What Is A Credit Check?
A credit check is a financial inquiry that credit card companies, banks, and other lenders make about you by contacting the three main credit bureaus.
During a credit check, the following information will be supplied to a prospective lender:
- Your full name, date of birth, and Social Security Number (SSN)
- Your last known physical address
- A list of all the credit accounts you currently have including credit cards, personal loans, auto loans, student debt, mortgages, and other forms of credit
- The total amount of credit available to you at the time of the check also known as your total credit balance
- The amount of total credit you have used which is referred to as credit utilization
- Your payment history including any late or skipped payments
- Delinquent payments that have been handed over for collection.
Bankruptcies, foreclosures, and tax liens, if applicable
A credit check provides would-be lenders with a full picture of your credit usage, your payment behavior, and how much you currently owe your existing credit providers.
This gives them a few clues as to how reliable you are as a borrower and more importantly, how much you can afford to borrow.
What Is A Hard Credit Check?
Earlier we mentioned that there are two types of credit checks: soft and hard.
A hard credit check is a comprehensive search of your credit history. It can only be performed with your prior permission.
- When you apply for a credit card, loan, property rental or other types of credit, you may notice a section in your application where the credit provider asks for your permission to run a credit check.
- This will almost always be a hard credit check.
- A hard credit check will provide your lender with a comprehensive list of all the information we mentioned in the previous section.
- Based on this information and your credit score, they will assess your application and decide whether to approve your application or not.
It’s important to note that a hard credit check will knock several points off your credit score.
We’ll cover this process in more detail below.
What Is A Soft Credit Check?
A soft credit check is less comprehensive and is “softer” on your credit score.
In fact, it won’t affect your FICO and VantageScore scores at all.
- Soft credit checks can be carried out with or without your permission.
- A soft credit check will give your lender a general overview of your credit situation and they will have access to your credit score.
- This type of credit check is often done by lenders before they pre-approve you for special offers or by prospective employers which wish to verify your identity.
- You can also perform a soft credit check on yourself by requesting your free annual credit report.
There are certain jobs (like those in the financial management industry) which require a hard credit check during the application process.
If a prospective employer requires this type of check, they will need to obtain your written permission before carrying it out.
What Is The Difference Between Soft And Hard Credit Checks?
There are several key differences between hard and soft credit checks - both in terms of the process involved and the impact on your credit score.
They appear in the table below.
Type of Credit Check
What creditors use it
Is your permission required?
Impact on your credit score
|Hard Credit Check|
Credit cards; loans; mobile phone contracts; credit limit increases
FICO: 5-10 points reduction approx.
VantageScore: 10-20 points approx.
|Soft Credit Check||Pre-approvals; prospective employers; insurance providers; background checks||No||None|
Hard credit checks are performed as part of formal applications.
By the time a hard pull is done, you will be well aware of the credit provider that carried it out because you would have given them your permission.
You’ll want to alert the credit bureau if you notice a hard credit check listed on your credit report and don’t recognize the company that requested it.
It could be a sign that your privacy has been breached.
How Do Credit Checks Impact Your Credit Score?
The major difference between a hard and soft credit check is the effect that each one has on your credit score.
- A hard pull will reduce your credit score by up to 10 points for FICO and 20 points for VantageScore.
- A soft score will have no impact on your credit score at all.
Soft credit checks are perfectly harmless from a credit score point of view.
That’s why credit providers carry them out so often when they pre-approve you for credit cards, loans, and other products.
Hard credit checks do affect your credit score and accordingly, it’s important to keep them to a minimum.
You can achieve this by not applying for too much credit at once.
Space out your credit applications by several months to give your credit score time to recover.
Soft and hard credit checks are two types of financial inquiries that lenders can make about you with the credit bureaus.
A hard credit check is a comprehensive report that can cause your credit score to drop by up to 20 points.
A soft credit check is a summary report that has no effect on your credit score.
Soft credit checks can be carried out as often as needed and won’t affect your FICO score.
Hard credit checks will drop your score and should be kept to a minimum and spaced out by several months.