Hard vs. Soft Inquiry: What You Should Know Before a Credit Pull

Every time you turn around, someone wants to run your credit.

New apartment? The landlords want to see your credit. Applying for a job? Same thing. Oh, and that really cool “freebie” blanket you could get just for signing up for a new credit card? They’ll definitely run your credit first.

Soft vs. Hard Credit Check

Both types of credit pulls involve someone checking in on your credit, but that’s about where the similarities stop. Here’s the difference between a soft vs. hard credit check and what it means for you.

Hard Inquiry

Simply put, a hard inquiry happens when a lender, like a bank or credit card company, runs your credit history as a part of its decision-making process. They may run your credit with one or more of the major credit bureaus.

Will they give you that loan? Will you get that credit card? What they see on your credit report may make it happen…or not.

Soft Inquiry

A soft inquiry happens when you check your own credit score or even if a lender checks it for the purpose of prequalifying you for a loan or credit card.

If a potential landlord or employer does a credit check, that would also count as a soft inquiry. Think of it as a glance at your credit rather than a deep dive.

How Do Credit Inquiries Affect Credit Score?

Here’s where it gets interesting. Each type of credit pull affects your credit differently. Here’s how it breaks down for soft vs. hard credit checks.

Hard Inquiry

Because a hard inquiry is used by someone who is actually checking your creditworthiness for the purpose of issuing you some form of credit, it factors into your credit score.

Soft Inquiry

Soft inquiries are not used to issue new credit to you and, therefore, do not affect your credit score. In fact, with a couple of exceptions, you are the only one who can even see soft inquiries on your credit report at all.