How do soft and hard credit checks differ?

What's the difference between a 'soft' and 'hard' credit check?

When a lender does a soft search, it's a preliminary check that doesn't reveal all your credit report information. This type of check is only visible to you on your credit report - so unlimited soft searches can be done without affecting your credit report or score.


A hard search is when a lender takes a full look at your credit report and score. This does leave a mark on your credit report - so prospective lenders who look at it can see that you applied for credit and if you were accepted. Most hard searches stay on your report for 12 months.