How to Perform a Soft Credit Check and See Your Credit Score

Credit journeys begin with credit reports. With a copy of your report in hand, you can generate a plan: you can get out of debt, remove errors, or apply for great-value financial products, for example. If you don’t know how to do a soft credit check—or if you’re worried that you’ll damage your credit score by pulling a copy of your credit report—you’re in the right place. Read on to find out how to do a soft credit check and check your own credit score.

What Is a Soft Credit Check or Inquiry?

A soft credit check occurs when someone pulls your credit report but not to evaluate you for a loan or other credit you applied for. Here are some examples of soft credit checks:

  • You pull your own credit. If you check your own credit through any type of app or via, it’s technically a soft credit check.
  • A company pulls your credit for a preapproval offer. If you haven’t applied for additional credit but your card company pulls your credit to find out if it can send you a preapproved offer, it’s a soft inquiry and not a hard inquiry.
  • A bank checks your credit before setting up a checking account. Not all banks check your credit. When they do, it might be a soft or hard inquiry. It depends on the policies of the bank and what type of account you’re applying for. When you think someone is going to check your credit, you can always ask if it will be a soft or hard inquiry. It is important to note, any check of your credit must have your consent.

Why Do You Want to Perform a Soft Credit Check?

There are many reasons to perform a soft credit check on your own credit. Most people simply know this as “pulling their own credit report.” You should do this regularly to:

  • Check for errors. From typos to cases of mistaken identity, numerous types of errors show up on people’s credit reports. When these errors include negative information, they can reduce your credit score and impact your ability to get loans or favorable rates. When you check your credit and identify these errors, you can file a dispute to get them corrected and protect your credit history and score.
  • Understand where your credit is. Your credit score is always changing. If you conduct a soft credit pull through a service like ExtraCredit®, you can get a look at your credit scores to know where you are in the score range. This is a good idea if you’re planning to apply for credit soon, as it helps you understand what type of credit card or loan you might be approved for.
  • Make a plan for improving your credit. If your score isn’t where you want it to be, checking your credit report regularly gives you the information you need to make a plan to improve it. You might find out you don’t have a good credit mix, for example, or your credit utilization is too high. Once you discover those things, you can take specific steps to improve the situation.

Hard Versus Soft Inquiries

Two different types of credit inquiry exist: hard and soft. Applications for credit generate hard inquiries on your credit report. Soft inquiries do not show up on your credit report.

Hard Inquiries

When you apply for credit, you give the financial institution permission to pull your credit report so that it can decide whether or not to approve you. When the credit card or loan company asks for your credit report, the credit bureau notes the request—and that, in a nutshell, is a hard inquiry. 

Hard inquiries stay on your credit report for up to two years, but they make less of an impact after around 12 months. The more hard inquiries you have on your credit report, the more your score may decrease.

Tip: Companies need your permission (in the form of your application) to run a hard credit check. If you see a hard inquiry on your report that you did not authorize, you may want to work with a credit repair organization to challenge it.

Hard inquiries happen when:

  • A bank checks your credit when you apply for a loan
  • A mortgage company checks your credit when you apply for a mortgage
  • A credit card company checks your credit when you apply for a card

Soft inquiries happen when:

  • You check your own credit
  • Companies check your credit before making preapproved credit offers
  • Employers pull credit reports as part of background checks

Do Credit Inquiries Impact Your Credit Score?

Soft credit checks don’t impact your credit score at all. In fact, most people who pull your credit report can’t even see soft credit inquiries. Only you can see them on your credit report. This lets you know who’s looking at your credit information.

However, hard inquiries do impact your score. Each hard inquiry can have a slightly negative effect on your score. If you have too many hard inquiries on your credit in a short time, the impact can be bigger and more noticeable. Depending on where your credit score was in the first place, it can even be enough to drop you from good credit to only fair credit.

Why Do Hard Credit Checks Affect Your Score?

One of the reasons hard credit checks impact your score negatively is that they can be an indicator that all is not right in your financial world. Someone who’s managing money and credit well typically doesn’t need to apply for tons of credit over a few weeks or months. If you’re applying all over the place for credit, it can signal you might have money problems. That means you’re less likely to be able to pay your bills on time and as agreed, so you’re a bigger risk to creditors.

That being said, there are some occasions when people might legitimately have several hard inquiries all around the same time. If you’re shopping rates or loan terms for a mortgage or vehicle, for example, you might apply with several creditors. In these cases, numerous hard inquiries within a few weeks of each other are treated as a single inquiry as far as their impact on credit scores goes. That means the impact is minimal.

Hard inquiries typically cause your credit score to drop by a few points unless you have multiple inquiries within a short window.

How Long Do They Stay on Your Credit Report?

Hard inquiries stay on your credit report for up to 2 years. However, the impact each inquiry has on your credit score diminishes over time, and they no longer affect your score at all after 1 year.

How to Do a Soft Credit Check

Checking your own credit shouldn’t hurt your credit score one bit. You can pull your own credit report in a number of different ways.

  1. A Credit Report Card: Head over to and sign up to receive a handy credit snapshot. The Credit Report Card includes information from your Experian credit report, including your Experian VantageScore 3.0 credit score. Your report card updates every 14 days, so check back regularly to see how your score has changed.
  2. ExtraCredit®: ExtraCredit from includes five different credit-centric tools to help you monitor, build, protect, and restore your credit profile—and get cashback rewards on select offers. ExtraCredit includes reports from all three bureaus, plus 28 FICO® scores that lenders see to make credit-based decisions.
  3. Free annual reports: All United States residents are entitled to one free credit report from each credit bureau—ExperianEquifax, and TransUnion—every 12 months. To claim your free report, visit each bureau’s website or go to
  4. Paid reports: If you’re out of free reports and want to check again, you can pay credit bureaus to pull your report.

If you apply for credit but get refused, you’ll receive a letter called an “adverse action notice.” An adverse action notice gives you the right to claim a free copy of your credit report from the applicable bureau within 60 days of your credit denial.

What’s in a Credit Score?

Lots of factors influence your credit score. In basic terms, your credit score is a numerical representation of how reliable you are from a credit perspective. When you make loan repayments on time, for instance, this should have a positive impact on your credit score depending on other scoring factors. Most credit scores are based on the following five things:

  1. Payment history—35%: Do you pay credit card bills and loans on time? It’s a significant portion of your score, so make sure you pay your bills on time every month.
  2. Credit utilization—30%: Using too much of your available credit can demonstrate that you depend on credit and may have a difficult time keeping up with your financial obligations. Try to keep credit utilization under 30% across all of your accounts.
  3. Length of credit history—15%: This is the average time all your accounts have been open. To maximize your credit history, try not to close your oldest credit accounts.
  4. Types of credit—10%: Credit cards are revolving lines of credit, while mortgages and loans are installment credit lines. It’s good to have a diverse mix of credit types to demonstrate you can be responsible with all types of credit.
  5. Account inquiries—10%: When you apply for credit, lenders request credit reports, creating hard inquiries. These stay on your report for two years, so only apply for credit you truly need.

So, 90% of your credit score isn’t based on account inquiries—and soft inquiries don’t make any impact at all. Depending on your credit history and other factors though, making several applications for credit in a short time could drop your score temporarily.

Take Charge of Your Credit

Is it bad to check your credit score? In a word, no. If you’re curious about your credit report, we recommend signing up for ExtraCredit. Doing so won’t impact your credit score—in fact, the knowledge you gain could better help you maintain a good credit history. You can use the information you find to build a custom credit plan or to work to drive your score up from good to great. 

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