Soft pull credit cards let you check for pre-approval and request a credit limit increase without a hard credit inquiry. Most soft pull credit cards do not, however, allow you to open a new account without a hard inquiry. With the exception of a handful of secured credit cards that don’t check your credit at all when you apply, you can’t get a credit card without a hard inquiry.
A hard inquiry is when a lender reviews your credit history in response to your application for credit. And each one does a bit of temporary damage to your credit score, with the impact being most pronounced when you have numerous inquiries in a short period of time. So being rejected for a credit card will make it harder to get approved for your next choice, and you may need to wait a bit before applying again.
Soft credit inquiries, on the other hand, usually happen when you check your own credit or a lender does so for normal account maintenance. They don’t affect your credit standing.
That’s why it can be so helpful to see whether you have a good shot of getting a given card with just a soft pull before you put your credit standing at risk and apply for real. Getting pre-approved for a credit card means you have a 90%+ chance of approval if you apply. And most major credit card companies allow you to check which of their cards you can get pre-approved for, using just a soft pull.
These issuers offer pre-approval with a soft pull for credit cards:
|Credit Card Company||Online Pre-Approval Check?||Soft Pull?||Min. Credit Required|
|Bank of America||Yes||Yes||Bad|
|USAA||Yes (members only)||Yes||Bad|
|U.S. Bank||Yes (existing customers only)||Yes||Bad|
The only downside to getting pre-approved for a credit card is that you have to do it issuer by issuer. If you don’t feel like doing that, you could check for pre-approval with one credit card company and then use the results to estimate your approval odds for cards from other issuers. For example, if you get pre-approved for a card that requires a minimum of good credit for approval, you should have a pretty good chance of getting other cards for people with good credit.
Alternatively, you can sign up for a free WalletHub account, and we’ll give you personalized recommendations for credit cards with high approval odds. These recommendations are based on your credit history and financial goals as well as our analysis of WalletHub application and approval data.
Below, you can learn more about when hard and soft pulls are used for credit cards, including the case of credit limit increases.
In almost all cases, you cannot get a credit card with a soft pull. The purpose of a hard inquiry is to tell other lenders that you are looking to borrow, which is why it leads to a bit of temporary credit score damage. Repeatedly applying for credit indicates that you’re desperate to borrow, which is a sign of financial difficulties, making it riskier to lend to you. However, a handful of secured credit cards are an exception to this rule. They don’t check applicants’ credit because there’s no need to. You have to place a refundable security deposit to open an account, and you can’t build up a balance bigger than the amount of that deposit. So there’s no risk for the issuer.
Here are the only soft pull credit cards:
- First Progress Platinum Select Mastercard® Secured Credit Card: $39 annual fee. $200 minimum deposit .
- OpenSky® Secured Visa® Credit Card: $35 annual fee. $200 minimum deposit.
- Applied Bank® Secured Visa® Gold Preferred® Credit Card: $48 annual fee. $200 minimum deposit.
- First Progress Platinum Prestige Mastercard® Secured Credit Card: $49 annual fee. $200 minimum deposit.
All four of these cards report to all three major credit bureaus on a monthly basis. So any of them can help you improve your credit score if you pay the bill on time every month. Their main requirements are that you have to be at least 18 years old with a U.S. mailing address, Social Security number, and enough money to place a deposit and make monthly minimum payments.
Unfortunately, there aren’t any unsecured soft pull credit cards. With no balance to protect them, issuers must thoroughly review applicants’ credit history to make sure people with a high likelihood of paying their bills on time get approved.
To help you find the right credit card for your needs, WalletHub’s editors picked a handful of their favorite cards from issuers offering pre-approval with a soft pull. This includes a cash back credit card, a 0% credit card and a pair of travel rewards cards.
Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card
The Amex EveryDay® Credit Card from American Express
Citi® Double Cash Card – 18 month BT offer
Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card
|Rewards Bonus||60,000 miles||10,000 points||N/A||60,000 points|
|Rewards Rate||2 miles / $1||1 - 2 points / $1||2% Cash Back||1 - 5 points / $1|
|Purchase Intro APR||N/A||0% for 15 months||N/A||N/A|
|Transfer Intro APR||N/A||N/A||0% for 18 months|
Transfer Fee: 3% (min $5)
|Regular APR||15.99% - 23.99% (V)||12.99% - 23.99% (V)||13.99% - 23.99% (V)||15.99% - 22.99% (V)|
|Details, Rates & Fees||Learn More||Learn More|
Rates & Fees
|Learn More||Learn More|
These aren’t the only great offers, though. You can check out WalletHub’s best credit cards by category for more options to consider.
Getting a higher credit limit on an existing credit card could involve either a soft pull or a hard pull. It varies by issuer as well as based on the circumstances. For example, some credit card companies use a soft inquiry to evaluate cardholders for automatic credit limit increases and a hard inquiry when a cardholder proactively requests a higher limit. You can find a breakdown of the biggest issuers’ policies below.
|Credit Card Company||Soft Pull for Automatic Increase?||Soft Pull for Requested Increase?|
|American Express||Yes||Sometimes, depending on what their system decides|
|Bank of America||Yes||Sometimes, depending on what their system decides|
|Citibank||Sometimes, depending on what their system decides||Sometimes, depending on what their system decides|
|Discover||Yes (may ask to do hard for a closer look)||Yes (may ask to do hard for a closer look)|
|PNC||No automatic increases||No|
|USAA||No automatic increases||No|
|U.S. Bank||No automatic increases||Sometimes depending on what their system decides|
|Wells Fargo||No automatic increases||Yes (may ask to do hard for a closer look)|
For more tips and tricks, check out WalletHub’s guide to getting a higher credit card limit.