How to Check If I’m Prequalified for a Credit Card
You’ve found the perfect credit card and you’re ready to hit “apply”, but there’s a nervous knot in your stomach — will your application go through? How far will your credit score drop if you’re denied? Luckily, many credit card issuers allow you to prequalify for a new credit card before applying.
Simply stated, prequalification allows you to check if you may qualify for a credit card without a hard pull to your credit that could cause a drop in your credit score. There are several ways to see if you’re prequalified, including prescreened offers, online prequalification tools or directly through a card issuer, bank or retail store.
We’ll review how prequalification differs from preapproval, how you can check for prequalified offers, what to watch out for and what steps you can take if you don’t prequalify for a card.
How to get preapproved for a credit card
You have a few options for checking whether you prequalify for a credit card: prescreened letters in the mail or email, online prequalification tools, directly through card issuers and through a bank or retailer.
In some cases, you can seek out the prequalification offers online. For mail and email, meanwhile, you’ll have to wait and see if you receive an offer via your mailbox or email account. These prequalification methods provide a great way for you to weigh your approval odds.
1. Check your mail or email for prescreened offers
Keep an eye on your mail, because you’ll often find prescreened offers there. These offers are tempting and can be a starting point when searching for a credit card, but you should make sure the offer is legitimate. If the offer isn’t from a major issuer or bank, do some online research before applying. Verify the email is directly from the issuer, and before submitting an application, be sure to read the terms and conditions. It’s also a good idea to call a representative from the issuer to confirm the offer is real.
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 you actually apply, the issuer may discover that you don’t meet all the criteria for approval.
See more of our picks for the best balance transfer credit cards.
2. Use online prequalification tools
Some websites allow you to prequalify for cards from a variety of issuers. This may be a good way to go if you want a larger number of options conveniently located on one site. Still, you’re matched with offers from the site’s partners, so you may not see all the cards you’d be a good fit for. Plus, again, there’s no guarantee you’ll be approved once you formally apply.
3. Go directly to issuer sites
You can also go directly to an issuer’s site to see if you prequalify for a card. More credit card issuers have started offering prequalification tools, where, typically, the issuer will ask you to provide some basic personal information. Issuers use this information to perform a soft credit pull for a snapshot of your creditworthiness. You’ll get a list of cards, if any, that you can prequalify for after the soft pull.
Here’s a look at preapproval options available through several popular credit card issuers.
|Issuer||Offers preapproval?||Required information|
|American Express||Yes||Name, address, Social Security number and income|
|Bank of America||Yes||Name, birth date, Social Security number and address|
|Capital One||Yes||Name, address, employment status, education status, income, monthly housing expense, birth date and Social Security number|
|Chase||Yes (existing customers only)||Name, address and Social Security number|
|Citi||Yes||Name, Social Security number and address|
|Discover||Yes||Name, address, birth date, monthly housing expense and income|
|U.S. Bank||Yes (existing customers only)|
|Wells Fargo||Yes||Name, address and Social Security number|
4. Apply through a bank branch
You can often prequalify for a credit card through your local bank or credit union. You can head to your local bank branch and ask the teller to search for available card offers. By applying through a bank with which you have a relationship, you can boost your approval odds, plus a bank representative may be able to help you through the application process.
5. Apply through your favorite store
Your favorite retailers may offer prequalification for store cobranded credit cards. You may receive preapproval offers in the mail, via email or by shopping online at the retailer’s website. Retailers that allow you to prequalify for a store credit card include Kohl’s, Home Depot, Lowe’s, Wayfair and The Container Store.
Are you guaranteed to get approved if you 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’ll still need to apply for the credit card, and even if you originally prequalified, you may ultimately be rejected. That’s 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.
Learn more about how you can get instant approval on credit cards.
What’s the difference between preapproval and prequalification?
While the terms prequalification and preapproval are often used interchangeably, they may carry different meanings, depending on the credit card issuer:
Prequalification generally means that you’ve met general credit score and other requirements to qualify for offers through a card issuer. The prequalification process is usually initiated by the consumer and may include a soft credit pull.
A preapproval from a card issuer usually means the issuer has already accessed your credit and financial information. Because the issuer has looked at a more thorough set of information, your odds of approval may be higher than with a prequalified offer.
In either case, there’s no guarantee that your application will be accepted. When you apply for a credit card, the issuer will perform a hard credit inquiry, which takes a deeper dive into your credit file, employment status, income and financial history to determine creditworthiness. It’s possible to be preapproved or prequalified for a card only to have your application rejected by the issuer.
Does prequalifying affect your credit score?
Prequalfication doesn’t negatively affect your credit score. Credit card issuers often perform a soft credit inquiry during the prequalifcation process. Soft credit pulls are a snapshot of your credit profile and have no impact on your credit score.
If you formally apply for a credit card, the card issuer will perform a hard credit inquiry to determine your eligibility for the card. Hard credit inquiries can cause your credit score to drop temporarily.
Learn more about factors that affect your credit score.
What to watch out for when prequalifying for a credit card
The prequalification process can vary depending on the credit card issuer. Here are some tips to consider when prequalifying for a credit card:
- Read the fine print. Before checking if you prequalify for a credit card, make sure the issuer is performing a soft pull on your credit. A soft pull does not affect your credit score, but a hard pull will lower your score. Read the terms of prequalification before submitting any form.
- You don’t have to apply for every card. Just because you prequalify for a credit card doesn’t mean you should apply for it. Prequalification does not guarantee approval — so before applying for any credit card, you should be certain the card is a good fit for you and you’re aware of its terms and conditions. Applying for too many credit cards can hurt your credit score, and you should limit applications to one at a time.
Applying for a card can affect your credit. If you decide to apply for a card, the credit card company will perform a hard credit pull, which can cause your credit score to drop.
How to boost your chances of prequalifying for a credit card
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.
Follow the tips below to improve your odds of prequalifying for a card:
- 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 list 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 alarm for issuers. 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 at LendingTree.
- Improve your credit. If you have poor credit, chances are you most likely won’t qualify for a regular credit card. A good way to improve your credit is to apply for a secured credit card. Another option is to find someone with good credit and to piggyback off one of their accounts as an authorized user. This can quickly boost your credit score and enable you to qualify for a credit card offer on your own.
- Make on-time payments. Credit card issuers look at payment history when approving card applications. Paying your bills on time can help build a positive payment history. It can also help boost your credit score.
- Pay down debt. Another way to improve your credit score is to pay off existing debt. Another way to improve your credit score is to pay off existing debt. Doing so lowers your credit utilization ratio (the amount of debt you have versus your credit limit) — a major factor in credit scoring. If you lower your credit utilization by a large amount, you can significantly boost your odds of qualifying for a card.