There are two types of credit inquiries: soft and hard. Here's what you need to know about each.
Credit inquiries happen whenever a potential lender, creditor or individual (even you!) accesses your credit report.
There are two types of credit inquiries, otherwise known as "pulls": soft and hard.
These two kinds of inquiries are not the same. Here's what you need to know about each.
Soft credit inquiries
A soft inquiry is when someone wants to get a general idea of your creditworthiness, and it has no impact at all on your credit score. A soft inquiry is what happens when you check your own credit report — so don't be afraid to request a copy from each bureau at least once a year, or to check your score using a service like CreditPop.
That's right — checking your own credit will not hurt your credit score one bit.
Other businesses may also view submit a soft inquiry to view your credit report. The most common soft pull happens when a credit card company pre-approves you, but it also occurs when a potential landlord, insurer or employer checks your credit history to get a sense of how financially responsible you are. Thanks to the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA), access to your credit report is strictly limited.
A soft credit inquiry doesn't reveal your entire credit report. Many credit card companies simply look at your credit score to make sure you're a low-risk candidate for a pre-approved card.
Hard credit inquiries
Hard pulls, on the other hand, do affect your credit score because they indicate that you're actively pursuing one or more new lines of credit. New credit requests, such as for a mortgage, auto loan, credit card or student loan, signal that you're potentially taking on more debt. This temporarily decreases your score by a few points.
Hard inquiries usually don't have a major impact on your credit score. According to FICO, a single inquiry most likely will only bring it down five points or less. And even "rate shopping," will only negatively affect your score once if you're applying for the same type of loan from multiple lenders (as long as all the inquiries are within 30 days).
Inquiries will remain on your credit reports for two years. However, most scoring models only look at those within the past year and will ignore older ones.
Hard inquiries can add up, so be careful of damaging your credit score by opening several new accounts in a short period of time.
In fact, most lenders also have a cutoff as to how many credit applications they want to see before they approve you for more. This number can be as could be as little as two applications in a six-month span.
Similarly, rate shopping that goes on past that relatively short 30-day window can also have a greater negative impact on your credit score, as that indicates that you're looking at taking on more debt than just a single loan.
The Bottom Line
While you might not be able to change the type of inquiry, it does give you important information that can help you decide whether or not now a good time to apply for new credit. But never be afraid to check your own credit!
Now that you know the difference between hard versus soft credit inquiries, the question is — how will you use the information to make better decisions about applying for new credit?