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What is a Hard Credit Check?

When you apply for financing like credit cards, personal loans, or mortgages, lenders need to review your credit report to assess your application

When you apply for financing like credit cards, personal loans, or mortgages, lenders need to review your credit report to assess your application. This involves performing a hard credit check. But how exactly does a hard credit inquiry impact your credit standing?

Here at Consolidation Expert, we regularly work with people who have less than desirable credit scores – whether that’s been contributed to by an overabundance of hard credit checks in a short period of time, or more sustained credit issues.

This guide explains what hard credit checks entail, how many points they potentially deduct from your score, and techniques to minimise their damage when applying for new credit.

Key Takeaways:

  • A hard credit check allows lenders to access your full credit report when you apply for financing like loans, credit cards, and mortgages.
  • Hard checks are recorded on your credit file and can temporarily lower your credit score by a few points, especially if many are run in a short timeframe.
  • Too many hard checks can make lenders view you as "credit hungry" and high risk, negatively impacting your ability to access new credit.
  • Hard checks are unavoidable when formally applying for financing. But limit hard checks by comparing rates beforehand using soft credit searches that don't impact your score.
  • Your credit score generally recovers within 3-6 months after hard checks. Maintaining healthy financial habits can offset their damage.
  • Hard checks done for non-lending purposes like employment, tenancy, or insurance screening aren't displayed to other lenders and don't affect your score.

What is a Hard Credit Check?

When you submit an application for any type of lending product like a credit card or debt consolidation loan, the lender will perform a ‘hard’ credit check before approving your application.

A hard credit check allows the lender to access your full credit report, including current and historical information on:

  • Accounts opened (and closed)
  • Credit utilisation
  • Late payments
  • Debt balances
  • Bankruptcies
  • Defaults
  • CCJs
  • Credit inquiries

Reviewing your complete credit profile allows the lender to thoroughly assess your financial track record and current standing. This comprehensive data enables them to calculate your credit risk level and determine whether to approve your application.

Hard checks are more detailed than soft credit searches, which let lenders make pre-approval decisions using limited top-line aspects of your creditworthiness.

How Do Hard Checks Impact Your Credit Score?

This is because numerous applications in a short period can imply risk, making you seem ‘credit hungry’.

However, if you already have a long and positive credit history with few other recent checks, the score impact from any single new hard check is usually minor – a small drop of 2-6 points. Those with limited history see larger dips.

Many scoring models recognize consumers have legitimate needs to apply for credit, so penalise hard checks only slightly. Still, racking up too many in quick succession creates caution flags.

Hard checks remain on your credit file for 12 months, though their score impact fades over time. Maintaining good financial habits counterbalances the damage – your score typically rebounds in 3-6 months.

When Do Hard Checks Occur?

Any application for credit, loans, or financing triggers a hard credit check. Common examples include:

  • Credit card applications
  • Personal loan or debt consolidation loan applications
  • Mortgage applications
  • Auto financing applications
  • Student loan applications
  • Business loan applications

Essentially, hard checks accompany any application where the lender needs to assess if you qualify based on your creditworthiness and loan repayment ability. This allows them to make a fully informed lending decision.

How to Minimise Hard Check Impacts

Limiting hard credit checks helps safeguard your score:


Only apply for credit when absolutely needed so you don’t accumulate too many checks in a short timeframe. Don’t apply for multiple cards at once.


Reduce denied applications by pre-qualifying with soft checks to confirm likely approval before formally applying.


Allow time between applications for your score to stabilise rather than stacking back-to-back hard checks.


Ensure information provided on your applications is accurate to avoid verification mismatches triggering denials.

While hard checks when applying for credit are unavoidable, being selective with the timing and volume of applications gives your score time to rebound in between.

Hard Checks for Non-Lending Purposes

Not all hard credit checks count against your score. Those performed for screening purposes unrelated to lending, such as:

  • Employment background checks
  • Rental applications
  • Insurance applications

Are not shown to other lenders and don’t impact your credit rating. Still, try to minimise unnecessary checks where possible.

For Debt Consolidation Loans, Apply Online with Consolidation Expert Today

Here at Consolidation Expert, we may be able to help people who have been refused by other loan providers. We specialise in working with those who had a poor credit score, helping them to achieve financial stability through simplified debt repayments.

If you’re looking for specialist debt consolidation in the UK, don’t hesitate to get in touch today. Apply with Consolidation Expert today, and we may be able to help you reduce your monthly payments and regain control of your finances.

Representative 14.8% APR

We are a broker, not a lender.

Representative Example: Borrowing £15,000 over 60 months, repaying £355.28 per month, total repayable £21,316.57.

Total cost of credit £6,316.57.

Interest rate 14.8% (variable).

The lenders on our panel offer loans for 12-360 months, with rates from 4.7% APR to 42.6% APR.

The Representative Example is based on all loans paid out by lenders between 1st Jan 2022 and 31st Dec 2022.

Further reading

Read Is it Possible to Consolidate Short-Term Same Day Loans?
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Read Can I Consolidate Holiday Loans with Other Debts?
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Read How Can I Pay Off My Debts Faster?
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