Published on April 25th, 2015 | by William Charles3
Soft Inquiry Vs Hard Inquiry – What’s The Difference?
I often talk about soft & hard inquiries (although I sometimes call them soft & hard credit pulls). I thought that it was important to explain the difference between the two of them in a post that I can quickly reference to when needed.
Everybody has their own individual credit reports that contain their credit history (e.g applications for credit, late payments etc). There are three main companies that collect, collate and maintain this data on a nationwide basis (TransUnion, Equifax & Experian). Lenders like to access this information to help in making lending decisions, for example you wouldn’t want to loan $100,000 to a person who has never paid a loan back in their life.
When somebody accesses your credit report, this is know as a credit inquiry or credit pull. But there are two different types: soft & hard.
A Soft inquiry/pull does not affect your credit score . The most classic example of when a soft pull is performed is when a lender pre-approves you for an offer (credit card, mortgage, etc), although employers and landlords have been using these soft inquiries more often. When you check your own credit score or credit report (or use a service that does this such as Credit Karma, Credit Sesame, Quizzle, Credit.com or WisePiggy) a soft pull is also done.
These inquiries are only able to be seen by the individual themselves, potential lenders cannot see these.
A Hard inquiry/pull does affect your credit score. This will affect your FICO score for a period of 12 months and can be seen by anybody that pulls your credit report for a maximum of 24 months. Hard inquiries are only supposed to be done when they are used to aid in a lending decision (e.g when you apply for a credit card), that said a lot of credit unions will also do a hard inquiry to join. A hard pull requires an individuals authorization, although any application for credit is seen as giving authorization.
A hard inquiry can be seen by anybody that views your credit report.
Restricting Your Reports
If you don’t want anybody to be able to view your credit reports, then it’s possible to restrict them. You can put credit freeze on your reports, this is typically free if you’ve been the victim of identity theft but you’ll have to pay if you haven’t been. The cost varies state & state, which you can view here.
If you still want your reports accessible, but want lenders to take additional verification steps to ensure that it’s really you applying for credit then you’ll need to place a fraud alert on your account.
I hope this made the distinction between soft & hard pulls a little clearer. You should be checking your credit reports at least once a year for any errors, if you think somebody has done a hard pull on your report when they shouldn’t have then it’s possible to dispute this and get it removed from your report.
It’s also a sign of identity theft/fraud if you see hard pulls that you didn’t authorized. You’re entitled to one credit report from each of the three credit reporting agencies once every twelve months through http://www.annaualcreditreport.com.