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What is a soft inquiry?
A soft inquiry, also known as a soft pull, is a preliminary review of a person’s credit history by a lender or other entity. This may be done without the consumer’s consent — by a credit card issuer, for example — looking to preapprove potential customers for certain card offers. Soft inquiries do not hurt a person’s credit score.
A soft inquiry is done when a lender wants to offer someone a loan or line of credit before the person has shown an interest. The lender requests basic information about the person from the credit reporting agencies. This preliminary credit screening is not considered a hard inquiry, and it does not negatively impact the consumer’s credit score. Soft inquiries also occur when a consumer views his or her own credit file.
A hard inquiry, also called a hard pull, is the opposite. When a person applies for a loan, the lender delves into the applicant’s credit history to gauge their risk as a borrower. The credit agency lists the inquiry on the credit report. The hard pull shows that the consumer is looking for money. Too many hard pulls on a credit report will reduce a person’s credit score.
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Soft inquiry example
Gwen applies for a job and her prospective employer conducts a background check on her. The company looks at her credit score but does not do a full review of her credit file. This action is noted in Gwen’s credit file but will not affect her credit score as it is a soft inquiry, or soft pull. Gwen also gets “preapproved” credit card offers in the mail, but doesn’t respond to them. These offers are sent to her based on a soft pull on her credit file to see if she meets preliminary requirements for certain card offers.