What is a Soft Credit Check?

Soft Credit SearchesA soft credit check, or soft credit search, is an inquiry that occurs when a person or company checks your credit report as a background check. Instead, it looks at key pieces of information to check an individual’s credit worthiness, so that lenders can assess whether the individual will be successful in applying before carrying out the full examination of a credit report.

When a lender searches your credit report, they’re looking to see how you manage your credit now, and how you’ve managed it in the past. This search is then recorded on your credit report for future lenders to see. This is useful to lenders because if you’ve made a lot of applications for credit recently, it could suggest to them that you have an urgent need for credit which you may struggle to pay back.

So what can you do? You need the finance but don’t want to jeopardise your credit report by applying, and having to apply in full each time means it is extremely difficult to shop around for the best deals. This is where a “Soft Credit Search” can be so important for anyone looking for some form of credit.

A soft credit check, also known as a “Quotation search” takes a look, a kind of ‘snapshot’, at an individual’s credit report without leaving any footprints visible to lenders when they look at your credit report (you can still see them). Instead, it looks at key pieces of information to check an individual’s credit worthiness, so that lenders can assess whether the individual will be successful in applying before carrying out the full examination of a credit report.

Surprisingly few companies conduct a soft credit search. Those who do, such as Creditplus, are arguably ahead of the curve if current trends in finance regulation are anything to go by. Many companies conduct a full search, making it difficult for individuals to shop around for the best deal.

Choosing a company that provides a soft credit search option can be an ideal option for those who have been working to repair their credit report. You can see what finance options are available without risking all the hard work you’ve been doing to improve your credit report. You will also have more freedom to shop around and find the best deal. Soft credit searches really are an important thing to consider when applying for any form of lending, to ensure you have as much flexibility and control as possible before agreeing to any form of lending agreement.

Guest post from James Dwyer, blog manager at Creditplus car finance

42 thoughts on “What is a Soft Credit Check?

    1. CreditExpert Joe

      Hi Don, this would depend on the company who does the check and why they are doing it. If you mean checking with the court directly then this would not likely involve any credit check soft or hard as they would be checking their own court records for you and not the credit report.

      Joe

      Reply
  1. Tom

    Hi Joe,

    I’ve came to this post to find out about any searches.

    So if any search is done on a credit file – regardless of the type, can the credit fileee ‘the person the file is regarding’ see that, the person or company had looked at their credit file.

    So if my employer had said that as part of their pre employment checks they have done a soft/silent/invisible credit check – then is there anyway for me to check to see if they actually have done it or not?

    Thanks in advance.

    Tom

    Reply
    1. CreditExpert Stuart

      Hi Tom,

      Whenever someone checks your Experian Credit Report information, you are correct in that you would see that this has taken place, for example if an employment check was made.

      It is important to note that there are three different credit reference agencies in the UK (Experian, Equifax and CallCredit) so a search that is carried out may not show on one report but appear on another.

      Other lenders however would only see if you’ve made an application for credit and not be able to see any “soft searches” such as quotations or employment checks.

      Hope this helps you out,
      Stuart

      Reply
  2. Granville

    What can a lender actually see when they carry out a soft search? Can they see what bank accounts you have opened?
    What can a lender see if the carry out a hard search?
    What safeguards are in place to protect a person from ‘malicious’ searches

    Reply
    1. CreditExpert Neil

      Hi Granville. What lenders can see is based on the principal of reciprocity, so they can only view the same type of information that they supply us with. This means a company such as a insurance company wouldn’t be able to see account information as they don’t provide us with this kind of information. So it will vary between companies as to what information they can see when searching.
      You can find out more about searches here.
      Businesses who use our information know their responsibilities under the terms and conditions of their contract. We make checks on all companies before letting them use our systems and we make it clear that any search they do can only be done for lawful business.
      We keep a record of any searches of your report so you can see what company has made it, when they have and for what purpose. If you do see any searches on your report you don’t recognise let us know and we can investigate.
      Kind regards
      Neil

      Reply
  3. Sam

    Hi

    We’re looking for a mortgage and our broker has conducted a ‘soft search’ and we’ve had an approval in principle for a mortgage I think with rbs.
    I’ve checked my credit search and this shows up as a search.
    How likely would it be that we are approved when it comes to applying?
    Thanks

    Reply
    1. CreditExpert Stuart

      Hi Sam,

      I understand that you are concerned about a “soft search” that’s been carried out recently, especially as you are looking to obtain a mortgage soon.

      If a “soft search” takes place, it would still show on your credit report so that you would know who has carried out a search of your credit report details, however other lenders would not see this and so it will not affect your chances to obtain credit.

      If you are unsure as to if this is marked as an application or not, our team will be happy to help you out. You can find our contact details available here. You may also want to check out this guide on what to do in preparing for a mortgage application here as well.

      Kind regards,
      Stuart

      Reply
  4. Jay

    Hi, I have completed my IVA in Jan. Certificate of completion was sent to Equifax. But on my credit search report that is still showing. I have sent several emails requesting this to be removed as it has now been 6 years from start of my IVA.My emails are replied in general giving me ref numbers each time for my query and one person says something else and another person from same department says something different.
    The last reply was a joke as now they are asking me to email them my dob/name etc.
    I am so upset by this. What can I do?
    When will my credit score get better once equifax amends this information?

    Reply
    1. CreditExpert Joe

      Hi Jay, you would need to contact Equifax to resolve this. We are different credit reference agencies and have no control over what they report. If you find incorrect data on your Experian report be sure to contact us and we can help.

      Joe

      Reply
  5. Mark

    I have just done a mortgage with Barclays and got a api they said they have done a quotation search I have ccj will they be able to see this after this search

    Reply
    1. CreditExpert Neil

      Hi Mark, as a CCJ is public record then Barclays would see this when doing a “soft” quotation search. Kind regards Neil.

      Reply
  6. S79

    A soft search has been done for a provisional mortgage enquiry , if nothing changes between now and the actual application am I safe to assume it’s likely everything will be ok if I was given a mortgage promise ?

    Reply
    1. CreditExpert Neil

      Hi, it will be up to the lender themselves as to whether they will want to do any further checks and if they change their offer based on the results of the search. We would certainly expect a lender to perform a full search though before offering a mortgage. Kind regards Neil.

      Reply
  7. Lewis Holiday

    Hi, I recently requested a finance quote on a car, and was assured it would require only a soft search. However upon checking my monthly credit rating on Clearscore, it has gone down due to a hard search being performed by the company.
    My question is do I have any legal right to compensation as I was lied to, and my credit history has now been damaged.
    Thank you, Lewis

    Reply
    1. CreditExpert Neil

      Hi Lewis, if you believe a search has been recorded without your consent contact the credit reference agency you have got your report from and they will be able to query the information on your behalf.
      I’m sorry but I am not able to give legal advice, you may want to speak to the company directly if you feel you should be compensated.
      Kind regards
      Neil

      Reply
  8. Anon

    Hi,

    I would like to know how many soft checks is allowed in a month so that it does not affect my credit score. As I understand too many soft checks might flag up in my credit report and affect my credit rating.

    Reply
    1. CreditExpert Neil

      Hi Anon, I’m glad to say that you can make as many “soft” checks as you wish and they will not impact your report at all. These searches are not seen by other lenders and are only recorded for your reference. This includes searches recorded when you check your own credit report. Kind regards Neil.

      Reply
  9. Stephen

    I would like to know regardless of the type of search carried out i.e soft etc. must your permission be given to do this? Or are companies allowed to do it without your consent.

    I have just seen a soft search recorded on my credit profile where I did not give the company any permission to carry out any type of search. When I confronted them on the issue they just said it would be recorded as a soft search and did not pass comment on why they had done it.

    Reply
    1. CreditExpert Neil

      Hi Stephen, a company should always have your permission to perform a search even if it is a soft search. If you have used a comparison website then several searches may be made to give you the available options, but this should still be with your consent.
      If you contact us with details of the search we would be able to query it with the company to remove it from the report if you believe it should not be recorded. Kind regards Neil.

      Reply
  10. Naomi

    Hello,

    I’m in the process of searching for good mortgage options and in order to get a full idea of what different lenders will offer me, they are wanting to conduct soft checks to give me a ‘decision in principle’

    If i get a few decision in principles done from different lenders, all doing soft checks, is this going to affect my score?

    Thanks

    Naomi

    Reply
    1. CreditExpert Neil

      Hi Naomi, you don’t need to worry as the “soft searches” won’t be seen by other lenders and won’t reduce your Experian Credit Score. If the lender does perform a full search though then it will show on your report, so you may need to check with the lender before hand to make sure they are only doing the “soft search”. Kind regards Neil.

      Reply
  11. Eloise

    I was forced to take out an insolvency order due to having to leave my house at a moments notice. This was because I was placed in a witness protection program & basically being dumped after the case had ended & was.left with the consequences of their bad advice & false promises.
    But when I had a soft check done on my credit score, I discovered it had been noted down as a bankruptcy. Even though the person who took it out for me, assured us that although it was only a step down from having bankruptcy, it was no where near as serious and that it would be removed after a few years. This was approximately 5 years ago now. Please can you help?

    Reply
    1. CreditExpert Neil

      Hi Eloise, it sounds like you have had a difficult time. An Insolvency Order can be part of a request for bankruptcy. An insolvency order wouldn’t appear on your credit report but a Bankruptcy Order would. The Bankruptcy Order should now be marked as discharged and would be removed from your report six years from the date of the bankruptcy. You may wish to check your credit report to make sure that the Bankruptcy Order is marked as discharged and any accounts that were included in it are marked as satisfied. Kind regards Neil.

      Reply
      1. Octavian Catalin Arsenie

        Good afternoon, I applied for a car finance through a dealership and although being accepted I decided not to go with them as their cars did not catch my eye, opting for a different finance which I received.
        After specifically asking countless times if a hard search will be performed, he assured me it won’t be.
        This month through mse, I found out not one but 2 hard searches were done by that financing company. Is there something I can do to have them removed?

        Kindest regards,
        Octavian

        Reply
        1. CreditExpert Neil

          Hi Octavian. If you feel that you did not give consent for a hard search to be conducted we would be able to query them on your behalf to see if they can be removed. You will be able to submit your queries regarding these searches while you are logged in to your Money Saving Expert Credit Club account. Kind regards Neil.

          Reply
  12. Nas Srivastava

    Hi,

    I wanted to know if as a trader, I can do a soft credit check on a person before selling an Age Restricted item to them online. This would mean that whenever a person buys any age restricted item from my website I would require a soft credit check be done. If the persons shops multiple times on my online shop, multiple searches will be made. Is this acceptable as per the contract to using your services?

    Thanks,
    Nas

    Reply
  13. Jos Lohan

    Hi, My credit report shows many soft checks have been carried out by a credit card lender, however, I have not applied for credit or even seek to obtain credit via soft searches. Are lenders allowed to do soft search even when they have not received an application? Kind regards Jjos

    Reply
    1. CreditExpert Stuart

      Hi Jos,

      Lenders can only carry out searches if they have received authorisation from you to do so.

      It is possible however, that if you are using services such as CreditMatcher or Money Supermarket, that soft searches may appear on your Experian Credit Report.

      If you feel these searches shouldn’t have been raised, our team can look into this for you. You can find their details available here.

      Kind Regards,
      Stuart

      Reply
      1. Jenn

        Hello,

        I have a CCJ that was instigated in August 2013, the amount was paid in full and the judgment satisfied in September 2015. I understand that a CCJ stays on your record for a period of 6 years, but is this from the date of judgment or the date it was satisfied?

        Also, I am in the process of applying for a mortgage with my partner. We have done an Agreement in Principle with a number of lenders to compare offers which have been accepted, and the lenders have carried out Soft Credit Searches on both of us. Would the CCJ have shown up on the soft credit search, or will it only show up on the full in depth credit search?

        Thanks,
        Jenn

        Reply
        1. CreditExpert Neil

          Hi Jenn, a CCJ will stay on your credit report for six years from the date of the judgment and not from the date it was satisfied, so it would come off the report in August 2019.
          It will depend on the lender as to what type of information they have access to and are looking for when they perform a soft search. As a CCJ is public record information we would expect them to have seen this is most cases.
          kind regards Neil.

          Reply
  14. Vin

    Hello forum team
    Many thanks for your wonderful support via these forums, and they are immensly helpful.
    I am a consumer, and I have a question re: soft searches – which I think has not been covered here before.

    As a consumer, when applying for a financial product (e.g a personal loan) that requires credit scoring, I basically have three options:

    a) go directly to the lender (e.g high street or online bank) OR
    b) go via an online/intermediatory loan comparison website OR
    c) go via an online personalised products provider websites (PPPWs – e.g experian CreditMatcher, Clearscore, Noodle etc) based on an individual’s credit scores.

    a) is straightforward – i.e a direct credit score and checking by the lenders systems by exchanging information collected with CRA’s system which will appear recorded on the credit files of the consumer, obviously these can be seen by other lenders..

    I understand that both comparison websites and PPPWs may do soft-searches on a consumer’s credit file directly or using intermediate brokerage companies. These soft searches are not visible to lenders.

    However, my question is, when the actual loan provider (for e.g Halifax or RAC online via white labling partnership underwriting using a private bank) receives a request to approve a loan after soft-searching, they would know the “source” of the request that is coming from, which means 2 separate request could originate for the same consumer via a Comparison websites and PPPWs to a single lender or underwriter of the loan.

    This information is a reliably good “source” for the actual lenders to know that the consumer is shopping for loans, even though these 2 soft-searches separately recorded on consumer credit file is not visible to them. For e.g their a Quote system may hold 2 separate provisional quotes based on the ‘orign-source’ of the information and they always can look this information up before making a final decision to approve the quote request?. This is quite relevant as we see a lot of online-white-labeling in financial services market using the same underwriters.

    My question is, does soft searches recorded on consumer credit file provides the traceablity and orgin facts so the consumer is aware of how exactly the soft searches were done, which which provider using the data from which source.

    Best,

    Vin

    Reply
    1. CreditExpert Neil

      Hi Vin, whenever a soft search is recorded on your report you will be able to see which company has performed the soft search, and the date it was recorded. Only you will see this information, other lenders won’t see the soft search. Although you will see which company has made the search, there would not be a record of the comparison site you have used if you have used one.
      Should you then decide to make a full application to a lender an additional hard search would be recorded by them, so you could have both a hard and soft search recorded for the same company. Only the hard search would be seen by others and impact you score.
      Hope this answers your question! kind regards Neil.

      Reply
  15. Marko

    Mr credit rating is fair, so I’m limited on what I can get – I want to consolidate and pay back at a manageable APR – I’ve had a soft search done and have quote for ok APR – higher than I’d hoped but ok/manageable less than 10%. As options limit might follow with an application – but I’m worried I’ll still be refused or offered higher APR and ruin my chance with another lender. Is this likely – and what extra information would the decision be made on? (I understand that that they would be aware of all my credit info, salary etc.

    Reply
    1. CreditExpert Neil

      Hi Marko, it is always up to the lender themselves as to what decision they make. While lenders may be concerned if they see a number of recent searches, having only a one or two recent searches on your Experian Credit Report would only have a small impact on your Experian Credit Score. Kind regards Neil.

      Reply
  16. Diana

    hi, I am wonder.I had soft credit check from santander for a mortgage, they state ‘ soft credit check wont effect your credit score’ however it did. So from good credit score I got fair,just because of soft check (reduced by 50 points),no other debs or any loans.
    When I have looked at this search closely, the purpose of it stated ‘ credit card application’ rather then first mortgage.In detailed description it appears like first mortgage,but anyway my credit score was demaged by mistake I believe.
    It is so important now for me,as I am moving forward to next steps of mortgage.

    How could you comment this?Can you get back my good score again?
    Thanks

    Reply
    1. CreditExpert Stuart

      Hi Diana,

      If a lender carries out a soft search, this shouldn’t affect your Experian Credit Score as other lenders wouldn’t be able to see this however from your details that you have given, it does seem like an error has been made.

      We can actually contact Santander on your behalf to dispute the search that has been made to see if we can get this issue resolved for you. You can find our contact details available here.

      Other than that, a credit application search would remain on your Experian Credit Report for 12 months and the impact of this would reduce over time.

      Kind regards,
      Stuart

      Reply
    1. CreditExpert Stuart

      Hi Tim,

      If you viewed a copy of your Experian Credit Report online, any soft searches that are made would be listed on your Experian Credit Report and you would be able to see the type of search that is made when viewing your report.

      Kind regards,
      Stuart

      Reply
  17. Tracey mccardie

    Can a company you work for the past10 yrs plus , force you to take part in a credit check, and if you refuse the company you work for will discipline you for refusing as far as am concerned that’s my personal business at the moment we are being harassed and bullied into this can you help

    Reply
    1. CreditExpert Neil

      Hi Tracey, many companies will now perform back ground checks, and if you are working in a financial industry they may ask to perform a credit check. I’m afraid I’m not able to say whether they could discipline you for refusing but they would need your consent to perform the check. You may want to check with your local Citizens Advice Bureau who should be able to tell you what your rights are in regard to this. Kind regards Neil.

      Reply

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