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The Difference between Hard and Soft Credit Score Pulls

6 May 2013

When you’re trying to repair your credit score, there’s one cardinal rule that you must follow: do not let anyone check your credit history or your credit score. Ever. The reason for this is simple. Because every time someone pulls your credit score, it negatively affects your credit. But another cardinal rule when repairing your credit is to borrow a little bit of money and pay it back on time; so that you can show you’re a trustworthy borrower. So how are you supposed to borrow money without letting anyone pull your score? And how are you supposed to check your own score? (Yet another cardinal rule in repairing credit.)

Ah, here comes the difference between hard and soft credit pulls.

Each time you or anyone else requests a copy of your credit history, or your credit score, it’s called a “pull” and it affects your credit score. Or at least that’s what you hear time and time again when you’re trying to fix your credit. Truthfully though, only hard pulls really affect your credit score. And in some cases, allowing a soft pull could actually help your score in the long run.

Such an instance would be when you request a copy of your own credit score. Obviously, before you can begin fixing your score you need to know what’s wrong with it, and just how bad it is. Obtaining a copy of your own report will allow you to do this, and you can do so once a year with no consequence to you. This is one type of soft credit pull, and it will help you fix your credit score.

Another type of soft credit pull is when you want to purchase something as a cell phone, or when a creditor wants to pre-approve you for a card. With both of these soft pulls however, you must be very careful.

The first instance, when you’re purchasing a cell phone, will require a soft credit pull to ensure that you’re not going to run up an absurd bill on your plan. Only very basic information will be pulled from your report, and you typically don’t need a great score to be approved (although it does need to be fair.)

Paying your bill on time each month, won’t affect your credit score in the way that it will help improve any damage that you’ve done. However, not paying that bill every month will negatively affect your score, as the carrier of your phone will report that to the credit bureaus. This is just another instance of when you need to be very careful in making sure that you can afford the purchase you’re making, which is always especially pertinent when you’re trying to fix your credit.

When you’re pre-approved for a credit card on the other hand, a soft pull will be done, sometimes even without your  knowledge. The creditor wants to ensure that they’re pre-approving someone that again, at least has a fairly good score, and not one that’s barely reaching past 300.

If you accept that pre-approval however, you’ll need to embark in a full application, for which you may not ultimately get accepted. And that full application will require a hard credit check by the creditor, which will negatively affect your credit score.

Pulls on your credit score and your credit history are of huge importance when you’re trying to fix your credit. Know the difference between soft and hard pulls, and which will be performed any time someone needs to check your credit. If you’re ever in doubt, just ask the company that’s going to request it. If it’s a hard pull, and you don’t deem the risk worth it, you’re best to stick to just paying off your debt and finding other ways to repair your credit.

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