ask a similar question for personal loans (auto is the likely the most common), in terms of the credit recovery ratio rate.

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TL:DR - as long as you always pay on time, Utilization is the largest factor, and the one most in your control.

Your question is off a bit in how you compare the factors. A hard inquiry has a 2 year life. 25 months and it's behind you. The card might drop your utilization, but also drop your average time your accounts are open. It also adds one to the number of active accounts. The result really depends on where you are now. The last card I got actually bumped my score a few points as it put me in the next group for "number of active accounts", more than offsetting the hard inquiry ding.

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In response to OP comments wanting some granularity, I added the above image. It's from Credit Karma and reflects my current score, 799, and the result of adding a new credit card. Note that my current utilization is less than 1/2% of my outstanding available credit. I've been running a few months experiment, paying accounts before the balances are reported. The 801 is just a 2 point change. The change shows as zero for just adding a small credit line, say $1000.

Note - if I push my reported balance to zero, the simulator shows a jump to 825, at 15% utilization, it drops to 765. Just for entertainment, if I enter 100% utilization, it shows 585.

Now for the disclaimer. I have no relationship with Credit Karma, other than as a user of their product. There are multiple companies that offer a score, and some banks or credit card issuers offer a free FICO score. CK's score is usually within a few points of what I see from other companies, and the difference is often understood based on the day their snapshot was taken. The CK simulator for actions you might take is just that, an educated guesstimate, not a guarantee.

  • I thought something wasn't right. When researching, all I come across are timeframes, both the 2 and 7 years. I understand what each does, but I figured that those time limitations were the worst case scenarios if no credit building techniques were used. I have not read anything quite like what I am asking... hence the reason for this question. Are you saying that regardless of how much I try to build by FICO score the marks on the report will still be there and can be used against you based on the lender's algorithm? Even if I have somehow increased the FICO to a decent number? – user58446 Jan 17 '17 at 2:22
  • And second, is there any indication as to how many points are associated with certain actions? Is a hard inquiry 10 points, 50 points, 100 points? A percentage. How much can I expect my score to increase from month to month assuming I am financially average and responsible? 10 points, 50 points, 100 points? Surely there must be a ballpark, if not simply from your's or someone else's combined experience. – user58446 Jan 17 '17 at 2:25
  • I am saying that credit inquiries have a 2 year life, and that utilization has no memory, it's a snapshot, worst case it takes a full cycle, a month and a day or two to reset to reflect the new facts. – JoeTaxpayer Jan 17 '17 at 2:28
  • If you will update your answer with those two specific questions, I will mark this as the answer. It's still not clear. If it is not possible to answer, say impossible to know. It sounds like the score doesn't really matter or does not need to be monitored. Just the marks placed by lenders... which the go on to affect the FICO. The thing is, no one is making a note of me not having any marks from month to month. – user58446 Jan 17 '17 at 2:30
  • @user58446 - please see my large edit. – JoeTaxpayer Jan 17 '17 at 15:38

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