Your credit score is an incredible tool that can build up your life if used properly and tear it down if abused.
The difference between a great credit score and an okay credit score might be the difference in 0.5% interest on a home or auto loan and thousands of extra dollars of interest paid.
If you’re looking to protect your credit score you need to be aware of the difference between a soft credit pull and a hard credit pull. One can damage your credit score while the other is mostly harmless.
Do you know the difference?
Two Types of Credit Inquiries: Soft Pull and Hard Pull
Here’s a look at the two types of credit report pulls.
What is a Soft Credit Pull?
When a company needs to determine your eligibility for a pre-approved offer like a loan or credit card, a soft inquiry of your credit is used. When an employer wants to know if you are a financial risk, a soft inquiry is used. Even banks use them when you open up a checking account simply to verify you are who you say you are.
Soft credit inquiries do not negatively impact your credit score.
In fact, a majority of the time you have no idea that a soft pull of your credit was made. When you get a lot of junk mail from credit card companies they have all made an inquiry of your credit before sending you the pre-approved offer letter. They didn’t ask your permission to pull your credit in this way before sending the offer to you; they didn’t have to because it doesn’t negatively impact your credit score.
What is a Hard Credit Pull?
On the other hand, hard credit inquiries do impact your credit score.
Usually the impact is temporary in nature, but it is something to be aware of.
Unlike a soft credit pull, a hard pull is used to make a lending decision not a pre-approval decision. The credit score is used to determine whether or not you will receive the loan product you are applying for. This hard inquiry will drop your score down a few points for about 6 months. The impact isn’t drastic if it only happens once, but if you have several spread out over a year it could have a stunning effect on your credit score.
When is a Hard Credit Inquiry Used?
Obviously, a hard credit pull is a much bigger deal than a soft credit pull.
The best part is you control when a hard inquiry happens because it is tied to you attempting to get some sort of an account.
Not sure which types of accounts can lead to a hard pull? Here are some to be aware of:
- Applying for a credit card
- Applying for a home mortgage
- Applying for an auto loan
- Applying for a refinance of your home mortgage
- Applying for a home equity line of credit
- Applying for a store credit card
- Applying for a checking or savings account
- Applying for an investment account
You probably expect your credit score to take a hit if you applied for a credit card. But a savings account or investment account? These might be unexpected, but it depends on the financial institution you are opening the account with. It makes sense to ask if you’ll be taking a hard credit pull just to open up the account.
How to Avoid Inquiries Damaging Your Credit Score
You shouldn’t be shamed out of opening a credit card or savings account that you want to open. Having a hard inquiry on your report isn’t a big deal. Having 100 of them in a year probably isn’t a good idea.
This is why it is always recommend to do your price shopping for loans or credit cards during a short period of time. If you need to buy a car and need a loan, don’t spread your search out over 3 months. Apply for the loans all in the same weekend so the inquiries all hit at the same time — the credit bureaus will figure out that you’re just getting a car loan for one car, not five car loans for five cars because you applied at five different banks.
Pull Your Free Credit Report to See Inquiries
You can see how many inquiries you’ve had by pulling one of your three free annual credit reports through AnnualCreditReport.com. (Make sure you don’t check all three reports at once — space them out during the year to help monitor your accounts.)
Thankfully, checking your own credit report in this way only counts as a soft inquiry (again, because you aren’t making a lending decision). Each bureau lists out inquiries in a different way, but they’ll show you who has been looking into your credit recently.
Related: Places to Check Your Credit Score Free.
Knowing the difference between the two types of credit inquiries can help you protect your credit score over the long run.
If you need to get a loan, do your price shopping all in a short period of time to minimize the negative impact of the hard credit inquiries. And don’t forget to use your free credit reports that the government requires the credit bureaus to give you to keep tabs on your entire credit history and inquiries.