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What happens when you apply for credit?

Your guide to what happens when you apply for credit

Hand holding four credit cards
Image by Avery Evans on Unsplash

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Browse offers that are sorted by what’s best for you, not our pockets.

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If you've been browsing your ClearScore offers for a credit card, loan or other credit product, you might be wondering what happens when you actually apply.

When you browse your offers on ClearScore, banks and lenders run a 'soft' search on your credit report. This type of search is totally harmless to your credit score, and means that we can show you how likely you are to be accepted for that offer.

So you can browse your offers as many times as you like without hurting your credit score. It's worth checking back often, as your offers are always being updated .

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When you submit an application for credit, the bank or lender will run a ‘hard search’ on your credit report. This means that a lender is checking your full credit report in order to decide whether to accept your application.

A hard search can cause a temporary dip in your credit score, whether you're accepted or not. This is nothing to worry about. As you use your credit and make regular payments, your credit score will bounce back and may even increase as you build up good repayment history.

Just make sure you don't make lots of credit applications in a short space of time, as this could have a bigger impact on your score.

Your credit report can only be accessed by the people you authorise to see it. This is normally part of the application process when applying for credit. Other companies and institutions can also search your credit report with permission, either as part of an identity check or for insurance quotations. These are soft searches and are not visible to other lenders.

In your ClearScore, you can see all the hard and soft searches that have been carried out on your report for up to two years.
 If you see a hard search that you don’t recognise, you should contact the lender for more information, as this could be a sign of fraud.

Next step: see your credit searches in your credit report.

A soft search will appear on your credit report when you check your own report. These soft searches are only seen by you and won't affect your credit score in any way. So it's safe to check your credit report and score as many times as you like.


Hannah is currently studying for a Master's in Comparative Cultural Analysis. She knows all about personal finance, but as a student, she's an expert in money saving tips and tricks.