The Difference Between Hard Pull and Soft Pull Credit Inquiries

Not too long ago, I switched to a different Internet providers. When I called to set up my account, the customer service rep asked for my Social Security number. I asked why it was needed, and he told me that they would be checking my credit. “Is this going to be a hard pull?” I asked.┬áHe assured me that it would only be a soft credit pull, and wouldn’t ding my credit score. I allowed the credit check, and moved on with the switch. Not only was this a good reminder that sometimes your credit score matters even when you aren’t borrowing, but it was also a good reminder that it helps to understand the difference between a hard credit pull and a soft credit pull.

Photo by renaissancechambara via Flickr

Hard Credit Pull vs. Soft Credit Pull

Hard Credit Pull

A hard credit pull, or a credit inquiry, is one that is performed when you attempt to open a new line of credit. When you apply for a loan (including a credit card), your credit report and score are checked. On top of that, it is recorded in your credit report as an action that indicates that you are looking to open more lines of credit. In such cases, your credit score is impacted because your desire to open more credit is an indication of your credit habits.

Lenders aren’t the only financial service providers that perform hard pulls, though. Even though my Internet service provider only does soft credit pulls, there are some utility providers that will actually perform a hard credit pull. Additionally, some banks will check your credit (with a hard pull) when you apply for an account. So you know what to expect, ask before giving your permission for the credit check. If you don’t want a hard pull, you might need to apply elsewhere for an account.

One of the concerns that savvy borrowers have is that they could end up with multiple hard pulls if they are shopping around for a good mortgage rate or a good car loan rate. The good news is that this is accounted for. Each inquiry will appear on your credit report, but all inquiries for the same type of loan product made within 14 days of each other are counted as one inquiry. It makes sense, if you’re shopping around for the best loan rate, to do so within a short period of time.

A hard pull remains visible on your credit report for up to two years, but it should only affect your credit score for the first year that it is on your report.

Soft Credit Pull

A soft credit pull, on the other hand, doesn’t impact your credit score, although it does appear on your credit report. Soft pulls include such inquiries into your credit as:

  • When you look at your own credit
  • When a creditor checks your credit for “prescreened” offers (you didn’t request the credit check)
  • When an employer checks your credit report
  • When utility companies, banks or others check your report, and tell you it is a soft pull

One of the problems you might run into, though, is that some companies will tell you they are performing a soft pull, and then report it as a hard pull. If this happens, you can request the that company change the way it appears on your credit report so that your score isn’t impacted. Make sure you record the information about the conversation you have, so that you have some evidence that the person you spoke to promised that it would be a soft pull.

The Bottom Line

The type of inquiry that a company does on your credit matters. A hard inquiry will impact your score. It won’t be a huge impact, but if you are in the area between good and fair credit, it can be enough to bump you down a little bit. Check with service providers to find out whether they are performing a hard pull or a soft pull before you allow them to check your credit.

About the Author

By , on Nov 16, 2011
Miranda Marquit
Miranda is a professional personal finance journalist. She is a contributor for several personal finance web sites. Her work has been mentioned in and linked to from, USA Today, The Huffington Post, The San Francisco Chronicle, The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, and other publications. She also has her own personal finance blog: Planting Money Seeds.

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Leave Your Comment (3 Comments)

  1. Pinyo says:

    I had a hard pull done when I pre qualified for a mortgage. It doesn’t appear to hurt my score that much. Also, getting to see my score for free was nice. The painful part is all the junk mails I get afterward.

  2. Bethy says:

    This is great information to know. Good tip on asking FIRST which type of inquiry it will be when you apply for some financial (and even non-financial) services.

  3. Cherleen says:

    This is a very informative post. I never realized some utility providers do a hard pull. I will have to check on that next time. Thanks for sharing!

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