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Hard vs. soft credit checks: What you should know to protect your score

Keep your

Keep your "hard" credit pulls to a minimum, experts say. Credit: Getty Images/iStock

You’ve heard the terms hard and soft credit pulls, but maybe you’re not 100 percent sure what they mean. Be sure.

“Not all credit inquiries are created equal. To keep your credit score high, and [your credit] report gleaming, understand the difference between inquiries,” says Leslie Tayne, a Melville attorney specializing in financial issues.

Soft credit pull

Soft inquiries don’t affect your credit report. When you request a copy of your credit report or score, it’s considered a “soft” inquiry. “This is not seen by potential creditors and has no negative effect. In fact, review your reports from all three bureaus at least a couple of times per year,” Tayne says.

Think of soft pulls as more of a background check. They are typically found when you pre-qualify for a credit card, student loan, leasing application, or similar offer, points out Jeffrey Bumbales, director of marketing for Credibly.com, an online lending and capital platform.

Hard credit pull

A hard credit check impacts your credit score. It could make it go down, and the checking of your credit by that creditor may appear on your credit report in the future.

What’s a typical hard check? It happens when you apply for a credit card, car loan, personal loan or mortgage, or when a collector checks your credit when an account is already in collections. “Usually, you have to authorize a hard inquiry, so you won’t have to worry about being caught off guard. A hard inquiry may lower your credit score by a few points and stay on your credit report for two years,” Tayne says.

What’s the bottom line? Says Tayne: “Limit hard inquiries as much as possible. Keep track of all inquiries through credit monitoring.”

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