There are two types of credit checks: a soft pull or inquiry and hard pull. A soft pull is a surface-level glimpse at your accounts and credit history with no impact on your credit score. Soft pulls are typically performed by a potential employer or credit card issuer, or when you check your credit score and review your own report.

On the other hand, a hard inquiry is a deep dive into your credit history and management of your accounts. For most lines of credit, a hard pull is required for a lender to approve the account and officially make an offer. The biggest difference between a soft and hard pull is that a hard pull credit inquiry almost always impacts your credit score ( usually only by a few points and temporarily).

Luckily, soft pull credit cards are credit cards that don’t require a hard credit check to open an account. With a soft pull credit card, a soft credit check is all that is required to open an account.

Bankrate insight

Most scores bounce back from a hard pull within a year. Hard pulls are usually performed when applying to a new credit card account, applying for an apartment and opening accounts with some utility companies.

Comparing the best cards for soft pull

Card name Annual fee APR Welcome offer Rewards Bankrate score
OpenSky® Secured Visa® Credit Card $35 25.64% (variable) None None 3.1 / 5
Capital One Platinum Secured Credit Card $0 30.74% (Variable) None None 4.1 / 5
Self – Credit Builder Account with Secured Visa® Credit Card $25 28.74% (Variable) None None 3.1 / 5

Top cards for soft pull

If you’re interested in a credit card that only requires a soft inquiry to open an account, the number of cards available is pretty limited. But as a whole, it just requires a bit more digging. Here’s a list of a few solid soft pull credit card options.

  • Green circle with a checkmark inside

    Pros

    • Your credit limit will be equal to the security deposit provided on the account.
    • You can join an active online Open Sky Secured Card community on Facebook and access more resources on its app.
    Red circle with an X inside

    Cons

    • The card has quite a few costs, such as an annual fee and foreign transaction fees.
    • It doesn’t have any noteworthy perks, welcome bonus offers or rewards.

  • Green circle with a checkmark inside

    Pros

    • This card reports to all three credit agencies.
    • It’s possible to upgrade to an unsecured credit card with responsible card use.
    Red circle with an X inside

    Cons

    • There are no standout perks or benefits.
    • The card doesn’t offer any cash back, points or miles rewards for spending.

  • Green circle with a checkmark inside

    Pros

    • This combo acts as a credit-builder loan, credit card and savings account, improving your credit mix and potentially helping your credit score.
    • Your savings from paying off your credit-builder account serves as your refundable security deposit on your credit card.
    Red circle with an X inside

    Cons

    • The card has limited affordability, as it has an annual fee, interest, finance charges and a monthly fee.
    • You must open a Self Credit Builder account and meet the requirements before you can be considered for the credit card, so it might not be the best option if you need a credit card right away.

How to choose a soft pull credit card

When choosing a credit card that conducts a soft pull, consider the following:

  • Research the credit card issuer’s policies: Before applying for a credit card, research the issuer’s policies regarding credit checks. Look for information on whether they perform a soft pull or a hard pull during the application process.
  • Check for preapproval offers: Many credit card issuers offer preapproval checks without performing a hard credit pull. Take advantage of these offers to determine if you are likely to be approved for the card without affecting your credit score.
  • Look for credit card comparisons: Bankrate provides tools, such as CardMatchTM, that can help you filter credit card options to find those that conduct only soft credit checks. This tool also has a prequalification feature that can point you towards credit card offers that match your credit profile.
  • Reach out to the credit card issuer directly: If you’re uncertain whether a credit card provider conducts a soft pull, contact them directly and inquire about their credit check process. They should be able to clarify any doubts you have.

It’s always important to read the terms and conditions of any credit card offer to ensure you understand the credit check process and other relevant details before applying.

Soft pull credit cards vs. preapproved credit cards

Compared to a regular rewards credit card, there are drastically fewer credit cards available where the lender only requires a soft pull, and they are all secured credit cards.

While secured cards may not always be the most ideal credit card option, if you have bad credit or no credit history at all, a secured credit card that only requires a soft credit check to open an account could be  helpful. With a secured credit card, you will have to make a refundable security deposit as collateral, and your approved credit line will typically match your deposit.

Preapproved credit cards, on the other hand, have a preapproval process a potential cardholder can go through before officially applying for a credit card. During the preapproval process, the issuer will run a soft inquiry to gauge the applicant’s chances of officially being approved should they decide to apply later. However, once preapproved a hard inquiry is still performed by the credit card issuer before a final decision is made.

Preapproval does not guarantee that the issuer will go forward with your credit card application, but it’s a good indication of your chances.

Are soft pull credit cards worth it?

Soft pull credit cards are definitely a useful tool for someone with poor credit or someone who’s looking to improve their credit scores and build general creditworthiness. However, soft pull credit cards can be limiting, so reading the fine print is crucial. Also, make sure that the secured card you’re interested in has a clear pathway to graduating to an unsecured card in the future.

Although soft pull credit cards are a solid way to fix or build credit, it’s very important to explore all the avenues available.

Alternative options for soft pull credit cards

Other options to build credit, especially for those without a credit history, do exist. A lot of banks have first-time credit card account holder programs with unsecured card options. These cards could potentially be a better fit than a secured card because unsecured credit cards typically have more perks, like reward programs.

If you decide that you may need help or assistance, you can look into getting a co-signer for your secured card. This person would be liable for any debts in case the account holder becomes unable to pay for some reason. If you’re someone with no credit but aren’t ready to get a card on your own, becoming an authorized user on a parent or guardian’s card could be an option to look into.

Frequently asked questions

  • Soft pull credit cards allow issuers to check your credit profile without impacting your credit score. This type of credit inquiry doesn’t leave a mark on your credit report and is often used by issuers to offer targeted card options based on your creditworthiness.

  • Soft pull credit cards involve a preliminary check of your credit profile to determine your eligibility for a particular card offer, without affecting your credit score. On the other hand, hard pull credit cards require a more thorough credit inquiry that does impact your credit score and is usually done when you formally apply for a credit card.

  • Soft pull credit cards can be beneficial if you’re exploring your options without committing to a formal application that could potentially impact your credit score. They allow you to see potential offers tailored to your financial situation without the risk of lowering your credit score through multiple hard inquiries. However, it’s important to review the terms and benefits of the card before making a decision to ensure it coincides with your financial goals.

The bottom line

Soft pull credit cards can be a helpful option for someone with bad credit or no credit history as they create a clear pathway to improving their credit score with on-time monthly payments.

While there are a lot more preapproved credit card options than soft pull credit cards available, a preapproved credit card will require a hard inquiry down the line to officially open an account.

No matter what route you end up deciding on, it’s important to understand these key differences to determine the right avenue for you.

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