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Credit Card eZine - News and Articles about Credit Cards

Credit Card eZine - News and Articles about Credit Cards

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A Soft Inquiry and a Hard Inquiry – All You Should Know

[June 7th, 2019]

What is a Credit Inquiry?

Fair Isaac Corporation or FICO, well-known for its FICO® Score – a credit risk score model, defines a credit inquiry as a “request by a “legitimate business” to check your credit.” That means that when a potential creditor wants to check your creditworthiness, they apply to the credit bureaus for a credit report with the mentioned above FICO® Score, i.e. make an inquiry. Such inquiries are also called “credit pulls”.

The first thing you should learn is that inquiries may get reflected in your credit report. But do all inquiries affect your score? There are two types of inquiries that we will consider in more detail below.

What is a Soft Inquiry?

Soft inquiries, or “soft pulls”, occur when lenders, credit card companies or insurance companies examine your credit as a part of a background check in order to pre-approve you for their offers. As a rule, you won’t even know that a soft inquiry has taken place since these companies are able to do it without asking your permission.

Probably, sometimes you find some credit card offers in the mail or email. In such cases, issuers generally run a soft inquiry in advance to see whether you meet their credit requirements. Employers may do a background check as well before hiring you. Besides that, when you yourself check your credit, it is also marked as a soft inquiry.

Fortunately, soft inquiries do not affect your credit score. In some cases, they can be not recorded in the reports at all. Anyway, no one has access to see this type of inquiries except you and sometimes insurance companies that may be able to see only other insurance companies’ inquiries.

What is a Hard Inquiry?

When you apply for a credit line, you permit lenders to check your credit report and credit score from the credit bureaus, so that they could make a decision on your approval. At this moment, hard inquiries, or “hard pulls”, occur. Generally, hard inquiries are made when you apply for a credit card, a mortgage, an auto loan, a personal loan, a student loan, for an apartment rental, a cell phone contract or when you acquire new utility accounts.

Note that, unlike soft inquiries, hard inquiries always appear in your credit reports and can affect your score badly. They typically stay on your credit reports for about two years and are visible to anyone who requests your report. It may seem not so significant, but you totally shouldn’t neglect it. Sometimes one grain of sand is enough to finally tip the scale. Therefore, you may be approved only for a higher annual fee and/or APRs.

Tips to Minimize Risks

  • Always ask potential creditors or other companies that want to verify your identity, what kind of inquiry they are to make.
  • From time to time, check your credit reports for the presence of suspicious hard inquiries. In case you reveal a fraud, you can dispute it with the credit bureau or bureaus and with the company that made the inquiry.
  • Try to avoid applying for a heap of different credit cards or loans. Otherwise, you tend to become a high-risk customer for lenders. However, if multiple inquiries for the same type of loan or credit card are made within 45 days, FICO may consider them as a single inquiry.
  • Choose credit products more thoroughly relying on your credit and apply only for those you are likely to qualify for.
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