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'Soft pull' credit cards: Are they worth it?

Feb. 07, 2022
9 min read
Man shopping online using laptop computer and credit card
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Editor’s note: This post has been updated with new information.

A credit card application will usually result in what’s called a “hard pull” or "hard inquiry" on your credit report, which signals that you have formally requested to open a new line of credit. New inquiries on your credit report from hard pulls make up part of your credit score, which means it’s important to be mindful of how many hard pulls are on your report.

Applying for a new credit card (or any line of credit for that matter) can affect your credit score, but those effects shouldn’t last long as long as you aren’t opening several new accounts in quick succession.

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Another type of credit check is called a “soft pull,” which doesn’t affect your credit score at all. There are credit cards that only require a soft pull (or don’t require a credit check at all), but it’s rare. And almost every card you’ll be approved for without a hard pull is secured — which means your credit line is based on a deposit you put down. Secured credit cards sometimes won’t require a credit check since the bank’s risk is low because you have to put money down at account opening to borrow against.

Related: Trying to build your credit? Consider these secured credit cards

Today we’ll walk through a few of the soft-pull credit card options on the market. We’ll also discuss when these types of cards are worth it versus when you’ll be better off looking at more rewarding card options.

Best soft-pull credit cards

Unfortunately, none of the best credit cards, including top travel credit cards and top cash-back cards, only require a soft pull. By and large, credit cards are going to require a hard pull for approval. There are two exceptions to this. Some secured credit cards don’t require a hard pull on your credit report, because the lines of credit are secured with a deposit rather than granted based on your ability to pay the balance extended to you.

Additionally, some issuers don’t require a hard pull if you already have a credit card in good standing with them.

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(Photo by Orli Friedman / The Points Guy)
Some secured cards do not require a hard pull on your credit report. (Photo by Orli Friedman / The Points Guy)

For the purposes of this guide, I’ll go through the best secured credit cards you can apply for that do not require a hard pull on your credit:

The information about the First Progress Mastercard and the Applied Bank Secured Visa Gold Preferred Card has been collected independently by The Points Guy. The card details on this page have not been reviewed or approved by the issuer.

OpenSky® Secured Visa® Credit Card

Annual fee: $35

Minimum security deposit: $200

Other details: The Open Sky Secured Visa Credit Card requires a refundable deposit of $200 to $3,000, which is then used as your credit limit for the card. There is no credit check required to apply, and OpenSky reports your activity to all three of the major reporting agencies each month to help you build up credit and improve your score.

Learn more on the OpenSky website.

First Progress Platinum Prestige Mastercard® Secured Credit Card

Annual fee: $49

Minimum security deposit: $200

Other details: The First Progress Platinum Prestige Mastercard Secured Credit Card also does not require a credit check. You can deposit a refundable $200 to $2,000 that acts as your credit limit. This card comes with a variable APR of 14.99%, and it does report your activity to all three major credit bureaus.

Learn more on the First Progress website.

Applied Bank® Secured Visa® Gold Preferred® Credit Card

Annual fee: $48

Minimum security deposit: $200

Other details: The Applied Bank Secured Visa Gold Preferred Card offers the lowest APR of the cards on this list, at a fixed 9.99%. Like the others, this card doesn’t require a credit check. When you first open an account, you can deposit anywhere from $200 to $1,000 to be used as your credit limit. You can request a credit limit increase later with an accompanying deposit (up to $5,000 limit total), and your activity is reported to all three bureaus.

Learn more on the Applied Bank website.

Is a soft-pull credit card worth it?

Short answer? Not often.

Generally speaking, a hard pull doesn’t do enough lasting damage to a credit score to warrant opting instead for a secured credit card. New inquires only make up around 10% of your FICO score and are considered a “less influential” factor for your VantageScore. Even if a new inquiry does ding your score by a few points when you first apply for a new credit card, this dip is almost always temporary.

Secured credit cards have incredibly low credit limits and rarely (if ever) provide opportunities to earn rewards. If you have the credit history and credit score to be approved for a card that requires a hard pull — which is the case with most of the best credit cards out there — you’ll likely be better off going that route.

Those unused credit cards in your wallet are still useful! (Photo by mixetto/Getty Images)
More often than not, a card that requires a hard pull is worth it compared to soft-pull or no-credit-check options.  (Photo by mixetto/Getty Images)

There are really only two scenarios where a credit card that only requires a soft pull or no credit check makes sense. If you have a very low credit score and are unlikely to be approved for any credit cards from issuers that will check your credit, one of these cards may be an alternative while you work to improve your credit score.

Alternatively, if you have absolutely zero credit history, a secured card that doesn’t require a hard pull on your report could help you build credit before you apply for your first rewards credit card.

But even beginners in the credit card game can often be approved for credit cards, such as the Capital One QuicksilverOne Cash Rewards Credit Card. And if you are a college student, there are plenty of starter cards specifically designed for helping students build credit, even if you don’t have a credit history yet.

Related: How to earn points and miles with fair to poor credit

Using prequalified offers

To check approval odds and limit unnecessary hard pulls on your credit, you can use a prequalification tool. These tools, whether you use a third-party tool such as TPG’s CardMatch or go through the issuer’s site, use a soft pull on your account to see whether it’s likely you’ll be approved if you go through with an official application.

Keep in mind that being prequalified for a credit card does not guarantee that you’ll be approved for the card, and it doesn’t preclude you from having a hard pull performed should you decide to apply. But a prequalification tool can help those with low-to-average credit scores get a better picture of which cards you are more likely to be approved for. For those with good-to-excellent credit, a prequalification tool like CardMatch can even help you score a better sign-up offer.

For example, the publicly available welcome offer on The Platinum Card® from American Express, one of the top travel credit cards on the market, is 80,000 Membership Rewards points after you spend $6,000 on the card in your first six months of card membership. But through the CardMatch tool, some applicants have been targeted for up to 125,000 points to 150,000 instead (offer subject to change at any time). Since many issuers limit how often you can earn bonuses, scoring the best possible option is important.

Bottom line

To be blunt, credit cards that do not require a credit check are almost always subpar cards compared to other options (specifically from a rewards perspective). If you have a credit score high enough to apply for even a beginner credit card, you’ll probably be better off going that route. A hard pull on your credit report might affect your score by a couple of points in the short term, but the long-term effects are minimal.

However, if you currently have a very low credit score and you’re looking to rehabilitate your score with a card that doesn’t require a credit check, these secured cards are options to help you start improving your score.

Related: 4 of the best starter travel credit cards

Additional reporting by Benét J. Wilson

Featured image by POIKE/GETTY IMAGES
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.