Hard Credit Check vs. Soft Credit Check

Some links below are from our sponsors. Here’s how we make money.

Advertiser Disclosure: Opinions, reviews, analyses & recommendations are the author’s alone. This article may contain links from our advertisers. For more information, please see our Advertising Policy.

default sharing image
Your credit score is an extremely important number. A good credit score can have an effect on your ability to get a loan, how much interest you will pay, your ability to rent a house or an apartment, or even get a job. But did you know that the simple act of having your credit…

Your credit score is an extremely important number. A good credit score can have an effect on your ability to get a loan, how much interest you will pay, your ability to rent a house or an apartment, or even get a job. But did you know that the simple act of having your credit score pulled too often can have a negative impact on your credit score? Too many hard credit pulls can be seen as a sign by lenders that you may be borrowing too much money and are at risk for not being able to pay back your loans.

A credit pull (also known as a credit check or credit inquiry) is when you or someone else accesses your credit history. But not all credit inquiries have the same effect on your credit score. There are times when pulling your score has no effect on your credit score. Why the difference? It depends on why the credit inquiry is made. There are two types of credit pulls, hard credit pulls and soft credit pulls.

Soft credit check vs. hard credit check

A soft credit check is one that does not affect your credit score. A soft credit check is recorded in your credit history, but is only visible to you and not visible to lenders. You can check your credit report and score as often as you want with no negative effects on your credit score. Some examples of soft credit inquiries are:

  • Credit score and credit reports you request for yourself.
  • Pre-approval credit checks done by credit card companies and mortgage lenders. (You know that junk mail you hate to receive? Lenders who send out pre-approved loan applications do a soft credit check to find potential customers in a certain credit score range. If you apply, then a hard credit check is made to verify your score).
  • Routine credit checks by your credit card or insurance company to review your current credit situation.
  • Pre-employment screenings by potential employers or for a security clearance.
  • Identity verification when opening a new bank account (note: some institutions do a hard credit inquiry).

A hard credit check is one that can negatively impact your credit score. These occur when you give a lender permission to check your credit history with the intent to open up a new line of credit. Each hard credit check can cause your score to drop by roughly 5 points and can affect your score for 6 months to a year. The hard credit pull is visible to anyone and will remain on your credit report for up to two years. The good news is that hard credit pulls are almost always voluntary – i.e. you are applying for a new line of credit and give permission for the credit inquiry to happen.

The reason your credit score will drop is that the more money you have access to through loans, the more difficult it is to repay. That is why your available credit is part of your credit score.

Some examples of hard credit pulls occur when:

  • You apply for a credit card.
  • You apply for a mortgage, auto loan, HELOC, or other loan.
  • Opening a new bank account at certain institutions.
  • Opening a new cell phone account.

Be careful when checking your credit score or applying for credit

Because too many hard credit pulls can lower your credit score, you should only get a hard credit pull when necessary. For example, when shopping for a car or looking for a house, don’t let every loan officer pull your credit score to tell you how much your payments will be. It is best to pull your own credit score (which counts as a soft credit pull) and ask them to run a preliminary check with your numbers. The loan officer should be able to give you an unofficial number based on your score and you can have them run the official numbers if you decide to take a loan out through them. Just be careful and don’t let them pull a bait and switch on you!



Get Instant Access
FREE Weekly Updates! Enter your information to join our mailing list.

Posted In:

About Ryan Guina

Ryan Guina is the founder and editor of Cash Money Life. He is a writer, small business owner, and entrepreneur. He served over 6 years on active duty in the USAF and is a current member of the IL Air National Guard.

Ryan started Cash Money Life in 2007 after separating from active duty military service and has been writing about financial, small business, and military benefits topics since then. He also writes about military money topics and military and veterans benefits at The Military Wallet.

Ryan uses Personal Capital to track and manage his finances. Personal Capital is a free software program that allows him to track his net worth, balance his investment portfolio, track his income and expenses, and much more. You can open a free account here.

Reader Interactions

Comments

    Leave A Comment:

    Comments:

    About the comments on this site:

    These responses are not provided or commissioned by the bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the bank advertiser. It is not the bank advertiser’s responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.

  1. Haley Mefferd says

    I applied for a mortgage loan with a local bank. Obviously a hard pull was done for the loan and a week later, another one was done for same bank by CBC/Innovis for credit granting. Why two within such a short time by the same bank? I never even spoke to a loan officer there so I am not sure what is going on. Any ideas?
    Thanks!

  2. geniece says

    I have a question. I am a member of freecreditreport.com and they use the PLUS SCORE MOdel.
    My credit score was 711 it dropped 23 points because I aspplied for a for new home buyers loan at brand mortgage. When i pulled open my account with free credit it said my score dropped 23 points because of a hard inquiry which was for the home loan that seems very high is there anything i can do about it.

    • Ryan Guina says

      It is common to see your score drop a few points when there is a hard credit pull. Your score should typically improve within a few weeks, or a couple months, provided nothing else changes with your credit profile. If you do get the mortgage, it may affect your credit score a little bit. However, mortgage debt is generally considered better debt than other kinds of unsecured debt, such as personal loans, credit cards, etc. My recommendation is to monitor your score over the next couple weeks and months, then look for more detail if your score doesn’t bounce back. Best of luck!

  3. Teri says

    My husband and I were in the process of building a home. Initially we were going to wait until our scores were higher to begin but his friend at a mortgage company told him that his scores should improve enough by the time the home was finished to be approved for the loan. He gave my husband info on improving his score, my husband did everything he was told and it was improving rapidly. Then as we approached closing his score began to drop dramatically. It turns out this guy was pulling our credit – hard pulls- once a month. We lost the home we were building (+$5000. we had put down to get started) and the only reason I can see is that these pulls were affecting the scores. Is this possible? We are heartbroken over losing the home we’ve been waiting for for 7 month and here at the holidays, instead of moving into our new home, we’re scrambling for a place to live. Thank you.

  4. Donna says

    What information is required to do a soft credit check? I went to rent a car today and they told me they were going to do a soft credit check, but I did not and had not given them my social security number. So how can they do a soft pull without that information? I was not happy at all about the situation.

  5. ernest says

    Teri I do believe what the so called friend at the mortgage company was doing is illegal with out consent to pull your credit each time. Id sue his butt off because it sounds like he might have profited from the 5k and lose of the home. Credit karma is a free site to check your credit factors free of charge and no hits

Load More Comments

Disclaimer: The content on this site is for informational and entertainment purposes only and is not professional financial advice. References to third party products, rates, and offers may change without notice. Please visit the referenced site for current information. We may receive compensation through affiliate or advertising relationships from products mentioned on this site. However, we do not accept compensation for positive reviews; all reviews on this site represent the opinions of the author. Privacy Policy

Editorial Disclosure: This content is not provided or commissioned by the bank advertiser. Opinions expressed here are author’s alone, not those of the bank advertiser, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the bank advertiser. This site may be compensated through the bank advertiser Affiliate Program.