Posted by Chuck on April 29, 2015
Credit Cards

Published on April 29th, 2015 | by Chuck

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Hard Inquiry from Cellphone Providers, Citi/AT&T Credit Card

Citi recently added another co-branded card with AT&T which comes with a unique signup bonus of a $650 credit toward the purchase of a new phone. See our full review of the new credit card here.

AT&T Service Requirement

One of the requirements needed to trigger the signup bonus is to actually signup for an AT&T plan. Here’s the official terms:

You must activate the phone with qualifying AT&T postpaid wireless service (including voice and data as applicable) and keep the phone, and remain active and in good-standing, for at least 15 days.

In order to qualify, you need to activate the phone with a post-paid service plan, prepaid won’t work. Note that you don’t need to enter a contract on the phone – this is also mentioned specifically in the terms. Contracts are usually in cases when you are receiving a free phone from the provider and they need to bind you for, say, 24 months to a particular plan so that it can be worth their while to give you a free phone. In our case, you’re paying for the phone yourself and Citi is crediting you for it. As such, there’s no need to enter a contract. However, the terms do require us to sign up for a service plan and keep it for for 15 days in order to qualify for the bonus.

Double Inquiries

Update: More info in this post

The big question here is whether you’ll receive another hard pull from AT&T when signing up for the service plan, besides for the pull which was done by Citi when you signed up for the credit card. Will  this credit card necessitate double pulling of your credit file? If the card needs 2 credit pulls, then that could really impact our decision of whether it’s worthwhile signing up for the card.

Note that even if you plan on canceling after 15 days, you’ll still need to sign up for a regular service plan and receive any inquiries that come with it.

A Google search seems to indicate strongly that signing up for cell phone service invariably results in a hard pull. On creditboards.com, for example, there are lots of reports on AT&T signups resulting in a hard  pull. Equifax seems to be the standard (though there’s no recent data points).

There is, however, a chance that (a) this changed more recently, and  (b) perhaps there’s a difference between entering into a contract with a cell phone provider and entering into a service agreement. As noted, in our case a contract is not necessary, only a service agreement.

AT&T Response

We haven’t yet received an official response from AT&T and I tried my luck with ordinary CSRs (read: don’t rely on this).

Both CSRs had an immediate, knee-jerk reaction that there is no effect on credit when signing up for service/contract with AT&T.

The first chat rep later verified for me (apparently based on asking her supervisor) that there is indeed a hard inquiry done. Only when an existing AT&T customer changes a plan do they do a soft inquiry, but new customers will receive a hard inquiry. I then asked her which bureau they pull from and she verified for me that they pull, in fact, all 3 credit bureaus. This appeared to have been the response she got from her supervisor.

I then tried my luck with a second CSR and he spoke to two separate supervisors and both insisted that there’s no impact on credit and it’s just a soft inquiry. It is possible, however, that they were confusing the scenario of an existing AT&T customer who signs up for a new plan and a brand new AT&T customer.

I also didn’t discuss with either rep whether there’s a difference between someone who enters a contract agreement versus someone who merely enters a service agreement without a contract.

If anyone has any data points, please let us know:

  • Did you do the AT&T deal with Citi? Was there a hard pull from AT&T?
  • Did you signup with AT&T as a new customer within the past year? Was it a hard pull? Which bureau?
  • Did you ever signup with AT&T for a service plan without a contract? Was it a hard pull?

Any info would be appreciated. Hopefully, we’ll get an official reply from AT&T (not positive this will happen) and we’ll let you know.



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Andrew C
Andrew C

Okay, not exactly what you’re asking for, but I’ve avoided hard pulls from Verizon Wireless, Verizon FiOS, and Comcast by paying a deposit (on credit card, naturally) upfront to avoid a hard pull. They don’t actually take your SSN in those cases.

Henri
Henri

It is a hard inquiry when I signed up for ATT and comcast. I saw that on my credit report last year.

aresay
aresay

I know T-Mobile has a no-credit-check post-paid plan (although it is more limited than the regular Simple Choice plan). You do need to pay a deposit. Maybe AT&T has something similar?

Mason
Mason

I’ve had att for years and never had my credit pulled by them. Not when I initially switched and not anytime that I changed plans.

Estelle
Estelle

I work for AT&T wireless. When setting up a new account, there is a hard pull. Mine was from Equifax. For an existing AT&T customer there is no hard pull after 6 months of service.

William Charles

Don’t suppose you know what phones are eligible for the new access more benefit and their prices?

Fabbeyond
Fabbeyond

Wait so I went to at&t yesterday to get a new phone (I’ have been with at&t for 5 years pre paid) I go and check my credit score and I see a hard pull inquiry . I didn’t evening get a phone nor put in a deposit . I’m confuse . The rep didn’t say anything about a hard pull .can this be disputed

Mark
Mark

On another note, this offer does work for existing ATT customers, right? Buy the phone through the link, activate on an existing ATT line. A little bit scared now that it’s only meant for new customers, though it doesn’t say so explicitly.

ivan
ivan

I signed up for At&t phone service last year. I brought my own phone and they still did a hard inquiry. They pulled Equifax.

HoKo
HoKo

Any idea how this would work for people that already have AT&T service? I am on a standard 2 year contract (some other family members are on the plan as well but I am the primary account holder). We will be eligible for normal upgrades in Jan’16 but I’d like to get a new phone now…do you think if I got a new phone using this credit card offer I could just add it to my existing plan and sell my existing phone on eBay or something?

I also have a record of which bureau they pulled for me but I’m not in front of my computer at the moment so I will come back and update with that information later

Parkerthon
Parkerthon

They don’t hard pull you as an existing customer making changes and yes you could. Might be an activation fee though. That said the bring your own phone plans and financed deal(edge i think?) has a monthly discount per line to account for giving up the subsidized option which is nice. $15 a line i think. Activation fee was like $30.

HoKo
HoKo

Good to know, the issue is because I have other people on this plan and am under contract until January 2016 I don’t think I’d be able to take advantage of one of those plans you mentioned, I would just need to use the new phone on my existing plan

Parkerthon
Parkerthon

If the other phones are subsidized phones you bought that put you under contract, you’d definitely have an activation fee for a phone you buy outright. You’re right you wouldn’t get the discount although it is based on the line not account age whether you’re under obligation still I think.

Parkerthon
Parkerthon

Like what I’m saying is if anyone is outside 2 year mark on their phone they would give you one line thats eligible for an upgrade/bring your own phone plus discount that entails. Its not uncommon families are staggered like that and they’ll work with you.

HoKo
HoKo

Yeah, that makes sense

Parkerthon
Parkerthon

AT&T hard pulled my credit when I switched to a post paid service with them in 12/14. It wasn’t all three bureaus though. I’d have to pull all my credit reports to see which one it was they pulled.

Mike
Mike

I was told bc i’m uverse customer, sign up for wireless would only be Sp. So i did and they HP me anw, i disputed it and got it removed within a month

HoKo
HoKo

AT&T pulled equifax for me in DC 18 months ago

Marco
Marco

Not related to Citi AT&T card.

But I have a hard inquiry on Equifax’s report when I signed a 2-yr contract with AT&T.

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