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Should you look for ‘soft pull’ credit cards?

True soft pull credit cards are few and far between, and they may not be your best option in the long run

Summary

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.

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If you’re hoping to get a credit card while minimizing the impact on your credit score, soft pull credit cards can be the answer. That said, credit cards that only require a soft pull for approval are rare, and the few available cards that fall into this category are far from the best.

If you’re simply looking for a card that offers preapproval or prequalification with only a soft pull on your credit report, however, you’ll find plenty of options to choose from. In most cases, you’ll also be a lot better off taking a temporary credit score hit in exchange for a card that offers better long-term value.

If you’re curious about how soft pull credit cards work and whether you need to worry about a hard inquiry, read on to learn more.

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 be made without your permission, such as when card issuers prescreen potential customers for direct marketing. Although soft inquiries show up on your credit report, they don’t negatively impact your credit 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 your credit score. However, they generally won’t affect your score for more than a year.

What are soft pull credit cards?

Sometimes called “no credit check” credit cards, soft pull cards allow you to apply for credit or open a new account without a hard pull. Ultimately, this is why soft pull credit cards can be useful if you have bad credit or a limited credit history and want to protect your score.

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.

That said, many card issuers do let you check whether you’re “preapproved” or “prequalified” for a credit card offer without a hard inquiry on your credit report. Preapproval does not guarantee you’ll get the card if you apply, but it does show that you are likely to meet the issuer’s minimum requirements.

While you can check with individual card issuers to look for preapproval options, you can also use a tool like CardMatch to search across multiple issuers for cards that fit your credit profile. Some card issuers also send out prescreened credit card offers via mail or email, so you can keep an eye out for these offers as well.

Should I get a soft pull credit card?

If you want a true soft pull credit card that doesn’t require a credit check for approval, your options will be limited to a handful of secured credit cards that require a cash deposit as collateral. That said, you may be better off with a soft pull credit card if:

  • You have no credit history.
  • A low credit score is preventing you from getting approved for other cards.
  • You don’t mind putting down a cash deposit to begin building credit.

If you have fair credit or a good score, on the other hand, you can qualify for unsecured credit cards with much better rates and terms. With that in mind, you should only get a soft pull card if you have no other option.

Best soft pull credit cards

If you need to build credit or control spending and are set on avoiding a hard credit inquiry, a handful of true soft pull credit cards are worth considering. Although 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

While it doesn’t offer any rewards or meaningful cardholder perks, the OpenSky® Secured Visa® Credit Card lets applicants get approved with no credit check required. However, a security deposit is required as collateral, and cardholders have to pay an annual fee of $35.

Self Visa Credit Card: Best for building credit

The Self-Credit Builder Account with Secured Visa® Credit Card is another secured credit card that lets you start building credit over time. This card is available to users of the Self credit-builder loan who have at least $100 built up in savings and have made at least three months of on-time payments. There’s no credit check when you apply, but cardholders do have to pay a $25 annual fee that is deducted from their savings balance and credit limit.

First Progress Platinum Prestige Mastercard Secured Credit Card: Best for low APR

The First Progress Platinum Prestige Mastercard® Secured Credit Card is another soft pull card that doesn’t require a credit check, and the security deposit starts at just $200. However, it doesn’t come with any perks and the annual fee is $49.

Applied Bank Secured Visa Gold Preferred Credit Card: Best for a high credit limit

Consider the Applied Bank Secured Visa® Gold Preferred® Credit Card, which enables you get approved within 60 seconds with no credit check. This card also has a low fixed APR of 9.99 percent, no application fee and no penalty rate if you pay your bill late. The annual fee for this card is $48, and you’ll need a minimum security deposit of at least $200 to get started.

Capital on Tap Business Credit Card: Best for small-business owners

Finally, the Capital on Tap Business Credit Card is a solid soft-pull choice for business owners looking to earn flat-rate cash back rewards for no annual fee (and with the potential for a very high credit limit). You can apply and get a response on your approval within 48 hours, and most applicants hear back within 24 hours. In terms of rewards, you’ll earn 1.5 percent cash back on all purchases and can score a $1,200 sign-up bonus after spending $50,000 in your first six months (and making one transaction on a free supplementary card).

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 ones 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 card. Instead, stick to soft inquiry credit card preapproval and only apply for the cards that best fit your financial needs and credit profile.

Remember: In the world of credit cards, hard pulls are just the price of admission.

Bottom line

There are few card options available if you’re looking to avoid a hard pull, but they may be useful if you have bad credit or a limited credit history and want to protect your score.

The options available with only a soft credit pull are typically secured cards. 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 your spending.

Editorial Disclaimer

The editorial content on this page is based solely on the objective assessment of our writers and is not driven by advertising dollars. It has not been provided or commissioned by the credit card issuers. However, we may receive compensation when you click on links to products from our partners.

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