In credit terms, an inquiry is created when a lender looks at your credit report to see whether to loan you money. An inquiry can be “soft,” as when a credit card issuer prospecting for new customers looks at your report to see whether to mail you an offer. Or an inquiry can be “hard” — that is, initiated because you yourself have applied for a loan. Hard inquiries have a slight, negative impact on your credit scores. Soft inquiries have no effect on credit scores.