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Lenders use a soft credit check or hard credit check to determine your creditworthiness.

Hard inquiries appear when you’ve given someone permission to check your credit report in order to process a credit or loan application — these can also lower your score. Soft credit inquiries don’t harm your credit score but do involve someone checking your score.

In this post:

Soft credit check vs. hard credit check

 Hard credit checkSoft credit check
Background check for a new jobNoYes
Pre-qualified credit card offersNoYes
Using Credible to compare ratesNoYes
Applying for a new apartmentYesYes
Private student loan or PLUS Loan applicationYesNo
Mortgage applicationYesNo
Applying for a personal loanYesNo
Auto loan applicationYesNo
Applying for a credit cardYesNo

Soft credit check

A soft credit check is sometimes referred to as a soft pull or soft inquiry. Soft credit checks don’t always require your approval and can happen at any time.

For example, when you get an offer in the mail for a pre-qualified credit card, it’s because the lender used a soft credit check to look at your credit history to determine you were potentially worth lending to.

A soft credit inquiry can happen when:

  • A company you’ve applied for a job with does a background check on you
  • You apply for an apartment
  • You check your credit score
  • You use Credible to compare rates

Even if a soft credit pull ends up on your credit report, it won’t cause your credit score to drop as a result of the inquiry.

Learn More: How to Build Credit

Hard credit check

A hard credit check, also known as a hard credit pull or hard inquiry, does impact your credit. It occurs when you’ve given a person or company permission to check your credit. You’re giving a lender permission to check your credit to see not only if you’re approved, but what your terms and interest rate will be.

A hard credit inquiry can happen when:

While your credit score might drop from one hard inquiry, it usually rebounds after a couple of months. Expect a FICO score drop of anywhere between five and 10 points after a hard inquiry. Even after your score rebounds, hard inquiries can stay on your credit report for two years.

Even though it’s a small percentage of what makes up your credit report, too many hard inquiries can tell lenders you’re a credit risk — which means you might be denied credit in the future.

The good news is, when you’re rate shopping, or completing many different applications for the same type of loan within 14 to 30 days, it usually counts as one inquiry. For instance, if you’re buying a home and submitting many different applications to get pre-approved, those tend to count as one hard inquiry, rather than many.

Check your credit report

You can check your own credit report for free every year at AnnualCreditReport.com. When you look over your report, you’ll be able to see if any hard credit checks occurred recently.

When reviewing your credit report, check to see if there are any errors or credit inquiries you didn’t authorize. These could be a sign of identity theft. You can dispute credit errors with individual credit bureaus like Experian, TransUnion, or Equifax.

If you find any inquiries on your report that you didn’t authorize, you can submit a complaint with The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) about a financial product or service that used your information without your permission.

Keep Reading: How to Improve Your Credit Score

About the author
Dori Zinn
Dori Zinn

Dori Zinn is a student loan authority and a contributor to Credible. Her work has appeared in Huffington Post, Bankate, Inc, Quartz, and more.

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