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Soft Pull vs. Hard Pull: How Each Inquiry Affects Your Credit

A hard pull will ding your credit, but there are ways to mitigate the damage.

An unidentified woman takes a "Credit Report" out of a manilla envelope.
Kittisak Jirasittichai/EyeEm/Getty

Potential lenders, employers and landlords perform different types of credit inquiries on applicants to check their history. Some inquiries affect your credit score while others don't -- the major difference between a "hard pull" and a "soft pull." While soft pulls may be run on your credit without your consent, hard pulls always require your consent.

What is a hard credit pull?

When you apply for a new credit card, mortgage, or other type of loan, the lender will do a hard pull on your credit. This means they will access your full credit report for the purpose of making a lending decision.

When a hard inquiry is submitted, your credit score will generally drop by a few points, though multiple hard inquiries in a short period of time may cause it to drop further. A hard inquiry will stay on your report for up to two years, though the impact will diminish over time. Without a hard inquiry, a lender will not be able to extend an offer of credit to you. 

What is a soft credit pull?

A soft credit pull, or soft inquiry, does not affect your credit score. Your full credit report is not released in a soft inquiry, though some information is disclosed.

A soft inquiry may be made when:

What's the difference between a hard pull and a soft pull?

A hard credit pull accesses your full credit report. The lender will have access to your full credit history, and the pull itself will be noted in your credit file for future lenders to observe. Meanwhile, a soft pull doesn't give the full picture -- but it also doesn't affect your credit. For the most part, you need to personally authorize a hard credit pull, but not much information is needed about you for a soft pull to be run.

How much do hard inquiries hurt your credit score?

As with any negative mark on your credit reports, a hard inquiry may ding your credit score. But the size of the impact depends on a few factors, such as:

  • The type of credit you're seeking (e.g., credit cards, mortgages, personal loans)
  • The amount of available credit you have
  • How many inquiries you have on your credit reports
  • How much debt you have

As a general rule, the more hard inquiries you have in a short period of time, the more it might hurt your credit as lenders view you as higher risk. 

How can you reduce the impact of a hard inquiry?

When it comes to credit inquiries, the best defense is a good offense. You can reduce the impact of hard inquiries by adhering to the following:

  • Apply strategically. This means you should space out your applications, only apply for credit cards you would actually benefit from using, and shop around with prequalification tools.
  • Apply selectively. Before applying for a credit card, make sure you do a hard pull on your credit and know your credit score. This will help you determine your chances of eligibility.
  • Practice good credit habits. Good credit habits go a long way in keeping your credit score healthy. Pay your bills on time and in full, and monitor your credit.

The bottom line

A hard inquiry occurs when someone accesses your credit report to make a lending decision. This typically applies when you apply for a new credit card, mortgage or other type of loan. A hard pull dings your credit and may stay on your credit report for up to two years. A soft pull occurs when you check your own credit report or when a company does an account review and will not affect your credit score. 

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