What’s a soft search for a financial product?

When you search for a credit product it’s increasingly common to be offered a soft search (or ‘smart search’) facility. Find out what this means...

Key points

  • A soft search lets you check what credit deals you’re most eligible for without affecting your credit score
  • The search it leaves on your credit file can’t be seen by lenders, so won’t affect their decision
  • This can stop you applying for the wrong products and harming your credit record in the process

When you compare credit products such as loans, credit cards and mortgages, it’s obviously tempting to go ahead and apply for the one with the lowest rate of interest.

The problem is, if you go ahead and apply for a product but the lender rejects you because your credit history isn’t up to scratch, the failed application will be recorded on your credit file.

That means that if you apply for another product, the next lender you apply to will see any such previous applications, which makes it more likely that it’ll reject you as well.

As a way of avoiding this, it’s increasingly common to be offered the option of a so-called soft search, which may also be referred to as a ‘smart search’.

When you compare loans and credit cards with Gocompare.com, you can use our smart search tool to perform a soft search that won't adversely affect your credit file.

Credit reportsHow smart search tools work

A smart search tool helps you check your eligibility before you actually apply for a credit product.

If you use such a tool you’ll typically be asked to enter a few details, such as your name, date of birth and address and employment details.

This information is then transmitted to a credit reference agency to carry out a credit ‘soft search’.

The soft search returns a credit score, which is then used to show you the deals that you have the greatest chance of being accepted for, filtering out the ones you’re unlikely to be accepted for.

Smart search tools vary, but you may, for example, be shown a score out of 10 indicating the likelihood that you’ll be accepted for a particular deal.

What’s a soft search?

A soft search is a credit search made on your credit file that won’t affect your credit score.

Although it’s recorded on your credit file like every other search, lenders can’t see it, so it won’t affect their lending decision.

How to improve a credit scoreHowever, if you decide to pay to access your credit file or use a free service, you’ll be able to see that you made the search.

You can perform soft searches as frequently as you like - it still won’t affect credit scores that are held on you.

Will I definitely be accepted?

Although using a smart search tool will give you a good idea of which products you stand the best chance of obtaining, it’s not a dead cert that you’ll be accepted when you go on to apply for a product.

That’s because lenders use a combination of what’s in your credit files and what you put on the application form when making a decision.

Also, lenders sometimes change their criteria at short notice, which might affect your eligibility.

Nevertheless, a smart search lets you make a much more educated guess about where you’ll be accepted.

Increase your chances of being accepted

If you’ve struggled to get loans, credit cards, mortgages or overdrafts in the past, it’s a good idea to check your credit history and try to work out what might be causing problems.

If there’s a mistake on your file, you can ask the company that filed the incorrect information to have it corrected.

Paying off existing borrowing, making regular payments and avoiding too many applications in a short space of time will all help too - and the latter is why soft search is such a useful tool.

By Derri Dunn