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Soft pull vs. hard pull: What’s the difference?

Learn how each of these inquiries affect your credit score.

When you apply for credit — like a credit card or a personal loan — your provider or lender will typically look into your financial history to determine your overall creditworthiness. This is commonly referred to as a credit pull, inquiry or a credit check.

There are 2 types of inquires to know about: a hard pull and a soft pull. The difference lies in how these pulls affect your credit score and how long the inquiry remains on your credit report.

What’s the difference between a soft and hard credit pull?

  • Hard credit pull

    A creditor conducts a hard pull of your credit history when you apply for financing or credit. This type of inquiry lowers your score, though typically by 5 points or so, and it can also stay on your credit report for years. You might not notice a credit score drop from 785 to 780, and it likely won’t affect your ability for approval on future credit on its own. But if you apply for many loans and credit cards at once, a cumulative drop from several hard pulls could be more substantial — and could set off alarm bells with banks or creditors who look into you. You can perform a hard pull credit check on your own credit once per year for free, without harming your score.

  • Soft credit pull

    Typically associated with preapprovals, a soft pull of your credit won’t affect your credit score at all. And it’s not just creditors who can conduct one: potential landlords, utility companies and private citizens can take a surface-level look at your credit, excluding in-depth payment history or credit use.

How can multiple credit inquiries hurt my score?

Multiple hard pulls on your credit history can hurt you in a few ways. First, every hard pull takes a few points off of your credit score, and those points add up with each pull. Also, when a potential creditor or lender checks your credit history and sees many hard pulls within a short time, they often interpret the activity as a sign of financial distress.

To them, it indicates that you need money through multiple loans or possibly for debt consolidation. You could simply be in the process of making a financially prudent decision, but it’s inadvertently considered an indication of risk in taking you on as a borrower.

How can I avoid hard inquiries on my credit score?

Avoid hard inquiries by applying only for new credit cards or financing that you think you’re eligible for. Hard pulls are typically tied to these kinds of applications. When applying for any product that requires a credit check, ask which type of pull to expect. By limiting hard pulls on your credit to just a few times a year, and knowing what to expect when you apply for credit, you can ultimately protect your future financial health.

Can I dispute a hard inquiry on my credit report?

No, you can’t dispute a hard inquiry that you’ve authorized. If you see an inquiry on your report that you didn’t authorize, contact the creditor or lender to dispute it. But keep in mind that you might not receive an answer until the inquiry has dropped off your report; these matters can take months to resolve.

This is especially true if the credit reporting agency refuses to remove the hard pull and you have to go through the bank or company that made the hard pull in the first place. The small deduction from a hard inquiry typically affects your credit score during the 6 months immediately after the hard pull is made, and it fully drops off your credit report after 2 years.

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Bottom line

Your credit score won’t likely nosedive because of a few hard inquiries on your credit. And you shouldn’t let a small potential deduction to your credit score deter you from applying for necessary financing or a credit card with amazing benefits.

But by keeping new credit applications in check and monitoring your credit score, you can balance out your financial priorities with strong credit for your overall financial health.

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