Imagine you’re looking into a credit card or loan and the creditor says, “Don’t worry. It’s just a soft credit check.” Sounds simple enough and even reassuring, right?
Also known as “soft pulls” or “soft inquiries,” soft credit checks occur when you check your credit to confirm the accuracy of its contents. Good news, though! It does not affect your credit score!
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Who can perform a soft credit check?
Below we’re breaking down exactly who can pull your credit, why they would want to check your credit report and how the information on credit report is used.
Checking your own credit score
A soft credit pull is done when you need access to your own credit report to ensure that the contents are accurate. You are entitled to one free credit report from all three agencies each year. This is a great way to see if anyone else has done a soft pull on your credit in the past year, too.
An employer may view your credit report to screen you for an opportunity or make a decision about your trustworthiness. It is important to remember that you must grant your employer or future employer permission to check your credit during the job application process.
Your bank may review your FICO Score to gauge your creditworthiness. This is a way of determining if you potentially qualify for other products or if account adjustments are needed.
Creditors and lenders
Ever been in a store or shopping online and received a notification that you’ve been preapproved for a credit card? A soft credit check can be done to screen you for pre-approved offers. That explains all the invitations to apply for credit cards in the mail. Pre-approval offers are a sign that you meet the lender’s qualification criteria.
Housing applications ask for your social security number on their application for a few reasons, and one of them is to pull your credit. Landlords can use this to determine if you’re a candidate for housing, especially if there is stiff competition amongst housing applicants.
A soft pull can also determine if the security deposit needs to be higher or lower because it will depend on your score. A lower score might mean you are more of a risk and more likely to miss a payment. This will result in a higher security deposit to offset the risk. Keep this in mind when looking for housing.
Similar to landlords, service providers pull your credit to check trustworthiness. Does this mean that you will be denied services? Maybe not. But it does increase the likelihood that your cable, internet or utilities provider will require a higher deposit.
This is something you can prepare for if you know your score is on the low side and you will need these services soon. Also, some providers will request on-time payments for a certain period of time—one year for example—and then they will give you your deposit back if you paid on time consistently.
Pre-screening for a loan product
Sometimes, you’ll want to check and see if you qualify for a loan or credit card before you even apply. That’s why there’s a pre-screening tool, but it also counts as a soft credit check. If you do decide to move forward with the application, a hard inquiry typically will be generated.
Do soft inquiries impact your credit score?
Good news! Soft inquiries do not impact your FICO score like hard inquiries. Soft checks are completed for informational purposes and they are not associated with a credit application, so they do not have any impact on your score.
Hard inquiries on the other hand make an impact on your score. These occur when you apply for credit products like a credit card or a mortgage. A hard inquiry gives lenders access to your credit report and score.
The lenders use this information to determine if you qualify for their product and even determine interest rates depending on the product. Hard inquiries can drop your score by two to five points, so keep this in mind when applying. Creditors look at your number of inquiries when they access your credit report and it can cause some red flags if you have several hard inquiries in a short timeframe.
Hard inquiries also stick around a bit longer. They can stay on your credit report for 24 months. Keep this in mind when applying.
Was that one credit card that you knew you would not get approved for worth the drop in your score and the hard inquiry to your credit? Probably not. You can always get help from a credit counselor if you do find yourself tempted or overwhelmed by your credit choices.
Be selective with your inquiries!
Not everyone deserves access to your credit. Be very selective when it comes down to hard inquiries. Although soft inquiries do not affect your score directly, be mindful of those pulls. You might be more tempted to allow soft credit checks when you see more pre-approvals but this isn’t always the best idea. This does not mean that you should not apply for credit. Just do your research first and only apply when it is a product that works best for you.
Also, keep in mind what impacts your credit score so you stay on top of it. On-time payments, credit history, credit mix, and hard inquiries play the biggest role in your overall score.
The good news is that you will receive a weekly credit report when you sign up for the Credit Builder Plus membership with MoneyLion. It offers credit builder loans up to $1,000 and interest-free cash advances up to $250 with no credit check.
The Credit Builder loan is a loan that comes with no hard credit check, too! It’s a great way to build your credit while not worrying about your score dropping a few points because of the application process.