The Difference Between A
Soft and Hard Credit Inquiry

Credit score. If you find the power of this number mysterious and complicated, you’re not alone! Why is a credit score such a big deal? How do you even check your credit score? Well, a solid score is required to get a good car loan rate, a lower credit card APR, to rent an apartment, or to get approved for a mortgage.

When it comes to checking credit, there are two different types of inquiries – hard and soft. A hard inquiry occurs whenever you apply for a line of credit, like a loan or credit card. A soft inquiry happens when you check your credit score or report, or when someone runs a background check.

So, that’s the biggest difference, really: Soft inquiries don’t change your credit score, but too many hard credit inquiries can lower your credit score. With that in mind, let’s see how or why we’d use either type in the real world.

Hard Inquiries

When is a hard credit inquiry made? A lender does a hard pull every time you apply for credit. This might be for:
The lender pulls your credit score and credit report from the credit bureaus to evaluate whether you qualify for the loan and possibly what your interest rate will be. This inquiry is logged on your credit report – showing that you have applied for credit – and can change your credit score if you have too many hard pulls in a short period of time. The inquiry will remain on your credit report for 2 years. It can be seen by anyone who looks at your credit report, although it typically will not affect your score after 12 months.

And if you’re wondering, “can someone do a hard pull on my credit without me knowing?” The answer is no. The lender may need to get your permission to run a hard inquiry.

Why Hard Pulls Negatively Change Your Credit Score

Hard pulls are a ding on your credit because history shows that lots of credit pulls mean more risk for lenders. Why? Someone who is aggressively seeking credit is more likely to be in financial trouble. People with 6 or more hard pulls in 2 years may be up to 8 times more likely to declare bankruptcy than people with no inquiries on their reports, according to

It’s important to remember that you’re dinged when lenders recognize a pattern. That doesn’t mean that every hard pull is bad, and sometimes they’re necessary! Just keep it in mind when you’re trying to get a loan or open a credit card and apply wisely.

Soft Inquiries
Unlike hard inquiries, soft inquiries do not change your credit score. They often occur without you even knowing about them. For example, whenever you receive a credit card offer in the mail that you have been “pre-approved” for, it is likely that the company did a soft pull on your credit. Sometimes an employer will even do a soft inquiry on your credit during a background check!

Checking your own credit is also considered a soft pull. That’s important because it means that you can monitor your credit score without hurting it. Monitoring activity on your report allows you to catch any errors that might pop up. This also gives you a good idea of when you should apply for the types of credit that would require a hard pull. If your score is too low to qualify, then why go through the process of a loan application and hard credit pull, only to have it change your credit score for the worse?

It is easy to check your credit score online for free. There’s lots of credit education websites, and often credit cards offer this service for free (Revvi Card does!). Just remember that while the score you see in a soft pull is not necessarily the same score that a lender will see, it will give you a very good idea of where you stand.


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