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Soft pull credit cards are credit cards that don’t require a hard credit check to open an account. With a soft pull credit card, a soft credit check—also known as a soft pull or inquiry—is all that is required to open an account.
What is a soft pull, and what are soft pull credit cards?
There are two types of pulls or inquiries that can be performed on your credit check. A soft pull is an overview of your credit history to get a surface-level glimpse at your accounts, and it has no impact on your credit score. Soft pulls are typically performed by a potential employer or credit card issuer, or when you check your credit score and review your own report.
On the other hand, a hard inquiry is a deep dive into your credit history and management of your accounts. For most lines of credit, a hard pull is required for a lender to approve the account and officially make an offer. The biggest difference between a soft and hard pull is that a hard pull almost always impacts your credit score (although it’s usually only by a few points and is temporary).
Most scores bounce back from a hard pull within a year. Hard pulls are usually performed when applying to a new credit card account, applying for an apartment and opening accounts with some utility companies.
Soft pull credit cards vs. preapproved credit cards
While secured cards are almost always not the most ideal credit card option, if you have bad credit or no credit history at all, a secured credit card that only requires a soft credit check to open an account could be a helpful option. With a secured credit card, you will have to make a security deposit as collateral, and your approved credit line will more often than not match the deposit you put down.
Preapproved credit cards have a preapproval process a potential borrower can go through before officially applying for a credit card. During the preapproval process, the issuer will run a soft inquiry on a person as a preliminary measure to gauge their chances of officially being approved to open an account later down the line.
Preapproval does not guarantee that the issuer will go forward with your credit card application, but it’s a good indication of your chances. Once preapproved, if the person decides to go forward and submit a formal application, a hard inquiry is performed by the credit card issuer to get a more in-depth look at the potential account holder’s credit history.
Which issuers offer soft pull credit cards?
When it comes to issuers that offer soft pull cards, it greatly depends on what you define as a soft pull credit card. If you simply want to know which credit cards run a soft-pull to determine if preapproval is granted, consider checking out Bankrate’s CardMatch tool to see all the preapproved credit cards you may qualify for. In general, many credit cards do preapprovals, so at the very least you’ll know what some of your options are.
On the other hand, if you’re interested in a credit card that only requires a soft inquiry to open an account, the number of cards available is pretty limited. Some well-known issuers, like Capital One, have soft pull credit card options. As a whole, it just requires a teeny bit more digging. Here’s a list of a few solid soft pull credit card options:
Best soft pull credit cards for 2020
OpenSky® Secured Visa® Credit Card: Best for educational support on credit journey
- Regular APR: 17.39 percent (variable)
- Purchase intro APR: N/A
- Annual Fee: $35
- No hard credit check
- Your credit limit will be equal to the security deposit provided on the account.
- There’s an active online Open Sky Secured Card community on Facebook, and there’s also access to an OpenSky app with more resources on your smartphone.
Secured Mastercard® from Capital One: Best for consumers repairing bad credit
- Regular APR: 26.99 percent (variable)
- Annual fee: $0
- No hard inquiry
- Your credit limit will be equal to the security deposit you place on the card.
- After consistent monthly payments, this card reports to all 3 credit agencies.
- Down the line, it’s possible to qualify for an upgrade from a secured credit card to an unsecured credit card.
Self – Credit Builder Account with Secured Visa® Credit Card: Best for building credit with savings
- Regular APR: 26.24 percent (variable)
- Annual Fee: $25
- If you make three consecutive monthly payments on time and have at least $100 in savings, you’ll automatically be qualified for a Self Visa Credit Card without a hard inquiry.
- The borrower starts with a credit builder account that reports to all three agencies.
- Every time you make an on-time payment it’s reported to the agencies and the borrower builds a credit history and savings.
- Your savings from paying off your credit builder account serves as your refundable security deposit on your credit card.
Are soft pull credit cards worth it?
Soft pull credit cards are definitely a useful tool for someone with poor credit or someone who’s looking to improve their credit scores and build general creditworthiness. However, soft pull credit cards can be limiting, so reading the fine print on the individual credit card of interest is paramount.
Although soft pull credit cards are a solid way to fix or build credit, it’s very important to explore all the avenues available.
With all the soft pull credit cards available, not all of them are created equally. Make sure that the secured card you’re interested in has a clear pathway to graduating to an unsecured card in the future.
Other options to build credit, especially for those without a credit history do exist. A lot of banks have first-time credit card account holder programs with unsecured card options. These cards could potentially be a better fit than a secured card because regular credit cards have more perks, like reward programs.
If you decide that you may need help or assistance, you can look into getting a co-signer for your secured card. This person would be liable for any debts in case the account holder becomes unable to pay for some reason. If you’re someone with no credit but aren’t ready to get a card on your own, becoming an authorized user on a parent or guardian’s card could be an option to look into.
The bottom line
Soft pull credit cards can be a helpful option for someone with bad credit or no credit history as they create a clear pathway to improving your credit score with punctual monthly payments.
Preapproved credit cards utilize soft inquiries as a preliminary measure to gauge the likelihood of a credit card being approved down the line. There are a lot more preapproved credit card options than soft pull credit cards available; however, a preapproved credit card will require a hard inquiry down the line to officially open up an account.
No matter what route you end up deciding on, it’s important to understand these key differences to determine the right avenue for you.