What Is a Soft Inquiry?

Quick Answer

A soft inquiry occurs when you or someone you authorize checks your credit report. Soft inquiries do not affect your credit scores.
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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.

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 will stay on your credit report for two years, but their impact on your credit scores is typically minimal and will only last a few months.

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.

Can You See Soft Inquiries on Your Credit Report?

You can view the soft inquiries on your credit reports. 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) weekly through AnnualCreditReport.com. You can also check your Experian credit report for free.

Keep in mind that your three reports could have different inquiries, as an inquiry is only added to the credit report that was checked. For example, if you check your Experian credit report, the soft inquiry won't be added to your Equifax or TransUnion credit reports.

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 multiple hard inquiries from a 14- to 45-day period—depending on the type of credit score—to avoid punishing consumers who are rate shopping for installment loans such as mortgages and auto loans.

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.