Skip to content

Soft and Hard Credit Checks Explained 

Soft credit checks vs Hard credit checks 

Ella Jukwey
Written by  Ella Jukwey
Victoria Russell
Reviewed by  Victoria Russell
5 min read
Updated: 09 Nov 2023

Our guides explains the difference between hard and soft credit checks and how best to protect your credit score when applying for a credit card or loan

What is a soft credit check? 

A soft credit check on your credit record is not visible to other lenders in the same way as a hard credit check.   

This means soft searches do not impact your credit score or any future credit applications you might make.  

A soft search allows you to see what financial products you might be able to get before applying. 

This is useful because making many credit applications (resulting in hard searches) over a short period of time can negatively impact your credit score.  

You will be able to see any soft searches that have been carried out when you check your own credit report. Soft searches will remain on your credit record for 12 months.  

Woman talking on the phone holding a credit card and smiling

Who carries out soft searches? 

Soft searches, sometimes known as ‘quotation searches’ or ‘smart searches’ are carried out by lenders, brokers and comparison sites, including MoneySuperMarket, to help you check your eligibility before you apply for a credit card or loan.   

When you compare deals with MoneySuperMarket, our eligibility checker tool (which is essentially a soft search) will ask you to enter a few details, such as your name, date of birth, address and employment details.  

This information is then used to carry out a soft search on your credit record. We can then show you how likely you are to be accepted for each credit card or loan deal.  

What is a hard credit check?  

A hard credit check happens when you make an application for credit, for example when you apply for a mortgage. Hard credit searches are carried out by a company when they’re lending money to you, e.g., a credit card firm.

A hard credit check will cover an in-depth review of your credit report and can affect your credit rating. It’s important to remember that a hard inquiry will be visible to anyone who views your credit report.

You should also keep in mind that many hard credit checks in a short period of time could signal to lenders you’re having money problems. 

When will a hard credit check be used? 

A company may carry out a hard search on your credit report when:  

  • You apply for a loan, credit card or mortgage  

  • You apply to open an account with a utility company  

  • You apply for a pay-monthly mobile phone contract  

  • You apply to rent a property  

What is the difference between a hard check and a soft credit check?  

A hard credit check is made when you apply for credit (such as a credit card or loan) and it will usually be recorded on your credit rating.  

In contrast, a soft check helps give an indication of whether you’ll be approved or declined for credit before you apply and leaves no mark on your credit score.

This is the type of search used by MoneySuperMarket’s eligibility checker. 

The following table shows the difference between a hard and soft credit check 

 

Soft search

Hard search

You can see it on your own credit report

Tick icon

Tick icon

Lenders and organisations can see it on your credit report

 

Tick icon

It is recorded when you check your own credit report

Tick icon

 

It is recorded when an identity check is carried out

Tick icon

 

It is recorded when you apply for credit

 

Tick icon

It is recorded when you apply for a utility contract

 

Tick icon

It will stay on your credit record for 12 months

Tick icon

Tick icon

What are the benefits of soft searches? 

A soft search lets you check what credit deals you’re more likely to get, without harming your credit score.

This can stop you from applying for the wrong products, being rejected and harming your credit record.  

There’s no limit to how many ‘soft checks’ you can make and they won’t affect your credit score, even if you have lots of searches close together.  

Go further: What to do if you fail a credit check

How long will a hard check stay on my credit record?  

Most hard searches stay on your credit report for 12 months.

The more credit applications you make, the more hard checks will appear on your credit report.

This can influence your credit score and affect the likelihood of you getting credit in the future.  

Lots of credit applications in a short space of time may make companies think you’re in financial trouble, that you rely too much on borrowing, or that you’re a high-risk customer.  

If you have had debt problems in the past and you have a low credit score you can take steps to boost your score over time to improve your chances of getting better credit deals.  

Can I avoid hard credit checks from negatively impacting my credit score? 

A way to minimise the negative effects of hard credit checks is by avoiding taking out too many credit applications in a short space of time.

Every time you apply for credit, there will be a hard search on your credit report.

A hard credit check can affect your credit score for at least twelve months, so it’s a wise idea to space out your credit applications to lower the impact a hard inquiry can have. 

Other useful guides  

Want to find out more about how credit scores work? We have a range of helpful guides:

Check your credit score with Credit Monitor 

If you don’t know your credit score you won’t have the full picture when it comes to your finances.

A poor credit score may mean you won’t get the best deals and you could even be rejected for credit cards, loans and mortgages.

You can check your credit score for free with MoneySuperMarket’s Credit Monitor. It will help you spot and correct any errors and provide hints and tips on how to improve your rating.

Check my score