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How to Check If I’m Prequalified for a Credit Card
Editorial Note: The content of this article is based on the author’s opinions and recommendations alone. It may not have been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the credit card issuer. This site may be compensated through a credit card issuer partnership.
A great feature that many credit card issuers offer is prequalification. Simply stated, this allows you to check if you may qualify for a credit card by performing a soft pull on your credit. A soft pull does not affect your credit score, unlike a hard pull that will appear on your credit report and can cause your credit score to drop by a few points.
When checking if you’re prequalified, you typically provide your name and last four digits of your Social Security number. This gives the issuer a snapshot of your credit, allowing them to make a tentative decision of whether you’d get approved for a credit card or not.
We’ll review how prequalification differs from pre-approval, three ways you can check for prequalified offers, what to watch out for, and steps you can take if you don’t prequalify for a card.
Am I guaranteed to get approved if I prequalify for a credit card?
The short answer is no. The response you receive from prequalification is not an approval for a credit card. You will still need to apply for the credit card, and even if you originally prequalified, you may be rejected. This is because unlike the soft pull performed during prequalification, credit card applications perform hard pulls on your credit and look at your full credit history, so other factors are considered when coming to a final decision (like payment history, employment and salary). Depending on the status of these factors, an approval or denial will be issued.
Still, getting prequalified is a wise step to take because you can at least make an educated guess on whether you will be approved before you allow a credit issuer to perform a hard pull of your credit history.
What’s the difference between pre-approval and prequalification?
While these terms are often used interchangeably, there are some slight differences between a credit card pre-approval and prequalification.
To clarify, credit card issuers often review consumer credit reports to determine if a person’s credit profile would be a good fit for their products. If so, then the issuer may send a letter via mail or an email to that person saying that they are pre-approved or prequalified for a specific credit card.
These types of credit report inquiries are considered “soft” inquiries and do not impact your credit score the way a “hard inquiry” would, which is when an issuer reviews your credit file more closely to determine whether you are truly a good candidate for a credit card once you formally apply for a credit card.
However, if you receive a pre-approval or prequalified marketing letter, that still doesn’t guarantee you’ll actually be approved for the card once you formally apply as the issuer will still need to check your employment status and income, which are not included on your credit reports.
Conversely, when a consumer uses a credit card issuer’s prequalification tool online to check to see if there is a good approval chance for a card, this is not necessarily considered to be a pre-approval. Generally, these tools also generate a soft inquiry on your credit report, and do not impact your credit score. Unfortunately, just because an issuer says you are prequalified for a card, you are still not guaranteed approval for the card until you formally apply for the card for the same reasons above (employment and income check). It’s just that the odds are more in your favor of being approved than not.
3 ways to see if you prequalify for a credit card
There are three ways for you to check if you prequalify for a credit card: prescreened letters in the mail, online prequalification tools and going directly to the source. The latter two require direct action on your part to seek out the prequalification offers online; meanwhile you will have to wait and see if you receive an offer via mail. These three prequalification methods provide a great way for you to weigh your approval odds.
1. Prescreened offers in the mail
You may receive letters in the mail from credit card issuers saying you may prequalify to apply for their credit card. These offers are tempting and can be a starting point when searching for a credit card, but it’s important to make sure the offer is legitimate. If the offer isn’t from a major issuer or bank, take caution and do some online research before applying. Before submitting any application, be sure to read the terms and conditions. It’s also a good idea to call and consult a representative from the issuer to validate your offer letter.
Keep in mind that a prescreened offer is not a guarantee of approval. For example, a Citibank prescreened offer for the Citi® Double Cash Card – 18 month BT offer states “you’ve been preselected to apply” and provides a personal invitation number to enter when applying either online, by phone or via mail. That means the issuer has taken a cursory look at your credit reports and determined that you may meet its qualifications for approval. However, once it takes a deeper dive into your profile after you formally apply, the issuer may discover that you don’t meet all the criteria for approval.
2. Online prequalification tools
Several online websites allow you to check to see if you prequalify for offers for a variety of credit cards. You are matched with offers from the site’s partners, so you may not see all credit cards for which you’d be a good fit, and again, there’s no guarantee you’ll be approved once you formally apply.
3. Go directly to the source
The best way to see if you prequalify for a credit card you’re interested in is to go directly to the issuing bank’s website. Many of the leading banks offer prequalification tools. Here are the banks that allow you to check if you’re prequalified:
Pitfalls to avoid when seeking prequalification
Before checking if you prequalify for a credit card, make sure the issuer is performing a soft pull on your credit. While a soft pull does not affect your credit score, a hard pull will lower your score. Be sure to read the terms of prequalification before submitting any form. Many issuers state a soft pull “won’t affect your credit score” or have you check a box that marks your approval to submit the prequalification form and acknowledges the form won’t affect your credit score.
Another point to be aware of is applying for too many offers simply because you prequalify. Just because you prequalify for a credit card doesn’t mean you should apply for it. Prequalification does not guarantee approval. Before applying for any credit card, you should be certain that it is in your best interest and you’re aware of the terms and conditions. Applying for too many credit cards can hurt your credit score, and you should limit applications to one at a time.
Keep in mind, once you fill out a credit card application, the issuer will review your credit report, and this will be considered a hard pull on your credit.
What if I’m denied?
If you receive a denial from your prequalification check, don’t fret, you still have options. Just because you didn’t prequalify, doesn’t mean you won’t be approved, although your approval chances most likely will be slim. Prequalification checks do not look at your full credit history and things like employment status and salary, which may strengthen your credit card application.
Whether you’ve been denied or are planning on checking if you prequalify for a credit card, it’s helpful to do a little homework first, for example:
- Check your credit score in advance. A great way to see where you stand in terms of your credit is to check your credit score. This will give you an idea of what credit cards you may qualify for. There are many resources you can use to get your FICO® Score for free, including Experian’s free credit report and FICO Score.
- Find out what type of credit score the card requires before you apply. Some credit cards specify the type of credit needed to qualify for the card. This will give you an idea of what credit score you need in order to have the best chance of being approved. For example, if you have a fair credit score and a card requires excellent credit, it’s unlikely you’ll be approved and you narrow your search for cards that are designed for fair credit.
- Check your credit report. Each year you’re entitled to a free copy of your credit report from the three bureaus — Experian, Equifax and TransUnion. Regularly checking your credit report may alert you of anything that could cause issuers alarm. The best resource for checking your credit report is AnnualCreditReport.com, which is the only site authorized by the government. If you want to check your report more frequently, there are plenty of tools available to help, like LendingTree.
- Improve your credit. If you have poor credit, chances are you most likely won’t qualify for a credit card. A good way to improve your credit is to apply for a secured card. With a secured card, you are required to put up a deposit, which serves as your credit line. Another option is to become an authorized user on someone’s account. This has the potential to allow you to piggyback off of someone else’s good credit — as long as they are responsible card users. Once your credit score rises, you can check if you prequalify for a credit card offer of your own.
Credit card prequalification FAQs
What does prequalified for a credit card mean?
Many credit card issuers have prequalification tools on their websites where consumers can input some general information, such as their name, Social Security Number and other identifying information that allows the issuer to do a quick review of your credit report to determine your creditworthiness. Depending on your credit history, the issuer will then see if you match the core credit profile needed for approval for an individual credit card or cards. If that credit profile matches, then a card or series of cards will be suggested for you to review. If you determine that you’d like to then formally apply for the card, you will need to fill out the card application, which will ask for more information, such as employment status and income. Once you submit the application, the issuer will then make a final decision of whether you will be approved for the card or not.
How do I prequalify for a Discover card?
If you’re interested in seeing which Discover cards you may be qualified to apply for, click on this link. Discover’s card offerings include student cards and secured cards to help build credit, as well as an array of cashback and travel rewards cards.
How do I prequalify for a Chase card?
To see if you prequalify for a Chase-issued credit card, click on this link. Note that many Chase cards require higher credit scores for approval, plus there is the Chase’s 5/24 rule where it will reject an application if you’ve applied for more than five cards from any issuer in the past two years.
How do I prequalify for a Capital One card?
Capital One’s prequalification tool allows you to select which type of card you’re more interested in, such as low interest, travel or cash back. Capital One has a two-card limit, meaning you won’t be approved for a new card if you already have two open credit cards from Capital One. Here is the link to Capital One’s prequalification tool.
How do I prequalify for a Bank of America credit card?
To see if you prequalify for a Bank of America card, you don’t need to have a Bank of America checking or savings account. Just click on the “Continue without signing in” from this webpage, and then you’ll be asked to enter your name, birthdate and last four digits of your Social Security Number.
How do I prequalify for a Citi credit card?
Unfortunately, Citi has temporarily deactivated its prequalification tool.