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Soft vs. hard credit checks: What’s the difference?

You are probably aware that when you apply for a loan or credit card, the potential creditor checks or ‘pulls’ your credit report and score. But did you know there are other situations, like a prospective employer reviewing your credit report, that also register as a credit check? Here’s what you need to know about the two types of credit checks, and the different ways they affect your credit score.

What is a hard credit check?

A hard credit check is when a lender pulls your credit report because you’ve applied for new credit, such as a credit card, a car loan, a home loan or an increase to an existing line of credit. Hard credit checks can affect your credit score (the most common is your FICO® Score) because seeking new credit can make you seem like more of a risk to lenders, who may worry about your ability to pay back the debt.

Hard credit inquiries don’t hurt much

What is a soft credit check?

A soft credit check is when your credit report is pulled but you haven’t applied for credit. For example: Insurance companies or potential landlords may look at your credit report to assess risk; potential employers may do background checks. Credit card companies can also pull a soft copy of your credit to service and manage any existing relationships you may have with them. Soft checks do not affect your credit score or show up on your credit report.

Protect your credit

To keep your credit score healthy, avoid hard checks when you can. Try to say no to those store credit cards offered to you at checkout if they don’t make sense in your larger financial picture. If you rate shop for a car, student or home loan, it’s best to keep it within a 14- to 45-day window so multiple credit checks are recorded as one. Also keep an eye on your credit report. If you see a hard check you did not initiate, take action to protect yourself from identity theft.

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The material provided on this website is for informational use only and is not intended for financial, tax or investment advice. Bank of America and/or its affiliates, and Khan Academy, assume no liability for any loss or damage resulting from one’s reliance on the material provided. Please also note that such material is not updated regularly and that some of the information may not therefore be current. Consult with your own financial professional and tax advisor when making decisions regarding your financial situation.

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