January 15, 2016

The Hard Inquiry Dilemma

Traveling nurses are acutely aware of a group of people who don’t care if they are hurt your credit score. This group is responsible for lowering your credit score up to about 20 points per year!! They do it without even blinking an eye….and what’s even worse, we let them do it!!! Who are these people with this abhorred behavior you may ask? They are Landlords!

Your credit could possibly be declining with every assignment you take! That’s a hard pill to swallow, but how to keep a good credit score while you travel for work is something that every travel nurse needs to think about. In fact, you need to do more than that! You need to have a plan, but before that, we should understand the factors that affect our credit score when you travel and why.

Hard Reports are typically pulled by car dealers when you’re buying a car, by your bank when you take out a loan, and you guessed it, by many landlords when you fill out that seemingly harmless application. As you might have guessed, a Hard Report is bad because too many of them look to a creditor like you’re ‘credit hungry’ and may be in financial trouble. Hard inquiries stink, and everyone needs to limit them at all costs because they bring your score down….sometimes as much as 5 points per inquiry.

You might be saying, “oh, phew…only 5 points,” but you’re a traveling nurse who takes a different assignment every 13 weeks-- this could be happening to you 4 times a year! On top of that, sometimes employers require their own background checks just to be considered for the position to begin with. It’s well known that Travel Nurses have heightened exposure to damaging credit inquiries because of how often they change jobs and housing. Knowing that these hard credit inquiries can stay on your report for up to 2 years, it’s easy to see how quickly your 789 FICO score can become compromised as you travel over time. Even worse, landlords may use your credit report to base their decision on, so it’s more important than ever to implement ways to protect yourself when you travel for work.

To focus on housing, some travelers take company housing to limit their exposure, but the trend is certainly to take the housing stipend to have more control over where you stay, and of course, pocket any difference between the rent and the tax free stipend amount. Since you’re taking the stipend and are on your own for housing, you’re now even more at risk for credit degradation. Here are a couple of the things you can do:

  • Ask the leasing agent which type of credit check they will be doing. If it will be a hard inquiry, ask them if you can pull your own report from Credit Karma or Annual Credit Report. If not, ask if you can provide them with a copy of the one that your company has on file.
  • Find a Landlord that uses Cozy. Cozy is a tenant screening and online rent payment solution provider for landlords. As a tenant, this is a good thing because their reports are soft inquiries only.
  • Seek out Landlords that reward you for on-time payments. Although its use isn't widespread quite yet, rental payment data is now being accepted by the credit bureaus which may actually raise your credit score everytime you pay your rent on time. Furnished Finder does participate in this program, but it is uncertain which other companies or properties will offer this service to you. If you can connect with a company/landlord that reports rental payments, this would solve a significant problem faced by travel nurses who are interested in preserviing and repairing their credit score.

Traveling nurses are desperately needed throughout the US, and the hospital's demand for them is going to continue to rise! It’s simply not fair to ask you to leave your family and friends and travel to serve patients in impacted areas of the nation, while your personal credit suffers the more assignments you take. Hopefully now you will take the steps provided to preserve - and even improve - your personal credit score when you travel for work. Get a free account from Credit Karma to monitor your credit, and consider specialized housing companies like Furnished Finder to help solve the hard inquiry dilemma.