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Soft Credit Pulls vs. Hard Credit Pulls: What’s the Difference?

A soft credit pull, also known as a soft credit check, is a credit inquiry that doesn't affect your credit score.
Soft Credit Pulls vs. Hard Credit
Soft Credit Pulls vs. Hard Credit

Key points on soft credit pulls

  • A soft credit pull, also known as a soft credit check, is a credit inquiry that doesn't affect your credit score.
  • Soft credit pulls are typically done when a consumer wants to check their own credit, as part of a background check, and more often as a pre-qualification process, such as when a lender pre-approves you for a loan.
  • Soft credit pulls only provide a limited amount of information, such as your credit history and current debts, and are not visible to other lenders or creditors.
  • A hard credit pull, which is typically done when you apply for credit or a loan, can affect your credit score and remains on your credit report for up to two years.

When you apply for credit, lenders may perform a credit inquiry to assess your creditworthiness. There are two types of credit inquiries: soft credit pulls and hard credit pulls.

While both types of inquiries can provide lenders with information about your credit history, they have different impacts on your credit score.

In this guide, we'll explain the difference between soft credit pulls and hard credit pulls.

What is a soft credit pull?

A soft credit pull, also known as a soft inquiry, is a type of credit inquiry that does not affect your credit score. Soft credit pulls are typically used for background checks, pre-approval offers, and by individuals checking their own credit score.

Examples of soft credit pulls include checking your credit score on a credit monitoring website or when a potential employer checks your credit history as part of a background check.

What is a hard credit pull?

A hard credit pull, also known as a hard inquiry, is a type of credit inquiry that can affect your credit score. Hard credit pulls, performed for permissible purposes, are typically used by lenders when you apply for credit, such as a credit card or loan.

When a lender performs a hard credit pull, it shows up on your credit report and can lower your credit score by as much as 10 points.

You may want to limit the number of hard credit pulls on your credit report, as too many can indicate to lenders that you are a high-risk borrower.

How do soft credit pulls affect your credit score?

Soft credit pulls, also known as soft inquiries, do not affect your credit score. These types of credit inquiries are typically used for background checks, pre-approvals, and by companies for marketing purposes.   

Soft credit pulls can be initiated by you, such as when you check your own credit score, or by a company you have an existing relationship with, such as a credit card issuer checking your credit to see if you qualify for a new offer.

Note that while soft credit pulls do not affect your credit score, they will still show up on your credit report for a period of time.

How do hard credit pulls affect your credit score?

Hard credit pulls, also known as hard inquiries, can have a negative impact on your credit score. These types of credit inquiries occur when a lender or creditor checks your credit report as part of a credit application.

Each hard inquiry can lower your credit score by as much as 10 points, and multiple inquiries within a short period of time can have a more significant impact unless you're rate shopping for a car or mortgage loan.


Be mindful of how often you apply for credit and to only apply for credit when you really need it, in order to minimize the impact of hard credit pulls on your credit score.

When should you expect a soft credit pull vs. a hard credit pull?

Soft credit pulls are typically used for background checks, pre-approvals, and by companies that want to offer you promotional offers. For example, if you receive a pre-approved credit card offer in the mail, the credit card company likely performed a soft credit pull to determine if you meet their initial criteria.

On the other hand, hard credit pulls are typically used when you apply for credit, such as a loan or credit card. The lender or creditor will need to review your credit report to determine if you qualify for the credit product, which requires a hard credit pull.

Reasons to soft pull your credit history

Checking your credit report and score is an important part of maintaining your financial health and protecting yourself against fraud and errors.

When you pull your free credit report, your credit score is not typically included. But there are ways to get your free FICO score which is not the same as CreditKarma that provides VantageScores.

Here are a few reasons to check your own credit reports:

Detecting errors. It's not uncommon for errors to appear on credit reports. Checking your credit report allows you to identify any mistakes or inaccuracies and take steps to correct them.

Preventing fraud. Regularly monitoring your credit report can help you detect any fraudulent activity or unauthorized accounts opened in your name. This allows you to take steps to protect yourself against identity theft and other types of fraud.

Understanding creditworthiness. Checking your credit report and score helps you understand your creditworthiness and identify areas that need improvement. This can help you make better financial decisions and improve your credit score over time.

Qualifying for loans and credit. Many lenders and creditors use credit reports and scores to determine whether to approve loan and credit applications. By checking your credit report and score, you can get a sense of whether you're likely to qualify for credit and take steps to improve your creditworthiness if necessary.

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