A soft inquiry does not affect your credit score and is typically used when employers are doing background checks, or when credit card companies are doing their random check up’s. A hard inquiry is when you are applying for any type of loan or credit card (even a store credit card). This type of inquiry can have a negative effect on your credit for up to 6 months. Car rental companies do not pull hard inquiries. The only time a car rental company will pull any type of a credit report is if you are paying with a debit card. This is to verify that there is no fraud alerts on your account, because it is only in these situations and they do not really need any information other than the fraud alerts it is considered a soft inquiry. To avoid this, you will need to pay with an actual credit card.