Soft vs. hard credit checks

Will checking your credit report hurt your credit score?

Are you worried that checking your credit report will negatively impact your score? The truth is not all credit checks are made equal. Below, we cover the different types of credit checks and what they mean for your credit score.

What is a credit check?

A credit check (also called a credit enquiry) happens when a person or organisation accesses your credit report. This credit check can be a soft or hard credit check, with each having a different impact on your credit score

A soft credit check is triggered by:

  • Accessing your credit report directly from a credit bureau or via authorised third parties (ie. access seekers) such as mortgage brokers, financial counsellors, comparison sites, and consumer debt management companies who help you deal with credit providers; or
  • When a credit provider or authorised third party obtains your credit information for rate offer purposes, they must indicate that this is a soft check. Each soft credit check is recorded on your credit file but will not be shown on credit reports provided to credit providers and will not affect your credit score

A hard credit check (or hard credit enquiry) is triggered when a credit provider requests access to your full credit report after you apply for credit, so the credit provider can review your report for details such as the number and types of accounts you hold, your repayment history, and your credit score. This action is recorded on your credit report as a credit enquiry and may affect your credit score.  

A hard credit check may be made when you:

  • Apply for a new loan or credit.
  • Refinance an existing loan or credit product.

Who can access my credit report?

Credit providers you’ve applied for credit with can access your credit report, such as banks, finance companies, and utility providers. They must inform you if they intend to access your credit report as part of the application process. Your credit report can also be accessed by an authorised third party. 

How long does a credit check stay on your report?

Hard credit checks can stay on your report for five years and are visible to credit providers when accessing your credit report. Soft credit checks may also remain on your credit report for five years, and will not impact your credit score.   

Making multiple credit applications can negatively impact your credit score. To minimise the potential impact of hard credit checks, you can check your Equifax credit report before applying for a loan or credit. If your credit score is low, you can improve it before applying for credit and increase your chance of approval. 

How to check your credit report

To check your credit report, get your free Equifax Credit Report* or see our subscription plans to help you manage your credit profile and protect your identity.

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