What to Do Before a Credit Check to Get Approved

By Upstart Content Team | Updated November 23, 2022
reading time 5 min read
An elderly man researches at home on his iPad what to do before a credit check to get approved.

Key takeaways: 

  • When applying for credit, a lender will typically check your credit history with a hard inquiry to determine approval or denial. They base their decision on your payment habits, current credit score, and past inquiries.
  • Checking your credit score and report is considered a soft inquiry, won’t hurt your score, and can help you see where your credit health stands.
  • Maintaining or improving your credit score with good financial practices before a credit check can help your chances of approval.

If you were to apply for a new line of credit, would your current credit history get you approved? When submitting a loan application, passing a credit check almost always requires preparation on the consumer’s end. You’re never guaranteed approval for a loan. But there are ways to feel more in control of your financial status when submitting your application.

A credit check closely examines your credit history and payment habits. That’s why it’s beneficial to present yourself as being responsible and consistent. Showing you’re a worthy applicant can also give you access to better loan terms, such as a lower interest rate or higher credit limit.

Before a lender checks your credit, consider taking a few steps to improve your odds of getting approved.

What is a credit check and how does it work?

When you submit an application for a large financial commitment—such as a loan, credit card, or lease—it triggers a hard credit check or hard credit inquiry. A credit inquiry is a formal request, usually made by a financial institution, to view your credit report.

Once you grant a lender permission to check your credit, they pull your credit report from any of the three major credit bureaus: Experian®, Equifax®, or TransUnion®. Each credit reporting agency regularly updates the status of your current accounts to calculate your credit score.

During the credit check, the lender will generally evaluate the following to determine whether you get approved, how much money you can borrow, and the interest rate you’ll qualify for:

  • Current credit score
  • On-time payments 
  • Potential borrowing power 

Each of these factors is subject to change over time, depending on your financial patterns and income.

How do I prepare for a credit check?

When applying for any type of credit, it’s smart to prepare your finances for a credit inquiry beforehand. The better your score and report, the higher your chance of getting your application approved. This way, you also avoid the risk of hard credit inquiries lowering your credit score and getting denied on top of it.

Maintaining a good or excellent credit score will help you obtain the lowest possible interest rates. Aim to hold a high score to appear as a worthy candidate to lenders and set yourself up for the most suitable loan.

Know what to do before a credit check. It starts with looking into the data unique to you.

Check your credit score

It does not hurt your credit to run a credit check on yourself. Looking at your FICO® score or VantageScore® is considered a soft inquiry. Many websites or apps offer to check your score for free.

A credit scoring model will give valuable insight into your credit rating. It’s important to understand what shaped your current score. This can help you determine how likely you are to qualify for the credit you’re applying for. Your data is combined into five categories to create your credit score:

  • Payment history (35%)
  • Accounts owed (30%)
  • Length of credit history (15%)
  • New credit (10%)
  • Credit mix (10%)

After looking at your score, consider if it would be beneficial to spend time boosting your score before applying for credit. Results may take a few weeks to update, but making fixes in advance can significantly help improve your score.

Pro Tip: According to Experian, credit scores considered good range from 670 to 739. Try to aim for an excellent credit score as you build credit experience, and avoid falling into the bad credit score range. To lenders, the lower your score, the more likely you are to become delinquent. If you’re in this position, it may be difficult to obtain an advantageous loan or one at all. Rebuilding your credit and getting the best loan options available for you could be worth the wait.

Does it hurt your credit to run a credit check?

It does not hurt your credit to run a credit check on yourself. Looking at your FICO® score or VantageScore® is considered a soft inquiry. In fact, it’s good to check your score regularly to ensure all current and new information is correct. Many websites or apps offer to check your score and report for free. 

Review your credit report

Your credit report calculates your credit score with a soft inquiry. It contains personal information, credit accounts and history, along with public records, including things like collections or bankruptcies. It documents your credit in detail and displays how well you’ve managed your money for up to 10 years.

Take note of important habits that have weighed your score over time and how you should take action. Affecting factors often include how many late payments you might have had and how efficiently you’ve paid your bills overall.

Use your credit responsibly

Credit grows over time depending on how you handle your borrowed money. A poor or damaged credit score can hold you back from getting a loan entirely. But using your existing credit responsibly can help build your credit, no matter what score you’re starting at.

When applying for a new line of credit, it’s crucial to make sure you’re taking these influential measures seriously:

  • Pay all bills on time. Payment plays a huge role in determining your credit score. Setting up automatic payments can ensure you never miss a due date.
  • Pay off debt. Paying off outstanding debts can help improve your payment history and reduce your credit utilization ratio.
  • Stay below credit limits. Always aim to keep your credit utilization rate significantly lower than the amount you have available.
  • Only apply for the credit you need. Every time you apply for new credit, your score could drop five points or more. New credit can lower your average account age. Applying for multiple loans around the same timeframe can also raise a red flag to lenders about your financial situation.

Utilize preapproval tools

Before you submit an application and trigger a hard inquiry, use a preapproval or prequalification tool. This can give you a better idea of your chances of approval, and it only requires a soft pull.  A soft inquiry is performed to find out if you’re eligible for a certain credit card or loan. Most lenders, banks, or similar financial companies offer these tools on their websites.

Pro Tip: Checking your rate through Upstart is always a soft inquiry on your credit and won’t impact your score.* Our model looks beyond your credit score when matching you with loan options.

Dispute Any Errors

You can dispute any ‌mistakes in your credit report. The bureau displaying that information will verify whether it is correct, then remove it from your report accordingly.

Misinformation on your credit report is a common reason why your credit score may have dropped. Having negative information removed from your report might cause your score to increase. Ensuring you have an error-free credit report is a good way to prepare before a potential lender runs a check.

Compare your credit options

Comparing your options across more than one lender can save you time and money no matter what type of credit you’re considering.

Whether it’s a revolving line of credit or an installment credit, check the fees, interest rates, and rewards you could earn to find the best option for you. This way, you won’t struggle to build your credit and your financial status will remain in good standing.

Take hold of your finances before a credit check to build your future

Understanding what to do before a credit check with these steps can ensure you’re in the best position when applying for credit. Before you submit an application, take a look at your own credit report, use your existing credit responsibly, consider pre-qualification tools, and don’t forget to compare your options.

Whichever way you prepare for a credit inquiry, even a slight increase in your credit score can determine if you’ll get approved for the loan you’re aiming for.

This content is general in nature and is provided for informational purposes only. Upstart is not a financial advisor and does not offer financial planning services. This content may contain references to products and services offered through Upstart’s credit marketplace.

About the Author

Upstart Content Team

The Upstart Content Team shares industry insights, practical tips, and borrower success stories to help people better understand the important “money moments” of their lives.

More resources you may be interested in

What is a Hard Credit Inquiry? Why Does it Matter to My Credit?
Why Did My Credit Score Drop for No Reason? 10 Common Reasons Your Score Went Down
What Is Considered a Good Credit Score?

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Check your rate lock Won't affect your credit score¹

1. When you check your rate, we check your credit report. This initial (soft) inquiry will not affect your credit score. If you accept your rate and proceed with your application, we do another (hard) credit inquiry that will impact your credit score. If you take out a loan, repayment information may be reported to the credit bureaus.