There are two kinds of inquiries into your credit report: hard inquiries and soft inquiries. Both involve someone viewing your credit report, but they don’t both affect your credit score. In today’s article, you’ll learn the difference between these two types of inquiries and the impact they have on your credit.

What is a soft inquiry?

A soft inquiry can happen without your permission and occurs when a person or company checks your credit report as part of a background check. Examples of soft inquiries include when:

  • You check your own credit report.
  • Lenders pre-approve you for credit cards and loan offers.
  • An employer, person, or company performs a background check on you.

Will a soft inquiry affect my credit score? No. Regardless of who makes the soft inquiry, it will not impact your credit score.

What is a hard inquiry?

A hard inquiry takes place when a financial institution – like a lender, bank, or credit card issuer – checks your credit report to make a lending decision. Hard inquiries occur when you:

  • Apply for a credit card.
  • Apply for a mortgage.
  • Apply for an auto, business, student, or personal loan.

Will a hard inquiry affect my credit score? Yes, a single hard inquiry may lower your score by a few points – but it shouldn’t be too significant. And, the inquiry may remain on your credit report for up to two years. However, the damage will decrease or disappear as time passes.

It’s important to know that multiple hard inquiries within a short amount of time can be more detrimental. Too many credit applications at one time signal that you may be desperate for spending power, or that you’re unable to get approval for the credit you need. As such, it’s important to only apply for credit when you’re most likely to get approved, and to limit hard inquiries to one or two a year.

The bottom line…

Though hard inquiries can impact your score, that reality shouldn’t stop you from applying for the credit you need. In most cases, the benefits of getting approved far outweigh the temporary effects on your score. As long as you’re discerning with your credit applications and you only allow hard inquiries when you really need it, you should be in good shape.

Please note that the information provided on this website is provided on a general basis and may not apply to your own specific individual needs, goals, financial position, experience, etc. LendKey does not guarantee that the information provided on any third-party website that LendKey offers a hyperlink to is up-to-date and accurate at the time you access it, and LendKey does not guarantee that information provided on such external websites (and this website) is best-suited for your particular circumstances. Therefore, you may want to consult with an expert (financial adviser, school financial aid office, etc.) before making financial decisions that may be discussed on this website.