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If you’ve ever applied for a loan or a credit card, you may have come across the terms “soft credit check” and “hard credit check.” But what do these terms mean? And more importantly, what’s the difference between the two? Let’s take a closer look.

What is a soft credit check?

A soft credit check is also known as a “soft pull.” This kind of credit check does not appear on your credit report and therefore does not impact your credit score. When a lender does a soft pull, they usually try to get a general idea of your creditworthiness. They may check to see if you have any outstanding debts or have made your payments on time.

So, what information do lenders see when they conduct a soft credit check? Generally speaking, they’ll be able to see your personal information (e.g., name, address, etc.), your credit history and any current debts you may have.

This type of credit check is typically conducted when you’re applying for something that doesn’t require a detailed look at your financial history—such as a store credit card or a cell phone contract.

What is a hard credit check?

On the other hand, a hard credit check is also known as a “hard pull.” This kind of credit check appears on your credit report and can impact your credit score—usually by about 5 points. Lenders will do a hard pull when trying to get detailed information about your financial history. For example, they may be trying to verify your income or employment status.

When conducting a hard credit check, lenders can also see how much money you’ve borrowed in the past and whether you’ve made your payments on time. In short, hard checks give lenders a more detailed overview of your financial history.

Hard credit checks are more detailed and usually reserved for when you’re applying for loans and lines of credit that require a thorough look at your financial history.

At Marsh Finance, we only conduct a hard credit check when you’ve found a car you love, have been pre-approved for finance and are ready to execute your finance agreement. You can check if you’re approved for car finance without impacting your credit score here.

To recap, what is the difference between a soft credit check and a hard credit check?

Soft credit checks are not visible to anyone but you on your credit report, and it doesn’t matter how many applications you make; it will not impact your credit score.

Hard credit checks – these are more thorough checks that are visible to other lenders for 12 months. At Marsh Finance, we recommend you minimise these as much as possible. One hard credit check may only impact your credit score slightly and will only show on your credit report for 12 months. Multiple hard credit checks could make you appear as a higher risk, and you might end up with no credit or a higher APR.

How Does it Affect My Credit Score?

As we mentioned earlier, soft checks do not impact your credit score, and other lenders cannot see that these searches have taken place.

Hard checks will result in a slight dip in your credit score—usually no more than 5 points. This dip is temporary; your score should rebound after a few months. However, it’s essential to keep the number of ‘hard credit search’ applications you make per year to a minimum, as lenders dislike multiple credit enquiries.

Who would perform a credit check?

There are a variety of organisations that could request to perform a credit check. The type of check undertaken will depend on the credit type that you’re applying for.

  • Banks and building societies
  • Credit providers (such as car finance lenders)
  • Utility suppliers (e.g., gas, water, and electricity)
  • Letting agencies and landlords
  • Mortgage providers
  • Mobile phone companies
  • Some employers (although they won’t see your full report)

Companies will only look at your credit report for a legitimate reason. An example might be that you’ve just applied for a loan, and they need to do a credit check so they can move forward with your application.

Did you know that you can find out if you’ve been accepted for car finance without impacting your credit score at Marsh Finance? Apply here.

How do credit checks work?

  • When undertaking a credit check, a lender will request some personal information from you. Remember, organisations should only conduct a credit check for a legitimate reason.
  • Lenders use the information they receive from a credit check to help them determine how responsible it is for them to lend to you.
  • They check how responsible it would be to lend to someone by looking at things such as:
  • Your credit score
  • How many loans and/or credit cards do you currently have
  • The usage or credit utilisation of your current finance agreements
  • Your affordability (outgoings vs incoming)
  • How regularly do you make repayments (or if you’ve missed any payments!)
  • If you’re on the electoral roll and how long have you been there
  • Whether you have moved address in the last few years
  • If you have a joint financial partnership with someone who has poor credit

How long do hard credit searches stay on your credit file?

Hard credit check searches are visible to other lenders for 12 months post-application. As mentioned earlier, you must try to limit the number of hard credit searches on your file, as these can impact your credit score.

How many are too many? Each lender is different and will have bespoke lending criteria to estimate an individual’s creditworthiness. However, we suggest that six is the maximum number of hard credit checks you should undertake each year.

Soft checks are visible to you for 12 months, but other lenders cannot see these – so there is no limit to the number of applications you can make.

How can I check my credit score?

There are a variety of ways of checking your score online. The leading credit reference agencies are Experian, Equifax and TransUnion. However, there are plenty of ways to access your credit report online; some are free such as ClearScore. See below:

Experian

Equifax

CheckMyFile

TransUnion

If you’re curious about your credit score and want to know how it’s affecting your ability to get car finance, , you can use our free pre-approval tool without impacting your credit score. Click here to apply for car finance with Marsh today!