Credit Inquiries: Hard Pull vs. Soft Pull

The terms “hard pull” and “soft pull” or “hard credit check” and “soft credit check” often pop up when people talk about credit report, credit history, or credit inquiries. So what exactly are they and how do they affect credit scores?

What Are Hard Pull and Soft Pull?

“Hard pull” usually refers to credit inquiries that are initiated by you. When you, for example, apply for a credit card or a mortgage or sign up a new wireless service, the lender will run a credit check to determine whether to grant you the loan and, if so, at what rate. These inquiries are usually called voluntary inquiries.

However, not every voluntary credit inquiry will be treated as “hard pull.” For example, when I applied for the FNBO account last month, only “soft pull” was conducted. “Soft pull,” also known as involuntary inquiry, happens when creditors want to send you pre-approved credit applications, or when they want to verify the accuracy of the information you provide (in the FNBO case). Also when you check your own credit history, the entry will appear as a “soft pull” as well.

How They Appear on Credit Reports

In the past year, I have obtained my credit reports from all three credit bureaus and they all report both “hard pulls” and “soft pulls”, though with slightly different terminologies.

TransUnion lists credit inquiries in two categories:

  • Regularly inquiries: These are equivalent to “hard pulls” and will remain on the credit report for two years;
  • Account review inquiries: These are “soft pulls” and according to TransUnion, companies use “soft pulls” for the purpose of an account review or other business transaction with you. These inquiries are not displayed to anyone but you and will not affect any creditor’s decision or any score.

Experian shows credit checks as

  • Requests viewed by others: These requests are usually “hard pulls” as they are results of actions involving you, such as the completion of a credit application or the transfer of an account to a collection agency, application for insurance, mortgage or loan application, etc. Creditors may view these requests when evaluating your creditworthiness.
  • Requests viewed only by you: These are “soft pulls” that are not available to creditors when they evaluate your credit.

Equifax displays inquiries in three parts:

  • Inquiries in the last 12 months: These inquiries are “hard” or voluntary inquiries and were generated because you authorized the companies listed to request a copy of your credit report. Most credit scores are calculated using only inquiries from the last 12 months. Your credit score is generally not affected by several inquiries that are posted at about the same time, such as when you shop for the best auto loan or mortgage rates.
  • Inquiries that do not display to companies and do not impact your credit score: These are “soft” inquiries from previous definition. These inquiries are not shown to creditors and, thus, are not considered in credit evaluation.
  • Companies that requested your credit file: This section is unique to Equifax as the other two don’t have a third category. What interesting is that it’s unclear whether the information under this category will affect credit score because Equifax says lenders “may view these requests when evaluating your credit worthiness.”

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How They Affect Your Credit Scores

From the descriptions above, we can see that “soft pulls” will not affect credit scores as those inquiries are not included in the information that is available to lenders. It’s the “hard pull” that will have an impact on credit score. According to the report I received from myFICO,

FICO scores only consider the voluntary inquiries listed on your credit report from the past twelve months.

Even that, a single inquiry is not going to have any significant impact on your credit score.


According to myFICO, the way FICO is calculating the credit score shows that new credit, which is the result of your voluntary inquiry, only counts 10% of the overall credit score.

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Who Performs Hard Pull has a list of financial institutions that perform “hard” credit inquiries when one applies for financial products other than a credit card or a loan. I consider this information useful when, for example, two banks offer similar products with same rates, but one does soft pull and one pulls a hard one, then I will choose the former over the latter. Also, if one plans to get a mortgage soon, then opening multiple checking/savings accounts or brokerage accounts from institutions that do conduct “hard” inquiries will affect the credit scores and, thus, the interest rates.

I edited the list (shortened it) to it only contains entries that are of general interests. Use the link above to access the complete list.

  • American Express – for a One Financial account
  • Ameriprise Insurance – for car insurance quote
  • AT&T – for wireless phone account
  • Bank of America – for checking/savings/MM/CD accounts
  • Bank of New York – for checking/savings account
  • Brown & Co. – for every account
  • Chase Manhattan Bank – for checking account
  • Cingular Wireless – for wireless phone account
  • Citibank – for checking/savings/ e-Savings/CD account
  • Comcast cable – for TV/high speed internet account
  • Ebank – for checking account
  • Everbank – for checking/money market account
  • GMAC Bank – for money market account
  • ING Direct – for Electric Orange checking account
  • Presidential Bank – for checking account
  • Schwab – for checking account
  • Scottrade – hard pull on Equifax
  • State Farm Auto Insurance – for auto insurance quote
  • T-Mobile – for wireless phone account
  • TD Ameritrade – for IRA account
  • – for money market savings account
  • Verizon – for phone/DSL/VoIP/wireless phone account
  • Wachovia – for checking account
  • Wells Fargo – for changing address or adding additional account holder on existing account

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16 Responses to “Credit Inquiries: Hard Pull vs. Soft Pull”

  1. El Indio |  Jun 11, 2007 at 2:50 pm

    Very interesting to see the simplified list of people doing hard pulls. I had no idea my phone and cable companies dinked my credit. I guess I couldn’t avoid it but it’s good to be informed, definitely.

  2. Richard |  Jun 11, 2007 at 5:54 pm

    GMAC MMA does *not* do a hard credit pull. I opened one a couple months ago, checked my credit reports (all 3) today, and GMAC did NOT show up on any of the reports.

  3. Sun |  Jun 12, 2007 at 8:10 am

    Richard: Actually, that’s what I heard from people about GMAC bank doing a hard pull (I don’t use GMAC). However, this is what I found on their disclosure page:

    “By submitting your application for a product(s) you authorize GMAC Bank to obtain a consumer credit report as part of the review of your application.”

    So they do perform credit check. Could it be possible that the inquiry is not showing up on your reports yet?

  4. Richard |  Jun 12, 2007 at 11:24 am

    I’ve found that many institutions (especially banks and brokerages) that do NOT do a hard credit pull, use that language in their disclosures nonetheless.

    I suppose it’s *possible* that the hit hasn’t shown up yet, although I opened that account about a month and a half ago, and there’s nothing there now….

  5. WH |  Jun 16, 2007 at 9:38 am

    To request extension of my credit line for Citibank, I must authorise a credit check…how can I tell if it’s a “hard” or “soft” pull without checking my credit report? Thanks!

  6. Sun |  Jun 17, 2007 at 3:58 pm

    WH: I think you generally can’t tell whether it’s a hard pull or soft pull without checking your credit report, unless they explicitly tell you what it will be, which I doubt they will do. For Citi cards, did you try their automatic request of credit line increase? That is, you just accept whatever they offer you when you request an increase. I used it before and every time I can get like $1500 or $2000 increase, but not now. Now whenever I try to get an increase, they ask me to provide all the information and I suspect that they will do a credit check, so I don’t use that tool any more. It’s safer to just call them ask for an increase and at the same time check with them whether there will be a credit check or not. I once tried to get an increase for my Discover card over the phone and they told me they will do a credit check, so I abandoned the idea.

  7. WH |  Jun 20, 2007 at 9:18 am

    Sun, Thanks for the tip!

  8. Kammie |  Jun 21, 2007 at 9:35 am

    does anyone knows of a credit card that pulls a soft pull first and then if they think you may quality then they do a hard pull?

  9. Sun |  Jun 21, 2007 at 2:03 pm

    Kammie: As far as I know, there should be no difference between what the creditors are seeing when they do a either a soft or hard pull. They are seeing the same credit history. The part of information that nobody but you can see is the soft inquiries. Therefore, it doesn’t make too much sense to me if to do a soft pull than a hard pull. They are not getting any new information. However, the situation you described could be like this: the creditor think you qualify for a credit card and before sending you the pre-approved application, they do a soft pull. When you get the letter and use it to apply for the card, they will do a hard pull since you essentially apply for a new card, though it has been pre-approved. Thus, you probably will see a soft pull and a hard pull from the same creditor. I don’t know if this is really the case, but this is what I can think of.

  10. Kammie |  Jun 21, 2007 at 3:28 pm

    i know hsbc does a pre approved then you continue with the application it does a hard pull. i was just wondering if there is another card or loan that does that online? i’m trying to keep down the hard pulls. i want to know if i have a chance before i apply.

  11. credit card user |  Jun 26, 2007 at 7:05 am

    I’ve heard that your employer might check your credit report. Is he eligeble to do that? Is this considered to be a soft pull?

  12. Larry |  Jan 18, 2008 at 11:32 am

    very informative content here. This is what actually i was looking. Thanks for this post. It helped me to understand lot of things. Again thanks very much.

  13. Paige |  Sep 08, 2008 at 2:27 pm

    Just a funny observation, but all my friends who have a Macy’s card do not know what a hard pull is, who ever knows what a hard pull is doesn’t have a Macy’s or any other store credit card. It may just be an amusing co-incidence :)

  14. Becky Esplen |  Oct 01, 2008 at 10:12 pm

    Is it agaist the law for someone to run your credit with a hard pull with out your knowledge of it?

  15. Art Anderson |  Nov 01, 2008 at 7:16 pm

    Does anyone know if every bank does a CHEX report for every checking account or do any just pull a credit report?

  16. debt relief |  Jan 15, 2009 at 11:59 pm

    Insurance companies run credit and they are supposed to be considered inquiries and not placed with the same emphasis as buying a car or home. Yet, I think if you have enough of those your credit can get dinged a little bit.