May 5th, 2011

Credit 101: Soft & Hard Inquiries

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*Welcome to our weekly credit lessons to brush up on your credit know-how!*


Last month, we presented the credit glossary in our “Credit 101” series. Today we’ll review in-depth two often misunderstood credit terms–soft and hard inquiries.

It’s important to know the difference between soft and hard inquiries for two reasons: a soft inquiry will not affect your credit score while a hard inquiry will, and sometimes it’s unclear what type of inquiry a company or lender will initiate. So let’s find out what these inquiries mean for you and how they can affect your credit.

Soft & Hard Inquiries Defined

A soft inquiry occurs when someone checks your credit on your behalf, such as when your employer does a background check to assess financial risk or when a bank or lender verifies your identity. A soft inquiry also occurs when creditors “pre-approve” you for a loan or credit card offer or when you view your credit score on Credit Karma, which doesn’t affect your score and is always free.

A soft inquiry will never hurt your credit score, whether it’s a lender, employer, creditor, or you requesting to view your credit.

A hard inquiry is when a lender, credit card issuer, or other financial institution requests a credit check in order to decide whether or not to extend a line of credit to you, such as a credit card or auto loan. Each hard inquiry usually drops your credit score by a few points and will lessen in impact after several months, but it will remain on your credit report for two years. For this reason, applying for lots of credit at one time can significantly decrease your credit score for a period of time.

Sometimes it’s difficult to figure out which financial actions could result in a soft or hard inquiries. For some actions, like applying for a mortgage, you’ll always be hit with a hard inquiry. For other actions, it depends on the company. For instance, when you rent a car, submit an apartment rental application, or open a TV or high-speed internet account, you may be initiating a soft or hard inquiry.

For a quick guide, here’s a reference chart of actions that are categorized as soft or hard inquiries, and those that vary depending on the financial institution.

Hard Inquiry
Soft Inquiry
  • Credit card
  • Mortgage
  • Auto loan
  • Student loan
  • Bank loan
  • Apartment rental applications
  • Checking/ savings/ money market account
  • Wireless phone account
  • Applying at a credit union
  • Car rental
  • Online stock brokerages
  • TV/ high-speed internet account
  • Background check, such as credit checks by an employer
  • “Pre-approved offers” for credit cards or loans
  • Requests to see own credit score, like on Credit Karma
  • Identity verification by banks, lenders, companies

For an extensive list of which type of inquiries different actions initiate based on company, check out The Consumerist’s post.

Remember, you can always ask the company or financial institution which type of inquiry they’ll initiate on your credit before you approve it. If you’d like to see a list of the inquiries on your report from the past two years, you can get your TransUnion credit report for free from Credit Karma.

For more on hard inquiries, watch this video:

is the Social Media Manager and Writer at Credit Karma.

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Disclaimer: All information posted to this site was accurate at the time of its initial publication. Efforts have been made to keep the content up to date and accurate. However, Credit Karma does not make any guarantees about the accuracy or completeness of the information provided. For complete details of any products mentioned, visit bank or issuer website.


  1. This site I thought was neat to look at and go through. Unfortunately it doesn’t make sense or match up with actual scores. I have been looking at my soft pull on credit from this site assuming it would be close to what my credit actually is. I just bought a car only to find out my score was over 125 points higher and I qualified for a much better rate than I thought from the info provided off of this site. I almost didn’t look at what I wanted for a car because of the site and the scores it showed. If you want to know where you are truly at I’d recommend buying your scores and not using this site.

    Jim at 5:16 pm on May 17, 2011
  2. Hi Jim,
    Thanks for your comment! I’m happy to hear that you qualified for a better rate; that’s awesome! As to your point about the score Credit Karma provides, you’re partially right, our score isn’t necessarily the same score as the one your auto insurance provider checked. However, a score you pay for, like from FICO, is also not necessarily that same score. There are several different scoring models within different bureaus, and when it comes to a particular insurance or credit provider, they’ll look at a different score as well. For instance, your mortgage lender won’t want to see the same factors of a credit score as your auto loan provider. They’re assessing different aspects of your credit file. Check out this post, “Credit Score Differences” ( for some more info. Credit Karma is a great way to monitor your credit health, but no one score provided by a company, paid for or not, is guaranteed to be the score a creditor will see. That’s why Credit Karma is always free. Let us know if you have more questions!

    bethy at 5:47 pm on May 17, 2011
  3. Helpful article.

    As far as your scores being different than the one checked by the dealer…there are 3 different scores that may/may not be checked. All 3 scores are different and are calculated differently.

    S11 at 11:35 pm on January 21, 2012
  4. im just inquiring my credit card application status pls. send me an email result..

    chino r. singh at 4:16 am on February 7, 2012
  5. Hi, there! If you applied for a credit card through Credit Karma, you’ll need to contact the issuer directly to discuss the status of your application.

    bethy at 9:40 am on February 7, 2012
  6. How do I remove unauthorized hard inquiries?

    noelle at 8:01 am on March 15, 2012
  7. If the inquiry truly is in error, you can dispute it with the credit bureau reporting it. Here’s a guide on how to do so:

    bethy at 9:24 am on March 15, 2012
  8. Can you view your soft inquiries on Credit Karma?? Only seeing the hard inquiries listed. Thanks

    Rob at 11:31 am on August 25, 2012
  9. You’ll just see your hard inquiries on Credit Karma, since those are the ones that affect your credit score.

    bethy at 10:41 am on August 27, 2012
  10. Im in the process of trying to cosign for a car for my girlfriend, but I WAS NOT told it was make my credit score go from fair to poor! IM NOT HAPPY AT ALL AND SHE DIDNT EVEN GET THE CAR! THOSE HARD INQUIRES FROM THAT BETTER GET REMOVED THIS IS BS!!!

    Derek at 5:26 pm on September 8, 2012
  11. comment for JIM: we recently applied for mortgage loan. Credit check came back with three (3) scores on it. One score from each of three different reporting credit agencies. The first score (and from what our lending agent told us… is the MOST trusted by lenders and they others are just to compare that there would NOT be a large gap between any of the numbers, alerting possible problems with our score. NOT problems that we have done poorly…but, problems that our credit reports have NOT been compiled & completed accurately and fairly. this is how she explained it to us!) BACK TO THAT FIRST MAJOR SCORE ==> it was EXACTLY the same number Credit Karma showed for me! Incidently … the other 2 scores were both different from this one and from each other! As well as your credit scores can change MONTHLY at every reporting period. You are being unfair to blame Credit Karma of being erroneous! After all… even if NOT a perfect score… it sure gave you a ‘ballpark’ to start with FOR FREE!!! and you should be HAPPY the surprise was in your favor!! Thanks to Credit Karma and all those that contribute to this site!!! There is GREAT information here FOR FREE that everyone needs to know! Even us OLD FOLKS! we never had opportunities like this at our fingertips when we were young!!

    mamagirl3 at 4:54 pm on October 6, 2012
  12. how long does it take for the hard credit card inquires to drop off the credit report?

    Mark at 6:25 pm on June 26, 2013
  13. Jenna

    Hi Mark, hard credit inquiries stay on your report for two years. You can read more here:

    Jenna at 7:27 am on June 27, 2013
  14. Inquiries are made so that the person knows his or her credit report.

    Mickey Mixon at 10:11 pm on July 8, 2013
  15. Hi, I got a mail in offer for a credit card saying I’m preapproved. So if I respond to the offer will I’ll be getting a hard inquiry on my credit report?

    Rishabh Agarwal at 11:39 am on July 13, 2013
  16. Jenna

    Hi Rishabh! Any time you apply for a credit card (whether you’re preapproved or not), it results in a hard inquiry on your report.

    Jenna at 8:32 pm on July 14, 2013
  17. I am confused. Hard inquiries are what we do or don’t want on our credit report? If we only have a small amount we get an “F” but each time we get one out score is decreased? Why is that?

    Aleida C at 10:02 pm on July 29, 2013
  18. Jenna

    Hi Aleida, hard inquiries lower your score to encourage consumers not to apply for too much credit at one time. You can learn more here:

    Jenna at 9:18 am on July 30, 2013
  19. I recently got a hard inquiry that netted me a $1000.00 credit line. I noticed it still looked bad and t
    There was no mention of the credit line granted? How long before it is a positive?

    Victoria at 7:57 pm on March 10, 2014
  20. Mike

    Thanks for the question Victoria. If you have concerns about incorrect information on your CK profile, please contact Member Support directly at Thanks!

    Mike at 9:25 am on March 12, 2014
  21. Is there a way to track when hard and soft inquiries are suppose to drop off my credit report

    Levearn at 8:09 pm on May 19, 2014
  22. Mike

    Hi Levearn – You unfortunately won’t be able to find this information on your Credit Karma profile. If you’d like to look further into this, I’d suggest you visit to access your three, free, government-mandated credit reports each year.

    Mike at 3:22 pm on May 21, 2014
  23. I`ve heard of credit counselors doing hard inquiries for their clients to see how large of a mortgage they qualify for. Doesn`t this hurt them more than help? Is there anything a hard pull will reveal that a soft pull will not?

    Johnny Rockport at 11:18 pm on August 3, 2014
  24. How do I remove hard inquiries that I did not approve of???

    jessica at 10:21 pm on August 16, 2014
  25. Charmaine

    Hi Jessica, if the lender truly ran an unauthorized hard inquiry, you can try disputing it with the credit bureaus. Here’s a guide on the dispute process:

    Charmaine at 9:33 am on August 18, 2014
  26. I am new to the Credit Karma website and I saw the offers to refinance my car. I was curious to see if I could get a lower interest rate through the refinance companies that CreditKarma presents. Well, now I have at least three “hard inquiries” from companies I didn’t even know existed. I never talked to any representatives and didn’t ask for them to finance my car. I was just curious!!!! How do I get rid of these “hard inquiries. I have an “excellent” credit rating, but I have a “poor” rating as far as credit inquiries are concerned.

    Patricia at 5:15 am on January 31, 2015
  27. Mike

    Hey Patricia – I’m sorry to hear about that! If you could, I’d recommend getting into contact with our member support team about this issue. They’d be able to better identify what happened. You can find them here:


    Mike at 8:56 am on February 2, 2015
  28. I have 3 hard credit check on phone service they said to me its not a hard check only a soft check what can I do thanks stu

    stu at 4:52 am on April 14, 2015
  29. Mike

    Hi Stu – Thanks for your question. You can learn more about hard inquiries, and how to dispute incorrect ones on your credit report, here:

    Mike at 9:15 am on April 14, 2015
  30. why does a background check affect my chance’s of getting an rental apt. and how long does these bad information stay on your background info.?

    Mark at 6:02 am on September 2, 2015
  31. Enola Guerrero

    Hi Mark – I suggest asking your credit concerns in our advice center here:


    Enola Guerrero at 12:39 pm on September 3, 2015
  32. How long does it usually take for soft credit inquiries to age off my report? Also, any difference in time for employment and rental application backgrounds? Thx.

    Leslie at 1:05 pm on February 7, 2016
  33. Enola Guerrero

    Hi Leslie – It is entirely up to the lender and company on what they use for background checks. You can learn more about inquiries here,


    Enola Guerrero at 9:50 pm on February 9, 2016

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