Hard And Soft Credit Inquiries, And How One Hurts Your Credit Score

Did you know that when a company checks out your credit report, it can damage your credit score temporarily? It depends on if the inquiry is “hard” or “soft.” Hard inquiries ding your score, soft don’t. If you’re going to get a mortgage or a car loan, a few points difference translates into a big chunk of change. So how do you know when an inquiry is going to be “soft” or “hard?”

A hard inquiry is when a person or organization requests your credit score and history and they intend to make a lending decision. Applying for a credit card? Hard inquiry. Getting approved for a car loan or mortgage loan? Hard inquiry. On your reports, each of the credit unions categorize these inquiries differently. TransUnion calls them “regular inquiries,” Experian calls them “requests viewed by others,” and Equifax calls them “Inquiries in the last 12 months.” Hard inquiries usually drop your score by a few points for six months, then their effect is removed. This is why it’s usually NOT a good idea to apply for credit cards before you get a mortgage loan.

A soft inquiry is everything else. They are often used by a person or organization when they don’t intend to make a lending decision, though there are exceptions from one institution to another. Landlords and prospective employers will use them to assess your financial risk. Banks often use soft inquiries to confirm your identity. Credit cards and mortgage lenders use them to decide whether to pre-approve you for a card or a loan. When you check your own credit history, that’s a soft inquiry. Soft inquiries have no effect on your score.

Sound simple? It’s not. Do you think a applying for a checking account would be a hard or soft inquiry? It’s actually a hard inquiry. To help you out the members of the Fatwallet forum have compiled a list of financial institutions that use hard inquiries when requesting your score and history for reasons other than credit card or loan approval.

(Scroll to bottom to see list of those that DON’T do hard pulls)


+ American Express Co. pulled Experian for a One Financial account without margin (combination brokerage/savings).
+ Ameriprise Insurance (division of American Express) – for car insurance quote (Equifax)
+ AT&T pulled Transunion for current customer moving from CA to OH initiating “new” landline
+ ATTWS – Equifax


+ Bank of America pulled Trans Union for a checking account.
+ Bank of America pulled Trans Union for a CD account opened online.(3/20/2007)
+ Bank of America pulled Experian for a checking account. (8/29/06)
+ Bank Of America – Pulled a hard enquiry after applying *only* for savings account.
+ Bank Of America – Pulled a hard enquiry on Experian for MM savings account 4/2007
+ Bank of Atlanta
+ Bank of New York pulled Experian for a checking account and a savings account.
+ BB&T pulled Equifax for a checking account.
+ Brookline Bank pulled Experian for a checking account.
+ Brown & Co. pulls a hard one for EACH account that you open with TransUnion.


+ Catholic Federal pulled TU for new membership and opening of new checking.
+ Charles Schwab Bank pulled Equifax for opening new checking and investor account (without margin option)
+ Charter One Bank pulled Equifax for a checking account under the name St. Paul Bank Corp.
+ Chase Manhattan Bank pulled Trans Union for a checking account.
+ Cingular Wireless pulled Equifax.
+ Citibank pulled Equifax (for opening 6-month CD)
+ Citibank pulled Trans Unions for a checking and savings account opened at the same time.
+ Citibank pulls hard inquiry for opening e-Savings account
+ Citizens – checking – Equifax
+ Clackamas Community Federal Credit Union – hard inquiry for savings and CD accounts
+ Comcast cable TV and HSI
+ ComED
+ Costco AMEX car insurance ran a Hard Inquiry on me
+ Countrywide (stopped pulling sometime in 2007)


+ DCU (Digital Federal Credit Union) pulls a hard inquiry from Equifax when applying for membership.
+ Directv
+ DishNetwork
+ Dollar RENT A CAR (see Thrifty below)


+ Ebank – checking – Equifax
+ Everbank – pulled Experian for a Money Market Account, as well as for a checking one.


+ Fidelity – LionBank (Not Fidelity Investments)
+ Financial Center Credit Union
+ Fifth Third – Opening Checking Account
+ Flagstar Bank – Checking – Pulls TU


+ GMAC Bank – pulled TU for their MM savings account




+ Indiana Members Credit Union
+ ING Direct – When you open Electric Orange checking account, they will hard pull Equifax to determine the overdraft credit line limit for you. No hard pull for opening Orange Savings account.


+ Johnson & Johnson by Yale & Associates on Experian- employment


+ Local gas & electric utility (We Energies – Wisconsin)
+ Local Honda dealer- check + 5K credit card
+ Local Nissan dealer (Coral Springs Nissan Auto Mall) pulled a HARD one when I browsed their inventory
+ Local Toyota dealership- cash transaction


+ Marquette National Bank — checking, savings, CD and safe deposit box
+ Meadows Credit Union pulled Trans Union for a checking account.
+ Mechanics Bank (sf) did hard pull from Equifax for a checking account.
+ Muriel Siebert & Co. pulled Experian for a brokerage account without margin.


+ National1St Credit Union – When opening an account/CD etc – Experian had pull
+ NASA Federal Credit Union – when applying for membership – Equifax hard pull


+ People’s Gas
+ Pentagon Federal Credit Union
+ Presidential Bank pulled Equifax for a checking account under the name Presidential Savings.
+ Principal Bank pulled Equifax for a checking account, also pulls for money market account according to CSR.
+ Provident Central Credit Union, Bay Area, CA – When opening an account – Experean hard pull


+ Qwest


+ Salem Five – pulled Equifax for a checking account.
+ Schwab – hard pull on Equifax for a checking account.
+ SCOTTRADE – hard pull on Equifax
+ Sprint – Long Distance for having them as the LD provider on a home phone.
+ Suntrust – pulls an Equifax for opening of a checking account


+ T-Mobile for cell phone service on Transunion or Equifax
+ TD Waterhouse/Ameritrade pulled Equifax on an exisiting customer to open IRA
+ Thrifty RENT A CAR did hard pull prior to rental


+ UFBDirect.com – 3.30% on High Yield Money Market Savings
+ US Bank ( online / phone only. soft pull when opening in branch)


+ Verizon – landline, DSL, or VoIP (on Equifax or TransUnion). Also for new cellphone account.


+ Wachovia-Trans union (or Equifax in some cases) for opening a checking account
+ Wanigas CU – Pulls to become Member, Pulls for Checking – Experian
+ Wells Fargo (When ever you make any changes like adding additional account holder, change address on your account etc, their Credit department is making a hard enquiry on Experean, I fought with them to get it Re-Classified as a soft pull, be very careful with Wells Fargo). Add this also, i change my account from regular to all advantage account (have free bill pay, checks etc) and a hard pull.

Banks that DO NOT pull hard credit inquiries

Amalgamated Bank
Countrywide Bank FSB
FNBO Direct
PNC Bank (for opening a free checking account), soft pull in Equifax
Valley National Bank of NJ
Washington Mutual
U.S. Bank (in-branch visits only)

Review that list, compiled from empirical data, to help you make your credit decisions. Note: This list is pulled from a Fatwallet group-edited post. Check the original post for the most up-to-date information.

Jim writes the blog Blueprint for Financial Prosperity.

(Photo: Getty)