The Ultimate Guide to Soft Credit Checks in Canada

By Arthur Dubois | Published on 05 Jul 2023

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    Soft credit checks play a crucial role in the financial landscape of Canada. Whether you’re applying for a loan, renting an apartment, or even opening a new bank account, understanding the ins and outs of soft credit checks can positively impact your financial future. In this comprehensive guide, we’ll explore everything you need to know about soft credit checks in Canada, from the basics to the legalities and tips to manage your credit profile. So let’s dive in and demystify the world of soft credit checks!

    What is a Credit Check?

    A credit check is a standardized process that lenders, landlords, and employers use to gauge the financial reliability of an individual. It involves accessing your credit report from credit bureaus, such as Equifax and TransUnion, which contain information about your credit history, payment patterns, and outstanding debts.

    When a lender, landlord, or employer requests a credit check, they are essentially seeking information about your financial habits and responsibility. This information helps them determine whether you are a reliable borrower, a trustworthy tenant, or a dependable employee. It provides them with insights into your past financial behavior and helps them assess the level of risk involved in engaging in a financial relationship with you.

    There is a lot more to it, and understanding the difference between hard and soft credit checks is crucial for informed financial decision-making.

    What is a Hard Credit Check?

    Hard credit checks leave a trace on your credit history and can affect your credit score, while soft credit checks don’t have any impact on your credit score. Hard credit checks typically occur when you apply for a credit card or if you are looking for a mortgage. These checks are initiated by you, the borrower, and are considered as inquiries into your creditworthiness.

    When a hard credit check is conducted, it is recorded on your credit report and can be seen by other lenders or credit bureaus. Multiple hard credit checks within a short period of time can raise red flags and potentially lower your credit score. This is because it may indicate that you are actively seeking credit and could be financially overextended.

    Common Types of Credit Checks
    Student LoanHard
    Car LoanHard
    Credit CardHard
    Personal LoanHard
    Prequalified for Credit CardSoft
    Job ApplicationsSoft
    Insurance ApplicationSoft
    Credit Card CheckSoft

    What is a Soft Credit Check?

    A soft credit check, on the other hand, does not impact your credit score. This is because soft credit checks aren’t linked to specific credit applications or debt management. They simply provide information about your credit health without affecting your overall creditworthiness or financial standing.

    Soft credit checks are commonly used by credit card companies to offer pre-approval or promotional offers to potential customers. These checks allow credit card issuers to evaluate your creditworthiness without making a hard inquiry that could potentially lower your credit score. It’s a way for them to assess your eligibility for their products and services without any negative consequences for your credit history.

    In addition to credit card companies, soft credit checks are also used by employers during the hiring process. Companies may conduct soft credit checks to verify the accuracy of the information provided by job applicants. This helps them ensure that candidates have a history of financial responsibility and can be trusted with sensitive financial information if the position requires it.

    The Importance of Soft Credit Checks

    In today’s fast-paced financial landscape, lenders and institutions rely on soft credit checks for various reasons. Let’s explore some key aspects that highlight why soft credit checks are important.

    Why Lenders Perform Soft Credit Checks

    Lenders perform soft credit checks as an initial assessment of an individual’s creditworthiness. This gives them a sneak peek into your credit history without leaving a mark on your credit score. By evaluating your credit profile, they can quickly determine whether you qualify for a particular loan or credit product.

    Soft credit checks provide lenders with valuable information about your financial habits and behavior. They can see how you manage your debts, whether you make payments on time, and if you have any outstanding loans or credit card balances. This helps lenders make informed decisions about lending you money.

    Additionally, soft credit checks allow lenders to assess the risk associated with lending to you. By reviewing your credit history, they can gauge the likelihood of you defaulting on a loan or missing payments. This information helps lenders protect themselves from potential financial losses.

    The Role of Soft Credit Checks in Pre-approvals

    Pre-approvals are an essential step in the borrowing process, helping individuals understand their financial capabilities and limitations. Soft credit checks are commonly used for pre-approvals since they provide lenders with an overview of your creditworthiness without compromising your credit score.

    When you apply for a pre-approval, lenders use soft credit checks to verify your income, employment history, and other financial details. This allows them to determine the maximum loan amount you qualify for and the interest rate you may receive. Pre-approvals give you a clear understanding of what you can afford and help streamline the home buying or loan application process.

    Furthermore, soft credit checks during pre-approvals enable lenders to provide personalized loan options tailored to your financial situation. By analyzing your creditworthiness, they can offer you loan terms and conditions that match your needs, making the borrowing process more efficient and convenient.

    Soft Credit Checks and Identity Verification

    Identity theft is a growing concern in today’s digital era. Soft credit checks play a pivotal role in identity verification, allowing lenders to ensure that you are who you claim to be. By confirming your identity through a soft credit check, lenders can minimize the risk of fraudulent activities.

    When you apply for credit, lenders use soft credit checks to verify the information you provide. They compare the details in your application, such as your name, address, and social security number, with the information in your credit report. This helps them confirm that you are not using someone else’s identity to obtain credit.

    In addition to identity verification, soft credit checks also help prevent identity fraud. By reviewing your credit history, lenders can identify any suspicious or fraudulent activities associated with your personal information. This proactive approach protects both the lender and the borrower from potential financial harm.

    Overall, soft credit checks are crucial in today’s financial landscape. They provide lenders with valuable insights into your creditworthiness, help streamline the borrowing process, and contribute to identity verification and fraud prevention. Understanding the importance of soft credit checks can empower individuals to make informed financial decisions and maintain a healthy credit profile.

    How to Perform a Soft Credit Check in Canada

    Performing a soft credit check in Canada is a straightforward process. Let’s walk through the necessary steps and gain a deeper understanding.

    Do a Soft Credit Check on Yourself

    There are many ways to get a free soft credit check, and it is a hassle-free process. To initiate a soft credit check, you can simply go to Equifax or Transunion directly or use reputable online platforms that provide this service.

    Best apps to check your credit score for free

    As a Canadian, you have several options that you can use if you want to check your credit score for free.


    Borrowell is an online platform that offers free credit scores, personalized financial recommendations, and low-interest loans. It empowers individuals to make informed financial decisions and improve their financial health. Borrowell is able to provide free access to credit scores and credit reports through its partnership with one of Canada’s two credit bureaus, Equifax.

    [Offer productType=”OtherProduct” api_id=”648a0ffcc3065548490bf1c4″]


    ClearScore is a powerful financial tool that provides free access to credit scores, personalized insights, and recommendations. ClearScore, which partners with TransUnion in Canada, empowers Canadians to track their credit health and improve their overall financial well-being.


    CompareHub, a platform for comparing products and services, now enables users to access their credit scores for free, thanks to a partnership with Equifax. This new feature assists users in regularly monitoring their credit health, aiding them in making informed financial decisions.

    Understanding Your Credit Report

    Once you receive your credit report, understanding its contents is crucial. It typically includes details such as your credit accounts, credit inquiries, payment history, and public records.

    Your credit accounts section will provide an overview of your current and past credit obligations. This includes credit cards, loans, mortgages, and other lines of credit. It will show your payment history, including any missed or late payments, as well as the current balances on your accounts.

    The credit inquiries section of your report will list any recent inquiries made by lenders or credit card companies. Soft credit checks will not be visible to others, but hard credit checks will be noted here. It’s important to review this section to ensure there are no unauthorized inquiries that could indicate potential fraud.

    Your payment history is a crucial aspect of your credit report. It shows how consistently you have made payments on time and whether you have any delinquent accounts or accounts that have gone into collections.

    Lastly, the public records section includes any legal or financial information that is publicly available, such as bankruptcies, tax liens, or court judgments. It’s important to review this section to ensure its accuracy, as any incorrect information could negatively impact your creditworthiness.

    Reviewing this report can help you gain insights into your credit health and identify areas that may require improvement. If you notice any errors or discrepancies, it’s important to contact the credit bureau to have them rectified.

    How a Soft Credit Check Affects Your Personal Data

    Companies have the authority to conduct soft credit checks without your consent in various scenarios. Lenders, for instance, may perform a soft credit check to prequalify you for a credit card, even if you haven’t submitted an application. Similarly, utility companies, insurance providers, and prospective employers are legally permitted to perform these checks without obtaining your permission. But what happens to your personal data?

    Privacy Laws and Soft Credit Checks

    In Canada, privacy laws regulate the handling of personal information, including credit reports. Credit bureaus and other institutions must adhere to the Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act (PIPEDA). This act ensures that your personal data is protected and used responsibly.

    Furthermore, PIPEDA requires organizations to implement safeguards to protect personal information against unauthorized access, disclosure, copying, use, or modification. This means that credit bureaus and other institutions must have security measures in place to ensure the confidentiality and integrity of your credit information.

    Tips to Manage Your Credit Profile

    Managing your credit profile is essential for long-term financial health. Here are some valuable tips to help you maintain a strong credit profile.

    Regularly Review Your Credit Report

    Make it a habit to review your credit report regularly. By keeping a close eye on your credit history, you can quickly identify any errors or discrepancies. This will allow you to address them promptly and maintain an accurate credit profile.

    How to Dispute Errors on Your Credit Report

    If you spot any errors on your credit report, you have the right to dispute them. Contact the credit bureau that issued the report and provide them with the necessary information to rectify the error. Promptly addressing mistakes on your credit report can prevent any negative impact on your credit standing.

    Ways to Improve Your Credit Score

    If you’re looking to improve your credit score, start by paying your bills on time and reducing your outstanding debts. Consistently making timely payments and managing your credit responsibly will gradually enhance your creditworthiness and open doors to better financial opportunities.

    With this ultimate guide to soft credit checks in Canada, you now have the knowledge and insights to navigate the world of credit checks with confidence. Remember, regular monitoring of your credit report, understanding the importance of soft credit checks, and managing your credit profile effectively can position you for financial success.

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    Arthur Dubois is a personal finance writer at Hardbacon. Since relocating to Canada, he has successfully built his credit score from scratch and begun investing in the stock market. In addition to his work at Hardbacon, Arthur has contributed to Metro newspaper and several other publications