On Saturday night, I was out at a bar with some friends when an incredibly cool bar discussion topic came up. We started talking about credit scores and credit reporting. (Now you know my friends are as cool as I am.)
Even friends who understand credit were having trouble with one topic, and it is very important for your credit score. I clarified with them on Saturday, and I will clarify with all of you today.
A hard hit takes place when your bank, credit issuer, future employer, or other company pulls your full credit report for a review. If you apply for a new loan, the bank will most likely want to review your full credit history in their underwriting process. That results in a hard hit on your credit score.
Every hard hit will be visible on your credit report. If you go apply for a car loan at five different banks (a bad idea), five hard hits will be visible on your credit report. Simply put, the people who run hard hits on your report will see all previous hard hits for the last two years. Hard hits do not happen on their own. You have to explicitly give permission for a bank to run a hard hit on your credit report.
A hard hit does impact your credit score. It is not a major factor in your score compared to payment history and credit balance used, but it does have an impact. If you have more than two hard hits per year, or a whole lot of recent hits, it is a signal that you are out there trying to get big credit lines. That lowers your score and desirability to lenders.
If you are pre-approved for a credit card or insurance policy, that company ran a soft hit on your credit. A soft hit gives a limited view of your credit history. Companies do not need your permission to run a soft hit.
The nice thing about a soft hit: you are the only one who can see them.
Because you have no little control over soft hits, lenders do not get access to see who is checking you out. Banks that you have a credit card with most likely run a soft hit on your report monthly, quarterly, semi-annually, or annually to ensure your credit score has not had a dramatic change.
You can limit soft hits to your credit report. Visit OptOutPrescreen to get your name off of the lists. It is free from the credit reporting agencies. You should not pay for this type of service. If you are in the market for a new credit card, these offers are nice to receive. If you are concerned with your identity more than offers, I suggest opting out. (I have opted out)
A hard hit shows up on your credit report and can hurt your score. A soft hit is invisible to lenders and has no impact on your score.
Any questions? Leave them in the comments below.