Published on April 29th, 2015 | by Chuck36
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.
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.
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.