How do credit card applications affect credit scores?

Get a clearer view before you apply.

Thinking about applying for a credit card? Before you do, it’s important to understand how applications might affect your credit score.

If you’re worried about hurting your score, some issuers have tools that allow you to see if you’re pre-approved  for a credit card before you apply. At Capital One, pre-approval is quick, secure and only requires some basic info. And it won’t hurt your credit score. Here are three things to consider when applying for a new card:

1. Hard inquiries

A “hard inquiry” happens when you apply for new credit. It’s when the bank or lender looks at your credit report in order to decide if you’ll be approved. And as the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau explains, “These inquiries will impact your credit score because most credit scoring models look at how recently and how frequently you apply for credit.”

Soft inquiries won't hurt your score

Instead of a hard inquiry, pre-approval at Capital One uses what’s known as a “soft inquiry.” A soft inquiry involves a simple review of your credit, which doesn’t affect your credit score. And it isn’t reported to lenders.

2. New accounts

One important factor in determining your credit score is how long you’ve actually had credit. Adding a lot of new accounts may bring the average age of your credit down—and could lower your score.

3. Multiple applications

Applying for too many credit cards within a short period of time can have a negative impact on your credit. Not only could you see a drop in your score, but credit card companies might think your financial situation has changed. It’s a good idea to apply for only what you need.

Applying more confidently

Remember, not all inquiries are created equal. For example, Capital One’s pre-approval tool uses a soft inquiry for a simple review of your credit. And soft inquiries don’t affect your credit score.

At Capital One, pre-approval even lets you see which cards you could be eligible for before you apply. And that could mean fewer hard inquiries and less impact on your credit.

See if you’re pre-approved

Check for pre-approval offers with no risk to your credit score.

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