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“Instant Credit” Offers and Your Credit Score

Ready to click a button to accept a “PayPal MasterCard”, a “BillMeLater” instant credit offer, or some other easy credit?

Consider this first—will clicking the button hurt your credit score?  If you are in the process of trying to improve your credit score, you may want to think twice.

Most credit applications end up on your credit report as either a “hard pull” or a “soft pull”. Most applications for instant credit will show up as a hard pull (or a credit inquiry initiated by you).  Too many of these applications will cause your credit score to drop.

A “hard pull” usually refers to credit inquiries that are initiated by you. For example, if you apply for a credit card or a car loan, a creditor “pulls” your credit report to see if they should give you the loan or the credit card (and at what rate).  When you click the button to accept an instant credit offer online, you are applying for credit, and the lender will pull your credit report. 

Sometimes, not every credit inquiry (even those initiated by you) is considered a “hard pull”.  These are called “soft pulls”.  They are still voluntary inquiries, but do not affect your credit score in the same way.  They are often used by companies when they send you a pre-approved credit offer, or when they are simply trying to verify your identity. 

Typically, clicking “accept” or “apply” for an online credit offer results in a hard pull.

As a result, the inquiry will show up on your credit reports.  All three major credit bureaus report both “hard pulls” and “soft pulls”, although each bureau uses different terms to describe them.  For example, TransUnion calls them either “regular inquiries” (similar to a hard pull… they stay on your report for up to 2 years) or “account review inquiries” (similar to a soft pull ... these are not shown to others, and are only displayed to you). 

Both Experian and Equifax use similar techniques to track hard pulls and soft pulls.

Think before you click “accept” on an online credit offer.  If your credit score is already good, and you are not working to improve it, go ahead and accept the offer if it is a good deal.  If you are in the process of trying to improve your credit score, you may want to think twice.

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