Get Better Credit Card Deals With Pre-Qualified and Pre-Approved Credit Card Offers

Brendan Harkness

Brendan Harkness | Blog

Jun 16, 2015 | Updated Apr 30, 2018

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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 offers or pre-screened offers) it may indicate that you’ve passed certain requirements set by the card issuer, even if you have bad credit. Financial institutions regularly ask credit bureaus for a list of people who fit certain credit history criteria, which is how pre-screened offers happen.

If your credit was pre-screened, you can know that you have good approval odds for that card if you apply for it soon after, taking much of the mystery out of the application process. But remember, pre-approval does not guarantee you will be approved, and you’ll still get a hard inquiry if you decide to apply.

To know whether an offer already considers your credit look for the “PRESCREEN AND OPT-OUT NOTICE” somewhere in the fine print. If you see that, credit reporting agencies have already considered your credit. If you don’t, then this is a more generic offer that was not sent to you based on your credit history.

When your credit history has been checked, the offer is a “firm” offer, which means that the credit card issuer can’t change the terms of an offer after it is made unless there is significant new information or there are major changes to your credit history since the offer was sent.

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 fill out a credit card application and 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-approved credit card 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 account (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:

  • Better rewards programs, or more points or cash back for spending a certain amount
  • A longer 0% introductory interest rate for purchases or balance transfers
  • A reduced APR for purchases or balance transfers
  • A lower APR
  • A lower annual fee

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. You’ll often need to enter your name, street address, zip code, and the last digits of your Social Security Number.

When you make the request, the credit card issuer will do a soft credit check. That will generate a soft inquiry on your credit, which does not hurt your credit scores. 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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The responses below are not provided or commissioned by bank advertisers. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by bank advertisers. It is not the bank advertisers' responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.

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