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Hard Pull vs. Soft Pull: What Makes These Credit Inquiries Unique?

“Is this going to affect my credit score?”

You’ve probably asked that question yourself when someone tells you they’re going to perform a “credit check.” And the answer probably varied. In fact, some types of credit checks are “hard pulls,” meaning that they will affect your FICO credit score, while others are “soft pulls,” which do not.

But what’s the difference?

Hard Pulls: A Mild Effect on Your Credit Score

A “hard pull” credit check is simply when a bank or other creditor checks your credit score, usually to determine whether you are a creditworthy customer or not. Hard pulls are considered serious inquiries made in advance of you receiving a loan or line of credit. For that reason these credit checks, even if the lender ultimately turns you down, result in a small dip in your credit score.

How small? A hard pull might lower your credit score by about 5 points for six months or so. While this may not sound like a fatal hit, if you apply for too many forms of credit in too short of time hard pulls can start to add up.

Hard pulls also stay on your record, meaning your future creditors will be able to see any loans you applied for on your credit report, even if you didn’t actually sign papers and take the loan or credit card.

But what if you’re a savvy consumer and you want to shop around for the best auto loan or mortgage? Fortunately, FICO takes this into account. If you apply for the same type of loan (mortgage, auto loan, student loan, etc.) from multiple creditors within 30 days, they will generally treat all of those applications as a single inquiry.

In summary, hard pulls do affect your credit score, so don’t sit down and seriously apply for credit unless you really plan on utilizing it.

Soft Pull: No Effect on Your Credit Score

The soft pull, on the other hand, does not affect your credit score. In fact, someone could be asking a credit bureau for a soft pull of your credit right now, without you evening knowing it.

You know those credit card offers you receive in the mail? The credit card company probably soft pulled your credit and decided you were the right fit. Or do you remember when your new employer had you sign a form allowing them to obtain a credit check? You probably thought nothing more of it, right? Well, there is a chance they soft pulled your credit report to assess you for risk to the company.  As well, your own inquiries about your credit report are considered soft pulls.

Soft pulls occur often, but never fear, they don’t affect your credit score.

In essence, hard pulls occur when you’re seriously applying for credit, and should be used sparingly because they do cause a mild dip in your credit score. Soft pulls, however, occur all the time – sometimes without you even knowing it – and do not affect your credit score.

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Jennifer Dunn

Jennifer Dunn

Contributor at Fundera
Jennifer Dunn is a small business contributor for Fundera and owner of Social Street Media. She is also the community manager at GoDaddy Online Bookkeeping, and her long-standing life goal is to learn something new every day.
Jennifer Dunn