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The Difference Between Soft And Hard Credit Checks

Fact: Not all credit checks are equal. The two methods—hard and soft credit check —have some significant distinctions between them.

We decode each type of inquiry, why they matter, and how they affect your credit score.


Fact: Not all credit checks are equal. The two methods—hard and soft credit check—have some significant distinctions between them. Most notably, only one of them impacts your business credit score (spoiler alert: it’s the hard one). 


So what is a credit check anyway? 

One of those uncontrollable factors that determine your credit score, a credit check is used to gauge your risk level as a borrower. If you are actively seeking new credit, the inquiry is considered a hard check or hard pull. Alternatively, a soft check or soft pull is a simple review of your credit.


The Hard Credit Check Breakdown 

Who performs them?

  • Lenders and credit card companies before deciding whether or not to loan you money or a line of credit. Hard pulls give them insight into your ability to pay them back.
  • Landlords may ask you to fill a form permitting them to run a hard or soft pull. Which kind of check they request usually depends on the screening service they use. Some third-party companies use your social security number, in which case it will be a hard pull. 

What do they look like?

A hard check is a complete picture, including your full credit history and credit score. That said, there are different report styles an entity can choose from. While most will use a standard credit bureau (like Experian or Transunion), an alternative bureau can provide a more in-depth analysis.

Does it affect my credit score?

Yes, hard pulls can negatively impact and lower your score for a year. They also appear on your credit report for two years. However, you can be strategic on how much of a ding hard pulls leave behind. Avoid a bunch of hard pulls at once by spreading out your credit applications. Why is this important? It can send the message to companies that you struggle with managing your finances well and need a lot of money.

A note on disputing hard credit inquiries:

We recommend checking your score often. Staying up to date helps keep you informed—especially when an unauthorized hard pull pops up. If you spot one, respond immediately by sending a letter to the bureau that generated the report explaining the error. Usually, the credit bureau will have 30 days to respond. 


The Soft Credit Check Breakdown 

Who performs them?

  • Major credit card companies use soft credit checks to identify your most relevant and pre-qualified offers. 
  • Auto insurance, homeowners insurance, or other insurance companies rely on soft-pull information when creating a credit-based insurance score that helps them determine premiums. 
  • Employers who are evaluating you as a prospective employee.
  • You when you’re looking to know the latest on Credit Karma.

What do they look like?

A soft pull shows what you would see if you looked up your score. Think: lines of credit, loans, your payment history, and any collections accounts. It’s not an in-depth review, which is the reason why your score remains unaffected.

Does it affect my credit score?

No, soft pulls don’t.


Your credit score and credit checks are essential to financial health. Consider checking up on your score regularly and building (or rebuilding) your score to secure the best possible terms, rates, and approvals.

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