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Soft Credit Pull vs Hard Credit Pull: What They Are and How They Affect Your Credit Score  

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When applying for credit, you may encounter terms like “soft credit pull” and “hard credit pull.” Understanding the differences between these two types of credit inquiries is crucial, as they can impact your credit score and overall financial health. Let’s explore what each entails, their purposes, and how they affect your credit report. 

 

WHAT IS A SOFT CREDIT PULL?

A soft credit pull, also known as a soft inquiry, is a type of credit check that does not affect your credit score. This kind of inquiry has a variety of uses and can occur without your explicit permission. 

 

Common Uses of Soft Credit Pulls 

  1. Pre-Approval Offers: Credit card companies and lenders use soft inquiries to determine if you qualify for certain credit products. If you do, they may send you pre-approval offers. 
  2. Background Checks by Employers: Some employers perform soft inquiries as part of their hiring process to assess the financial responsibility of potential employees. 
  3. Personal Credit Checks: When you check your own credit report, it’s often considered a soft inquiry. Regularly monitoring your credit can help you stay informed about your financial status and identify any errors or fraudulent activity. 

 

Impact on Credit Score 

Soft credit pulls do not affect your credit score. They are not visible to potential creditors or lenders, and therefore, do not indicate credit-seeking behavior. You can have an unlimited number of soft inquiries without any impact on your credit health. 

 

WHAT IS A HARD CREDIT PULL?

 A hard credit pull, or hard inquiry, is a type of credit check that does affect your credit score. These inquiries require your explicit permission and typically occur when a lender or creditor is considering you for a new loan, such as a mortgage, auto loan, or credit card. 

 

Common Uses of Hard Credit Pulls 

  1. Loan Applications: When you apply for a mortgage, auto loan, or personal loan, the lender will perform a hard inquiry to review your credit history and determine your creditworthiness. 
  2. Credit Card Applications: Applying for a new credit card involves a hard credit pull to assess the risk of extending credit to you. 
  3. Apartment Rentals: Some landlords conduct hard inquiries to evaluate your financial reliability before approving a lease. 

 

Impact on Credit Score 

Hard inquiries can lower your credit score. The exact impact varies depending on your overall credit profile, but typically, each hard inquiry can reduce your score by approximately five points. While this might not seem significant, multiple hard inquiries in a short period can accumulate and have a more substantial effect. 

 

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Duration of Impact 

Hard inquiries remain on your credit report for up to two years, but their impact diminishes over time. The most significant effect is usually felt for up to 12 months. After that, as long as you maintain healthy credit habits, the impact of a hard inquiry will gradually lessen. 

 

MANAGING CREDIT INQUIRIES

Understanding how to manage credit inquiries is essential for maintaining a healthy credit score. Here are some tips: 

 

  1. Limit Applications: Apply for new credit only when necessary. Each application results in a hard inquiry, so be strategic about seeking new lines of credit. 
  2. Shop Within a Short Window: When shopping for loans, such as a mortgage or auto loan, try to complete all applications within a short timeframe. Credit scoring models often treat multiple inquiries for the same type of loan as a single inquiry if they occur within a short period (usually 30 days), minimizing the impact on your score. 
  3. Monitor Your Credit Report: Regularly check your credit report using a reputable site, like www.annualcreditreport.com, to ensure that all inquiries listed are accurate and authorized. If you notice any unauthorized hard inquiries, contact the creditor and the credit bureaus to dispute them. 
  4. Understand Timing: Timing your applications can help manage the impact on your credit score. For example, if you plan to apply for a mortgage, avoid applying for new credit cards or auto loans in the months leading up to your application. 

 

CONCLUSION

Soft and hard credit pulls serve different purposes and have distinct impacts on your credit score. Soft inquiries are harmless and allow companies to check your credit without affecting your score, while hard inquiries can slightly lower your score and indicate to potential lenders that you are seeking new credit. By understanding these differences and managing your credit inquiries wisely, you can maintain a healthy credit profile and improve your chances of being approved for credit when you need it. Regularly monitoring your credit and being strategic about your applications will help you navigate the financial landscape with confidence.

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About Amanda Seeholzer

Amanda, a Certified Financial Counselor, is dedicated to assisting members in achieving their financial objectives through strategic planning, budgeting, money management, debt management, and credit repair. As a mother and dog owner residing in Chittenden County, she represents multiple generations of Vermonters. In her leisure time, she enjoys playing softball and exploring the stunning natural beauty of Vermont.

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