Credit Inquiries—Hard Pulls vs. Soft Pulls

Last year, my friend Marielys was looking to finance a vehicle. At the time she had what she referred to as “baby credit”– a short credit history with few accounts. She continued her search for four months and allowed auto lender after auto lender to pull her credit. In the end, due to numerous credit checks, she was denied financing and left with her old Subaru.

Any time you apply for credit (a loan, new credit card, a new line of credit) the lender will request a copy of your credit report from one of the three credit bureaus, Experian, Equifax, or TransUnion. This is noted as an “inquiry” in the applicants credit file. There are two types of inquires–a hard pull and a soft pull.

A soft pull includes requests for your own credit report; credit checks performed by companies that want to send you a marketing offer (i.e. credit card solicitation); and inquiries made by lenders or other businesses with which you already have an account and inquiries made by prospective employers.

“Checking your own credit score will have no impact and these [soft] inquiries don’t appear on the credit report that lenders see,” says Jennifer Costello, director of public relations at Equifax.

But multiple [hard] inquiries in a short period of time can be equated with higher risk. These inquiries are reported on a credit file in situations where a consumer has authorized a company such as a mortgage or auto lender, bank, etc. to request a copy of their credit report explains Costello.

According to, large numbers of hard inquiries statistically show that people with six inquiries or more on their credit reports can be up to eight times more likely to declare bankruptcy than people with no inquiries on their reports.

So how do you protect your credit while loan shopping? I posed this question to Fair Isaac, the company that designed the credit scoring model. Let’s get to the bottom of this.