DEFINITION of 'Soft Inquiry'

A credit report check that does not affect an individual's credit score. A soft inquiry, also called a soft pull, occurs when an individual checks his or her own credit report, when you give a potential employer permission to check your credit, when financial institutions you already do business with check your credit, and when credit card companies that want to send you preapproved offers check your credit.

You can see any soft pulls on your credit file when you check your own credit report. They will be under a subheading like “inquiries that do not affect your credit rating,” and you’ll see the requester’s name and the inquiry date.

BREAKING DOWN 'Soft Inquiry'

There are two types of credit report inquiries: hard inquiries and soft inquiries. Hard inquiries, also called hard pulls, occur when an individual applies for credit by filling out a credit card application, applying for a mortgage, applying for an auto loan or any number of other activities. Hard pulls can have a negative affect on your credit score for a few months and will stay on your credit report for two years. Credit bureaus factor hard pulls into your credit score because they assume that if you are applying for additional credit, you might be at greater risk of not paying back your existing debts. Credit bureaus don’t factor soft pulls into your score since these are inquiries you either didn’t request or that are solely for informational purposes.

If you’re concerned about the impact of hard inquiries on your credit score, don’t apply for any loans or credit you don’t need. Also, if you want to open a new bank account or start a new cell phone contract, ask if it will result in a hard credit pull before you apply. And if you ever see a hard pull on your credit report that you don’t recognize, contact the financial institution that initiated it, because it could be a sign that someone else has fraudulently applied for credit using your name. It could also be a simple error that you may be able to clear up with the credit reporting bureau.

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