Soft pull credit cards can help you avoid the credit ding that comes with a hard inquiry, but your options are limited. Instead of worrying about the temporary credit impact of applying, it’s best to focus on how much flexibility and long-term value a new card offers.
Soft pull credit cards can be easy to find or exceedingly rare – it all depends on how you define them.
If you’re simply looking for a card that offers preapproval or prequalification with only a soft pull of your credit report, you have plenty of options. Most major issuers offer prequalification tools on some or all of their cards, which should help you get a better sense of your odds of approval before you apply.
Finding a card that lets you actually apply or open an account with only a soft credit inquiry is much more difficult. Applying for a new credit card will almost always result in a hard pull of your credit report, which will temporarily lower your credit score.
That said, a few card options are available if you’re looking to avoid a hard pull, and they may be useful if you have bad credit or a limited credit history and want to protect your score. In most cases, though, you’ll be better off taking a temporary credit score hit in exchange for a card that offers better long-term value.
See related: What to look for in a credit card
What is a soft credit pull?
A soft pull, also called a soft inquiry, happens when you or someone you authorize – like a landlord or potential employer – checks your credit report. In some cases, these inquiries can also be performed without your permission, such as when card issuers prescreen potential customers for direct marketing. Luckily, though soft inquiries show up on your credit report, they do not have any impact on your score.
Hard pulls, on the other hand, are usually performed when you actually apply for credit and a lender approves or denies your application. These inquiries stay on your credit report for two years and will temporarily knock a few points off of your credit score. However, they generally won’t affect your score for more than a year.
See related: Soft pull vs. hard pull
What are soft pull credit cards?
Soft pull credit cards are cards you can get with only a soft pull of your credit. Sometimes called “no credit check” credit cards, these products allow you to apply for credit or open a new account without damaging your credit score via a hard pull.
Soft pull credit cards are tough to find, and it’s virtually impossible to get an unsecured credit card without a credit check. Opting for a soft pull credit card will almost certainly mean missing out on the top rewards credit cards and sticking to secured credit cards instead.
As their name implies, secured cards require a security deposit and will be most useful if you need to build credit or want to control spending.
Soft inquiry credit card preapproval
While there are only a handful of “true” soft pull credit cards on the market, most issuers allow you to check if you’re preapproved for one of their credit cards via a soft pull. This allows you to get a good idea of your odds of approval before you apply (at which point you’ll face a hard inquiry).
You can visit an issuer’s website directly to check for soft pull prequalification options or use a tool like CardMatch to search across multiple issuers for cards that fit your credit profile. Most issuers also send out prescreened credit card offers via mail or email.
Here’s a look at some major credit card issuers and whether they offer preapproval via a soft pull:
|Issuer||Soft pull preapproval available online?||How to prequalify|
|American Express||Yes||Via Amex website or CardMatch for select cards|
|Bank of America||Yes||Via Bank of America website|
|Barclays||No||Online prequalification only available to U.K. applicants; however, you may receive a prescreened offer|
|Capital One||Yes||Via Capital One website or by visiting a Capital One branch|
|Chase||Yes||Via Chase website or by visiting a Chase branch|
|Citi||Yes||Occasionally via Citi website (not currently available), via CardMatch for select cards or by visiting a Citi branch|
|Comenity Bank||Mostly unavailable||Online prequalification only available with select cards – check individual cards to see options|
|Credit One Bank||Yes||Via Credit One website or CardMatch for select cards|
|Discover||Yes||Via Discover website|
|Synchrony Bank||Mostly unavailable||Online prequalification unavailable; however, you may receive a prescreened offer|
|USAA||No||Online prequalification previously available for members (but currently unavailable); however, you may receive a prescreened offer|
|U.S. Bank||No||Previously available via U.S. Bank website, but currently unavailable|
|Wells Fargo||No||Online prequalification unavailable; however, you may receive a prescreened offer|
Best soft pull credit cards
If you need to build credit or control spending and are set on avoiding a hard credit inquiry, there are a handful of true soft pull credit cards worth considering.
Though they offer next to nothing in the way of rewards or perks, these secured card options all report to the national credit bureaus and do not require a hard inquiry.
Here are some of your best (and only) soft pull credit card options:
OpenSky® Secured Visa® Credit Card: Best for low annual fee
With the OpenSky Secured Visa, you won’t even face a soft inquiry. You can you get the card with absolutely no credit check and you don’t even need a bank account to apply – you can send your security deposit via money order or have someone else send a check on your behalf.
While the card comes with a $35 annual fee, this is much lower than you’ll find on many cards designed for people with damaged credit. Plenty of such cards charge upward of $75 per year in fees, with some tacking on additional fees in your second year.
The OpenSky Secured Visa also carries a reasonable APR of 17.39% (variable) and allows you to put down a security deposit as high as $3,000 (matching your credit limit), which be a big help as you work to maintain low credit utilization.
All of these factors make the OpenSky Secured Visa a good soft pull credit card option for credit-builders looking to avoid a credit check. They also helped land the card a top spot on our list of the best credit cards after bankruptcy.
Self Visa® Credit Card: Best for building credit
A unique credit-building product that doubles as both a savings tool and a revolving line of credit, the Self Visa® Credit Card combines a credit-builder loan with a secured card to help you build credit without having to come up with a big security deposit all at once.
To start, you open a Self Credit Builder Account and are issued a small loan (typically between $500 and $1,700), which is held in a secured CD (certificate of deposit) while you make payments. If you pay on time and in full, you’ll build credit history as you pay off the loan. Once your loan balance reaches $0, the funds are unlocked and released to you.
Meanwhile, if you make at least three monthly Self credit-builder loan payments in full and on time, save $100 or more in your credit-builder account and have no outstanding fees, you’re eligible for the Self Visa Credit Card. You can use this secured card to make purchases without putting up an any additional money as a deposit. Instead, the card is backed by your credit-builder account funds.
Since it requires no credit check, draws on a mix of credit types and spreads credit-builder payments out over a year or more, the Self Credit Builder Account and Self Visa Credit Card combination should offer a good one-two credit-building punch, with no credit check required for either.
See related: Guide to the Self Visa credit card
First Progress Platinum Prestige Mastercard® Secured Credit Card: Best for low APR
Product type: Secured card
Our take: The First Progress Platinum Prestige Mastercard is a bare-bones secured card with a somewhat high annual fee, but it should get the job done for credit-builders looking for a low APR and relatively high potential credit limit.
If you want to keep your cost of card ownership low, but also suspect you’ll need to carry a balance from time to time, the First Progress Platinum Prestige Mastercard could be a decent choice.
Though the card charges a $49 annual fee (the highest on this list), it doesn’t have any hidden activation or maintenance fees and carries a variable APR of just 9.99% (about 40% lower than the average credit card interest rate). You’ll also have a wide range of starting deposits to choose from ($200 to $2,000 for a matching limit).
Not only is no credit check required to qualify for the First Progress Platinum Prestige Mastercard (the application page promises that “no credit inquiry will be recorded in your credit bureau file”), but the card also offers a chance at instant approval. That could be a big plus if you’ve been having trouble qualifying for a credit card and are tired of waiting days for an approval decision only to be turned down.
While it’s otherwise a fairly unremarkable secured card, the First Progress Platinum Prestige Mastercard should get the job done for aspiring credit-builders, as it’s open to applicants with bad credit, limited credit and no credit score alike.
The fine print does specify that applicants shouldn’t have a pending bankruptcy filing that has not yet been discharged by the court and the card program is not currently available in Arkansas, Iowa, New York or Wisconsin.
Applied Bank® Secured Visa® Gold Preferred® Credit Card: Best for high credit limit
Type of card: Secured
Our take: This no credit check secured card offers a chance at a high credit limit with a matching deposit, but its lack of a grace period on interest charges is a major shortcoming.
To be frank, the Applied Bank Secured Visa Card is hard to recommend for the majority of cardholders, and makes this list due simply to the scarcity of no credit check credit cards on the market. To start, it charges a ton of fees – including a $48 annual fee, a $30 fee per additional or replacement card and a $12.50 fee for making your card payment by phone.
And though the card carries an otherwise impressive fixed APR of 9.99%, it comes with no grace period. This means you’ll be charged interest on purchases on the transaction date. Most credit cards charge no interest until after your minimum payment due date. Since this card also requires a security deposit, having no grace period essentially means you may end up paying interest on money you’re “borrowing” from yourself.
That said, it may be a good fit if you want a high credit limit to help your credit utilization. You’ll get a starting credit limit range of $200 to $1,000 based on your deposit, but once your application is approved, you can increase your credit limit up to $5,000 by adding more deposits. This is an uncommon feature among secured cards, as many lock you into the credit limit set at account opening.
The Applied Bank Secured Visa Card guarantees approval, with no credit check or minimum credit score required. Still, tread carefully when considering this card, as the potentially high credit limit may not be worth the risk that comes with having no grace period on interest charges.
Are soft pull credit cards worth it?
While avoiding the credit score hit that comes with a hard inquiry is a nice perk, it’s far outweighed by the limitations of soft inquiry credit cards. They may allow you to be more liberal with your card applications, but the small number of cards you can get with only a soft credit pull tend to be secured cards that carry fees or other less-than-ideal restrictions.
If you need to build credit, you can find plenty of secured cards that charge no annual fee, earn cash back rewards and even graduate to unsecured cards with responsible use. Your score may temporarily drop by a few points when you apply for these cards, but they should offer better value in the long run.
If you were already considering a card and it happens to require only a soft credit inquiry, all the better. But in most cases, it won’t make sense to go out of your way to look for a soft pull credit card. Instead, stick to soft inquiry credit card preapproval and only apply for the cards that best fit your financial needs and credit profile.
And remember: In the world of credit cards, hard pulls are just the price of admission.