Does a Soft Credit Check Affect Your Credit?

A soft credit check is a brief inquiry into your credit report. Soft credit checks typically occur when a lender wants to view your credit score without digging deep into the details.

Hard credit inquiries, on the other hand, are much more in-depth. Because hard credit inquiries can negatively impact your credit score, you might wonder, "Does a soft credit check affect your credit?" The short answer is no; a soft credit check won’t affect your score.

Understanding soft credit checks

Soft credit checks aren't performed to dig deep into your financial background or closely examine your credit report. They’re used to get a quick overview of your overall credit.

Here are some of the reasons you might experience a soft credit check:

  • An employer is considering hiring you and wants to verify your identity or gauge your financial responsibility.
  • A credit card company wants to see what types of credit cards and promotional offers you qualify for.
  • A lender wants to pre-qualify you for a loan offer.
  • A potential landlord wants to see how responsible you are before they let you move in.
  • You request your own credit report so that you can check for potential errors and areas of improvement.

Soft credit checks vs. hard credit checks

A soft credit inquiry will only show your credit score, personal details, and public records, while a hard credit inquiry shows your entire report. Hard inquiries include the good, the bad, and the ugly so that potential lenders can assess whether you're a responsible borrower.

To put it another way, think about the experiences you’ve had at your doctor’s office. A soft credit check is kind of like a follow-up visit where your doctor checks your blood pressure, asks how you're feeling, and sends you on your way.

A hard credit check is like an annual physical that includes all of the above, plus a blood draw, cholesterol check, vision test, hearing test, and more.

In other words, a hard credit inquiry is a comprehensive look at your credit, whereas a soft credit inquiry provides a general overview of your financial health.

When are hard credit checks used?

Hard credit checks are triggered when you apply for certain types of loans and forms of credit. Successfully applying for an auto loan, mortgage, student loan, or credit card typically requires a hard credit check.

Because hard credit inquiries can drop your score by a few points, lenders must ask your permission before performing one. Soft credit checks, on the other hand, don't affect your score and don't require your consent.

Hard inquiries also stay on your credit report for up to two years, whereas soft credit checks do not show up at all. Hard credit checks stay on your report so that potential lenders can see when and how often you've had your credit pulled. If they see multiple hard inquiries in a short period of time, they may deny you new credit.

Does a soft credit check impact my credit score?

Soft credit checks happen often and don’t impact your credit score. In most cases, you won't even know that a soft credit check occurred.

There are several reasons a soft credit check can be triggered:

  • Promotional marketing

Lenders and credit card companies often perform soft credit pulls before sending promotional emails and mailers. If you’ve ever received a credit card offer in the mail, you can assume that the credit card company performed a soft credit check to pre-approve you for the offer.

  • Apartment applications

When you apply to move into a new apartment or rental home, the property manager may check your credit score before accepting you as a new tenant.

  • Applying for a new job

Employers and staffing services may check an applicant’s credit to guide their hiring decision. While this typically occurs with roles that require the applicant to handle money, financial responsibility can be a good indicator of being responsible in general, so almost any prospective employer might choose to run a soft credit check.

  • Insurance offers

As with credit card companies, insurance companies may check your credit score to decide whether to send you promotional material. These instances can include auto, life, health, homeowners insurance companies, and more.

  • Checking your own credit

You can check your credit score or credit report at any time. Doing this counts as a soft credit check rather than a hard one because you're the one performing it. You can request your credit report for free, once per year, from any of the major credit bureaus or Annual Credit Report.

Myths about soft credit checks

There are several misconceptions about soft credit inquiries.

Myth #1: Soft credit checks impact your credit score

As we've already mentioned, soft credit checks do not impact your credit score. They give potential lenders, landlords, employers, and others a general overview of your credit score and history.

Myth #2: Multiple soft credit checks affect your credit score

No matter how often soft credit checks are performed, they won’t affect your credit score. Only hard credit inquiries negatively impact your credit.

Myth #3: Soft credit checks are visible to lenders

Soft credit checks have zero impact on your credit score, so they are not listed on your credit report. As a result, soft credit checks are not visible to lenders or anyone else.

Myth #4: Lenders need your permission to perform soft credit

checks While lenders need your consent when performing a hard credit check, they do not need it to perform soft credit checks.

Let’s review soft credit checks

The main takeaway here is that soft credit checks have no impact on your credit score. They're performed by companies and people who only want to view your credit score or public records, not take a deep dive into your credit history.

With that being said, pulling your own credit report regularly can help you improve your credit score. Doing so will allow you to identify any errors, resolve past-due accounts, and file disputes, which can ultimately help boost your score in the long run.

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