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A soft inquiry, sometimes known as a soft credit check or soft credit pull, happens when you or someone you authorize (like a potential employer) checks your credit report. They can also happen when a company such as a credit card issuer or mortgage lender checks your credit to preapprove you for an offer.
Soft inquiries don't impact your credit scores because they aren't attached to a specific application for credit. In fact, with a couple exceptions, only you can see soft inquiries on your credit report.
How Does a Soft Inquiry Work?
If you submit an application for new credit, such as a loan or credit card, the loan or card issuer will typically request a hard inquiry to check your credit. Hard inquiries can hurt your credit scores, as research shows consumers who have recently applied for credit are more likely to fall behind on a payment in the future.
By contrast, a soft inquiry may occur if someone checks your credit report but you didn't submit a new application for credit. Soft inquiries aren't an indicator of greater risk and thus don't impact your credit scores.
For example, a soft inquiry occurs when:
- You check your own credit
- One of your current creditors checks your credit
- You apply for a soft-pull preapproval with a creditor
- A company checks your credit to see if you qualify for preapproval offers
Some applications can result in either a hard or soft inquiry, including opening a bank account and renting an apartment. In these situations, you could ask the company whether it will use a hard or soft pull to check your credit.
Do Soft Inquiries Appear on a Credit Report?
You can view the soft inquiries on your credit reports, but the credit bureaus generally don't include soft inquiries on the reports that creditors receive.
There are a few exceptions, though. Insurance companies may be able to see inquiries from other insurance companies. Also, if you authorize a debt settlement company to review your credit, the resulting inquiry may be visible to your creditors. However, those inquiries still won't impact your credit scores.
If you want to get copies of your credit report, you can request one free copy from each major credit bureau (Experian, Equifax and TransUnion) every 12 months on AnnualCreditReport.com. You can also check your Experian credit report monthly for free on Experian.com.
The soft inquiries may be in their own section on your credit report. Depending on where you request your credit report, the section might be described as: soft inquiries, inquiries only you can see, requests viewed only by you, inquiries that don't affect your score or something similar.
How Do Soft Inquiries Impact Credit Scores?
Credit scoring models generate your credit score by analyzing the information in your credit report. Soft inquiries don't have any impact on your credit scores.
Hard inquiries may remain in your credit reports for about two years and they can impact your credit scores. But the impact is typically small, and credit scores tend to rebound within a few months if no new negative information gets added to your credit report. Scoring models usually only consider hard inquiries from the previous 12 months when calculating your scores.
Multiple recent hard inquiries can do more damage to your credit scores. However, credit scoring models often combine (or "deduplicate") multiple inquiries from a 14- to 45-day period—depending on the type of credit score—to avoid punishing consumers who are rate shopping.
Should You Worry About Inquiries?
In general, hard inquiries only play a minor role in your score and fear of a hard inquiry shouldn't keep you from applying for credit when you need to open a new account.
Soft inquiries are even less worrisome because you could have dozens, or even hundreds, of soft inquiries in your credit reports—and they still won't impact your credit scores.
Editorial Disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are author's alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer or other company, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities. All information, including rates and fees, are accurate as of the date of publication.
This article was originally published on July 18, 2017, and has been updated.