If you’re in the market for a home or new car, you’re probably paying attention to your credit score. After all, the better your numbers are, the more favorable your loan terms are likely to be.
During the process of getting a loan, an inquiry pertaining to your credit report will be required. There are two types: A “hard pull” and a “soft pull.” So what’s the difference?
What’s the difference between a ‘soft pull’ vs. ‘hard pull’ on your credit report
The first thing to know about hard and soft pulls is that the three major credit-reporting agencies — Experian, Equifax and TransUnion — all handle inquiries a little differently. The most important thing to understand is that while hard credit inquiries, especially multiple ones in a short period of time, can hurt your credit score, soft inquiries have no effect.
What is a ‘soft pull’ credit inquiry?
A soft pull happens when a someone or some entity inquires of your credit because it is incidental to a verification process. An example would be if a potential employer checks your credit as part of their due diligence to authenticate your identity. You may also pull your own credit report for educational purposes.
A soft pull can be done an unlimited amount of times with no affect on your credit score. In many cases, like when you receive a credit card offer in the mail, companies may not even ask your permission to do a soft inquiry.
So, prime examples of soft pulls would be:
- Background check
- Educational purposes
- Credit card offers
What is a ‘hard pull’ credit inquiry?
A hard pull occurs when a company pulls your credit report in order to determine your worthiness for a loan. This is a serious inquiry that will determine whether the lender will extend credit to you and on what terms. For this reason, hard credit inquiries are recorded on your credit report.
Some examples of hard pulls would be:
- Mortgage application
- Credit card application
- Car loan application
- Student loan application
Hard pulls can affect your credit score for a period of time — but there are exceptions.
When you’re looking to buy a home, your credit may not be affected much at all by a hard pull. Here’s why: During that period, the credit agencies know that you’re shopping for the best deal out there, so successive credit inquiries in a matter of days for home shoppers are typically only counted as a single hard inquiry.
In many cases, that “shopping” period translates into a 14- to 45-day grace period, according to Credit Karma.
The same principle can apply to other loans as well. “Looking for new credit can equate with higher risk, but most credit scores are not affected by multiple inquiries from auto, mortgage or student loan lenders within a short period of time,” says the website MyFICO.com. “Typically, these are treated as a single inquiry and will have little impact on your credit scores.”
How much will your credit drop after a hard pull?
A hard pull can ding your credit score by several points, but not to worry, it should rebound in a short period of time.
The idea that hard pulls drastically affect your credit score may be more rooted in myth than reality, according to The Quicken Loans website. There it says:
Hard inquiries affect your credit score, but not as much as most people think. The exact amount of points isn’t known for sure, as a complex mathematical formula is used to determine the exact amount of points that are deducted. However, most hard inquiries will dock three to five points from your score.
Some credit-scoring methods will knock off as little as 10 points for what they call “new credit” inquiries, according to Discover.com. But again, that should rebound fairly quickly if your credit situation is otherwise stable.
Here are some more credit-related articles you might enjoy from Clark.com:
- The real reason consumer credit card debt remains high
- Why lenders could be using your friends to determine your credit-worthiness
- Here’s how to get truly free checking