Level of credit card ‘soft searches’ more than doubles over the last four years

UK, May 31: Growing numbers of UK consumers are avoiding unnecessarily risking their credit score thanks to ‘soft searches’.

Soft searches allow consumers to check their eligibility, which shows how likely they are to be accepted for financial products such as credit cards, loans and mortgages before making an application.

This type of search has no effect on the individual’s credit score. In contrast, a ‘hard search’ is left when an actual application for credit is made, which could lead to an individual’s credit score being negatively impacted.

In February 2019, 77% of credit card searches were soft searches, compared to less than a third (29%) four years previously – a rise of 48%.1

It’s a similar picture with loan comparison, with soft searches rising from 45% in 2015 to 79% in 2019.

A similar trend is found when it comes to loans, with ‘soft searches’ rising from 45% of loan searches in 2015 to 79% in 2019.

Despite these benefits, some consumers are still not checking their eligibility via a soft search before applying. Previous research2 from Experian found that more than a fifth of people (23%) who hadn’t checked their eligibility said they didn’t know what the benefits are, while 20% thought incorrectly that it would affect their credit score, not help protect it.

This analysis is based on credit report search data from the Experian bureau, which shows someone’s credit applications, whether they are successful or unsuccessful.

This data also reveals that those aged between 18-30 make the most applications for credit cards and loans. Last year, this age group made up around a third of applications for loans (33%) and 29% of credit card applications.

In comparison, those aged between 46-55 accounted for less than a fifth (18%) of credit cards applications and unsecured loans (19%), while for those aged 56-65, the level of applications drops to just 10% for cards and 8% for loans.

This reflects that those in their 20s and early 30s tend to have the highest demand for credit, as this is typically when people are taking big financial decisions, such as starting a family or buying a home for the first time.

Then, as people become older, they begin to rely on credit less and therefore make fewer applications.3

Amir Goshtai, Managing Director of Experian Marketplace and Affinity, said: “Eligibility has transformed the way we shop for financial products.

“Only a few years ago, people had no way of knowing if they’d be accepted for credit or not unless they made an application – a process which was to the detriment of applicants, because it meant they could be needlessly putting their credit score at risk.

“Now, they can see what they are likely to be accepted for, giving themselves certainty that they are getting the best deal for their circumstances, while at the same time avoiding damage to their score.

“The data also reveals how demand for financial products changes over time, with the those in their 20s and 30s making the most applications, before it slowly decreases as people get older, and become less reliant on credit.”


1Analysis of CAPS data, 2015 – 2019. Data looked at February 2015 and February 2019 for comparison purposes. CAPS data is a record of someone’s successful and unsuccessful applications made via the Experian bureau in the previous 12 months.

2 3Gem survey of 1,500 adults, May 2018

3 Financial Lives of Consumers Report, FCA, 2017 https://www.fca.org.uk/publication/research/financial-lives-consumers-across-uk.pdf