Get Better Credit Card Deals With Pre-Qualified Offers

Brendan Harkness

Brendan Harkness | Blog

Jun 16, 2015 | Updated Oct 09, 2016

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You’ve probably been annoyed with credit card offers in the mail, inviting you to apply for this card or that, but if you’re in the market for a new card those offers can actually be quite valuable.

There are two important aspects to pre-qualified credit card offers:

  1. Knowing that you’ll (likely) be approved
  2. Being able to actively seek out offers for better credit card terms

1: Knowing That You’ll (Likely) Be Approved

When you receive a pre-qualified credit card offer (also known as pre-approved or pre-screened offers) it indicates that you’ve passed certain requirements set by the card issuer. You can know that you’ll likely be approved for that card if you apply for it soon after, taking much of the mystery out of the application process. You can know an offer already considers your credit if it has a “PRESCREEN AND OPT-OUT NOTICE” somewhere in the fine print.

This is because pre-qualified offers are what are known in the industry as “firm” offers, which means that the credit card issuer can’t change the terms of an offer after it is made; the offer stands firm, you could say.

Be aware that if something happens to change your credit after you receive a pre-qualification offer, you may no longer be eligible for the card in the offer. There are also other factors that may go into the decision that can’t be pre-screened, like your income. If you apply for a card for which you received a pre-qualified offer, you could be denied.

Do Pre-Qualified Offers Hurt My Credit?

No, pre-qualified offers do not hurt your credit at all.

Pre-qualified offers come about as a result of soft inquiries on your credit reports, which have no effect, negative or positive, on your credit score.

However, when you apply for a credit card (whether you were pre-qualified or not) you will generate a hard inquiry on your credit report, which will have a slightly negative effect on your credit score. This is a temporary effect and not usually something to be too concerned about.

2: Actively Seeking Offers For Better Credit Card Terms

Some of the offers you get will actually feature better terms for the cards than what you’ll find publicly available. These are designed to entice you to apply for the card, but also as a reward to you for meeting the card issuer’s credit criteria.

Some of the better terms you may find include:

  • More points or cash back for spending a certain amount
  • A longer 0% introductory interest rate for purchases and/or balance transfers
  • A reduced interest rate for purchases and/or balance transfers
  • A different combination of interest rates and rewards (more of one, less of the other, etc.)
  • Possibly other card features

What many people don’t know is that you can actually seek out and request these pre-qualification offers on the websites of the major credit card issuers. There’s usually an easy-to-find link or section that includes a form asking for some personal information, often your location and the last digits of your SSN.

When you make the request, you’ll generate a soft inquiry on your credit, which does not hurt your credit score. Take note that you will not be able to request pre-qualified offers if you opt out of pre-approved credit offers.

Then, if you’re eligible, you’ll be able to view some credit cards that you’re pre-qualified for. Sometimes these will be the same offers that you’ll normally find on issuer websites, but in many cases you’ll find a better deal.

Personally, I recently requested pre-qualification offers from American Express, and took one for the Blue Cash Preferred Card. I got a deal giving me $250 cash back for spending $1,000 in the first 3 months, a nice step up from the usual offer of just $150 cash back for spending that amount. That’s an extra $100 for just a few minutes of work.

So, if you’re searching for a new credit card or think that one of your old ones could use an upgrade, take a few minutes to see what pre-qualified offers are available for you.

List of Pre-Qualification Request Sites by Credit Card Issuer

See what credit cards you may be pre-qualified for, for free and without hurting your credit.

American Express (scroll to the form at the bottom)
Barclaycard (currently unavailable)
Bank of America
Capital One (click the button at the bottom)
US Bank

Wells Fargo (current accountholders may have

access to pre-qualified offers upon request)

If you really want to dig into the details of how issuers decide to approve or deny applications, take a look at the Credit Card Approval/Denial Reporting Mega Thread over at Reddit.

Q&A Video: What Does It Mean To Be Prequalified For A Credit Card?

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