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The FICO score, a credit score commonly used by lenders, ignores any such inquiries made in the 30 days prior to scoring.

If it finds some that are older than 30 days, it will count those made within a typical shopping period as just one inquiry.

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What you might not know: Even if you pay balances in full every month, you still could have a higher utilization ratio than you’d expect.

That’s because some issuers use the balance on your statement as the one reported to the bureau.

“You never want that stuff to come off your history.” If you’re shopping for a home, car or student loan, it pays to do your rate shopping within a short time period.

Every time you apply for credit, it can cause a small dip in your credit score that lasts a year.

The length of that shopping period depends on the credit score used.

If lenders are using the newest forms of scoring software, then you have 45 days, says Ulzheimer. Older forms of the software won’t count multiple student loan inquiries as one, no matter how close together you make applications, he says.That’s because if someone is making multiple applications for credit, it usually means he or she wants to use more credit.However, with three kinds of loans — mortgage, auto and more recently, student loans — scoring formulas allow for the fact that you’ll make multiple applications but take out only one loan.“That way, you’re not polluting your credit report with a lot of balances,” he says.Some people erroneously believe that old debt on their credit report is bad.The solution to improve your credit score is to gather up all those credit cards with small balances and pay them off, Ulzheimer says.