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What is the difference between a hard and soft pull on your credit report?

Jan. 12, 2022
7 min read
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Editor’s note: This post has been updated with new information.


A common question we get from beginners is about the difference between a "soft pull" and a "hard pull" on your credit report. Both terms are used frequently when discussing applying for new credit cards, but how does each play into your credit score?

The major difference between the two is that a hard pull appears on your credit report while a soft pull does not.

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What is a hard pull?

When you apply for a line of credit, whether it be a new credit card, mortgage, auto loan or some other type of loan, the lender will pull your credit report from at least one of the major three credit reporting agencies — Equifax, Experian and TransUnion. This is called a hard pull or a hard inquiry.

(Image courtesy of Experian)

These checks are tied to an application and will therefore show up on your credit report. That means they could potentially affect your score since new inquiries on your credit report are a factor in determining your credit score. What is considered an official application? Any time you send in a request for a line of credit and are sharing your full identification details, such as your name, address, Social Security number and more.

A hard pull results in the lender getting your official credit report and credit score from whichever bureau it requested the information. This is a much more in-depth look at your credit history than what might be collected and sent over after a soft pull.

When are hard pulls performed?

As mentioned above, hard pulls are almost always connected to an application for credit of some sort. Credit card issuers generally run hard pulls when you apply for a new card (though there are some exceptions to this). Mortgage and private student loan lenders will also run a hard pull on your credit. Occasionally, a potential landlord may ask to perform a credit check. Depending on what service they use to run that check, it may result in a hard pull.

Lenders will want a deeper look at your credit report to make sure you are likely to pay back the amount of credit you are requesting.

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Related: Ultimate guide to credit card application restrictions

(Photo by oatawa/Getty Images)
When you apply for a new card (or another type of credit), it almost always results in a hard pull. (Photo by oatawa/Getty Images)

What is a soft pull?

A soft inquiry, on the other hand, does not appear on your credit report and does not affect your score at all. Soft pulls generally occur when you check your credit score or you give someone like a potential employer permission to review your credit report. Generally speaking, a soft pull won’t result in someone receiving your full credit profile and score. Instead, he or she might get an estimated score based on the information requested or may get limited information pertaining to just one area of your report.

These credit checks are not tied directly to a credit application of any kind, which is why they aren’t recorded in your report and do not affect your credit score.

When are soft pulls performed?

Any time you or someone you give permission to checks your credit score and it isn’t tied to an official application, it will likely result in a soft pull. Generally, a soft pull won’t result in a full, in-depth report being shared with the recipient.

Checking your credit through a service such as Credit Karma, for example, results in a soft pull. Additionally, when insurance companies request a credit check in order to give you a quote, that will usually also result in a soft pull.

While opening new credit accounts results in a hard pull, looking at pre-qualified offers generally only requires a soft pull. Card issuers or other lenders may offer to perform one to give you insight into your approval odds before you submit an official application.

If you are working to improve your credit score and are wary of any nonessential hard inquiries being listed on your account, pre-qualification tools that don’t affect your credit score at all can be useful. Additionally, you can use pre-qualification tools such as CardMatch to find the best welcome offers available across certain credit cards with targeted offers.

Pre-qualification tools won’t result in a hard pull and therefore won’t negatively impact your credit score. (Photo by Isabelle Raphael/The Points Guy)

How do hard pulls affect your credit score?

Hard pulls on your credit report signal that you are looking to open a line of credit. The more inquiries you have in a short period of time, the more creditors might assume you are in financial distress and therefore at a higher risk for delinquencies. Both the FICO and VantageScore credit scoring models factor in recent credit behavior, including new inquiries. This can affect your score in two ways.

When you apply for a new account, you may notice a slight dip in your score because of the hard pull. This is almost always temporary and should only affect your score by a few points at most. However, if you have opened a lot of new credit accounts recently, that could potentially affect your score longer term. Hard inquiries can stay on your credit report for up to two years, which means that’s how long they can potentially affect your score. Hard pulls also factor into your Chase 5/24 eligibility.

Related: What is a good credit score?

How many hard pulls are too many?

According to Credit Karma’s credit score service, keeping recent inquiries below two is optimal. You start to drift into the “red zone” once you have five or more on your account.

Take this with a grain of salt, though. FICO only uses new inquiries to make up 10% of your score, and TransUnion lists credit behavior and new accounts as a “less influential” factor. Many TPGers have seven or eight inquiries on their reports and still have excellent credit scores.

While you’ll want to avoid unnecessary inquiries on your account, don’t let the possibility of having another hard pull on your report stop you from applying for a new credit card if your score is otherwise healthy.

Related: Should I apply for a credit card now?

Bottom line

Your credit score and overall credit report are both important to your financial health. Knowing the difference between a hard pull and a soft pull can help you mitigate the risk of dinging your score and give you peace of mind that checking your score or going through a pre-qualification tool won’t affect it.

Remember that while hard inquiries can affect your credit score, they only make up a small percentage of your overall score. As long as you have a proven history of paying bills on time and not overutilizing your lines of credit, a new inquiry shouldn’t negatively affect your score in the long term.

Additional reporting by Stella Shon and Benét J. Wilson.

Featured image by (Photo by Casper1774 Studio/Shutterstock)
Editorial disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airline or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

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TPG Editor‘s Rating
Card Rating is based on the opinion of TPG‘s editors and is not influenced by the card issuer.
4 / 5
Go to review

Rewards Rate

10xEarn 10x total points on hotels and car rentals when you purchase travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards®.
5xEarn 5x total points on flights through Chase Ultimate Rewards®.
3xEarn 3x points on other travel and dining.
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    Earn 80,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $1,200 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®

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  • Annual Fee

    $550
  • Recommended Credit
    Credit ranges are a variation of FICO© Score 8, one of many types of credit scores lenders may use when considering your credit card application.

    740-850
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Why We Chose It

If you are looking to take your premium rewards to the highest level, this card is really a no brainer in our eyes. Chase's Ultimate Rewards make points easy to redeem, with a wide range of 10 airline and three hotel transfer partners and a friendly user interface. Despite the high annual fee, Chase is consistently adding new benefits to keep the card competitive in a fierce premium rewards field.

Pros

  • $300 annual travel credit as reimbursement for travel purchases charged to your card each account anniversary year
  • Access to Chase Ultimate Rewards hotel and airline travel partners
  • Unlimited 3x points on the broad category of travel and dining
  • 50% more value when you redeem your points for travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards®
  • Broad definitions for travel and dining bonus categories

Cons

  • Steep $550 annual fee
  • May not make sense for people that don't travel frequently
  • You must spend the $300 travel credit before earning 3x points for travel and dining
  • No automatic hotel elite status
  • Earn 80,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $1,200 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®
  • $300 Annual Travel Credit as reimbursement for travel purchases charged to your card each account anniversary year.
  • Earn 5x total points on flights and 10x total points on hotels and car rentals when you purchase travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards® immediately after the first $300 is spent on travel purchases annually. Earn 3x points on other travel and dining & 1 point per $1 spent on all other purchases
  • Get 50% more value when you redeem your points for travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards®. For example, 80,000 points are worth $1,200 toward travel
  • 1:1 point transfer to leading airline and hotel loyalty programs
  • Access to 1,300+ airport lounges worldwide after an easy, one-time enrollment in Priority Pass™ Select and up to $100 application fee credit every four years for Global Entry, NEXUS, or TSA PreCheck®
  • Count on Trip Cancellation/Interruption Insurance, Auto Rental Collision Damage Waiver, Lost Luggage Insurance and more