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One way to save time and stress when applying for a credit card — and protect your credit score — is to look for companies that offer credit card preapproval. You won’t know for sure that you’ll actually receive the card until you formally apply. But with this prescreening process, which uses a soft credit pull that won’t affect your credit, you may get a better idea of whether you’ll qualify for the card you’re considering.This can be a major relief, considering that simply applying for a card can trigger a hard credit inquiry that could temporarily drop your credit score. That’s not great even if you get the card, but it can be especially frustrating if your application is denied. Read on to learn about the companies that offer preapproval for credit cards.
What Is Credit Card Preapproval?Credit card preapproval generally means that, based on some limited personal and financial information, a credit card company has decided you’re likely to be approved for one or more of its cards.It's important to remember, though, that making it through this initial prescreening process doesn’t mean you’ll automatically get the card you want. You’ll still have to apply for the card, undergo a hard credit check (which will affect your credit score) and wait to hear back about your final approval.Preapproval credit card offers aren’t hard to find. If you have a particular credit card or credit card company you’re interested in, you may be able to go directly to the card issuer’s website to see if there are any preapproved cards listed that match your needs. (Not all issuers make preapproval offers available online, but it doesn’t take long to look.) Consumers who want to check out multiple opportunities can use a credit card comparison website to find their best fit. These sites will help you evaluate the pros and cons of a variety of cards, including credit card costs and fees, from several card companies all in one place.Some credit card companies also send out specific offers by direct mail to consumers who appear to meet criteria they’re looking for based on data provided by a partnering credit bureau.Credit card preapprovals have benefits for both the card companies and consumers. Card issuers can target people who might be interested in opening an account if they know a special offer is available to them and they’re likely to get the card if they apply. And consumers can shop around for just the right card without damaging their credit score by making multiple applications in a short period of time.
How Can Applying for a Credit Card Affect Credit Score?When you apply for a new credit card, you can expect the company issuing the card to evaluate your credit report to determine if you’re a credit risk. And that credit check — called a hard inquiry or hard pull — can temporarily lower your credit score.New credit makes up 10% of a FICO® credit score, so if you apply for a number of credit cards within a short period of time, your score could take a hit. But if you apply for just one card, the drop may not be much — especially if you have a reasonably long and strong credit history. (FICO says its model typically docks scores by fewer than five points.)A hard inquiry may remain on your credit report for up to two years. However, if you manage your debt responsibly, your credit scores could recover within a few months. Because preapproval doesn’t require a hard credit pull, you can shop for a card that suits both your needs and your credit score without formally applying — eliminating the need for multiple hard inquiries and their effects on your credit score. Recommended: Fixed vs. Variable Interest Rate Credit Cards: What’s the Difference?
5 Companies That Offer Preapproved Credit CardsYou may have received an offer in the mail for a specific credit card in the past. But there are also companies that may have more than one card that’s a good match for you. To find those cards, you generally can go to a company’s website, look for an online prequalification tool and enter some basic information (usually your name, income, employment status, and at least the last four digits of your Social Security number). You can then quickly see the cards that particular issuer says you’re preapproved for. Once you’ve gathered that information, you may want to do some follow-up research, including a check to ensure you’re clear on the details of any offers that interest you. You also may want to look at other issuers’ sites, or a comparison site, to be sure you’re getting the best offer for your circumstances. (Keep in mind that each credit card company’s preapproved cards may change periodically — and you may have a limited amount of time to take advantage of a particular offer.)The preapproval process may vary from one credit card issuer to the next. Here are five companies that offer preapproved credit cards designed to meet a diverse range of customer needs.
Capital OneCapital One has a prequalification tool that considers a user’s eligibility for several of its cards, including the QuicksilverOne Rewards card, Capital One Platinum card, Quicksilver Rewards for Good Credit card and the Platinum Secured card. So, if you’re trying to build your credit, or if you’re looking for a card with rewards, you may find one that fits your goals. Be prepared, though, to provide a bit more info than is required by some other sites even though this is just a preapproval page. You’ll have to give the following details:
- Phone number
- Email address
- Full Social Security number (not just the last four digits)
- Annual income
- Amount of your monthly rent or house payment
- Employment status
- Types of bank accounts you currently have (account numbers not required)
American ExpressAmerican Express lets non-Amex members see if they’re eligible for prequalified offers on several cards, including the Blue Cash Preferred Card from American Express and The Platinum Card from American Express. And, based on your credit reports, you also might qualify for more personalized offers.American Express cards are known for their perks, from spending bonuses to presale ticket access to sports and other events. But they aren’t necessarily super-easy to get. You may have to wait until your credit score is at least in the good range (for a FICO® Score, that’s 670 to 739) to be eligible for a preapproval offer or, ultimately, to receive an approval for a higher-level card. You can find out what’s available to you by entering the following information in the easy-to-use online prequalification tool:
- Your name
- Last four digits of your Social Security number
DiscoverDiscover also uses a prequalification tool to match consumers with a range of cards — including the Discover it® Secured Credit Card for borrowers who want to earn rewards while building or rebuilding their credit. You’ll have to answer several questions to find your matches, including:
- If you’re a student
- Gross income
- Housing status and monthly payment
- Date of birth
- Full Social Security number
- What type of card benefit you’re seeking
Credit One BankCredit One Bank offers several different types of preapproved credit cards, with varying rewards and interest rates, including the Platinum Rewards Visa for those with average to excellent credit and the Credit One Bank Wander™ Card, which may appeal to frequent travelers. You can use a prequalification tool to research Credit One’s current preapproval offers. Or you may want to start with the site’s “Choosing a Credit Card” page, which allows you to read about the perks and costs of various cards based on your “excellent,” “average,” or “rebuilding” credit status. (Yes, there are filters!) You also can read reviews. If you see something you like, you can click through to the “Prequalify for a Credit Card” page.
Petal®Petal offers two cards — the Petal 1 and Petal 2 — and both are designed to help users build their credit. Petal credit cards are issued by WebBank, Member FDIC. You can get details about each, and preapproval for one or maybe both without impacting your credit score, through the Petal website.To get started, you’ll need to enter the following:
- Phone number
- Social Security number or individual tax identification number
- Employment status
Choosing a Credit CardIt’s OK to be picky about the credit card or cards you keep in your wallet. Knowing what kind of rewards a card offers is important, but so is finding the right annual percentage rate (APR), low or no fees, and other benefits. It’s also helpful to find a card that works for your spending style — especially if you’re trying to build or rebuild your credit. For instance, you may want to explore and compare credit builder cards.Here are a few things to consider as you’re selecting a credit card that’s right for your needs and goals.
Check Your CreditIt’s possible your credit isn’t as bad — or as good — as you think. It’s not a bad idea to check on your status once in a while. (Note that checking on your credit yourself won’t damage your credit score.)You can get free copies of your credit reports once a year from each of the three major credit bureaus through AnnualCreditReport.com, the only government-authorized site for free reports. This will give you an idea of what credit card issuers will see when they look into your creditworthiness as well as what can affect your credit score.You also may be able to find your credit score on one of your credit card statements, or through your financial institution’s app or website. If necessary, you can then work on building your credit. And if there are any errors on your credit reports, you can take steps to fix them.
Be Clear on What You Want and NeedAre you looking for the cash-back rewards, miles, or points? Or are you more interested in getting the lowest APR possible so you can save on interest? If you’re hoping to rebuild your credit after a rough patch, you may need a secured credit card, which uses a refundable security deposit as collateral while you show the issuer you aren’t a risk. It may help to start your credit card research with a prioritized list of what you want. Then, as you go, you can compare how various preapproval credit cards match up with your list.
Balance the Perks and the PriceThink about how you’ll use your new card and measure the benefits against the costs. If you expect to carry a balance from month to month, for example, you might find a low APR is more valuable than a rewards program you may or may not be able to use. And before you get too excited about high-end perks like advance access to ticket sales, consider whether it’s worth any extra fees you may have to pay.
Read the Fine PrintBefore formally applying for the credit card you think is “the one,” it’s a good idea to read the fine print and look up any credit card jargon you don’t understand. Some things to look for include:
The TakeawayIt doesn’t cost anything to look at preapproval credit card offers, and you may even find better perks or a lower APR than you expected. Plus, you won’t have to worry about dinging your credit score even a little until you actually apply for the card you want.Keep in mind that an applicant may receive a preapproval offer and still be turned down when applying for a credit card. But the preapproval process, which uses a soft credit inquiry that doesn’t have any effect on credit scores, may be useful when you’re shopping for the best credit card perks and terms. And it can help show which card or cards you have the best odds of receiving if you do decide to apply.Simplify your search for preapproved credit cards with Lantern. Our online tool makes comparing cards easy by allowing you to evaluate offers for different types of cards, at varying credit levels, and from several card issuers.
Third-Party Brand Mentions: No brands or products mentioned are affiliated with SoFi, nor do they endorse or sponsor this article. Third-party trademarks referenced herein are property of their respective owners.
Photo credit: iStock/LaylaBird
About the Author
Kim Franke-FolstadKim Franke-Folstad is an award-winning journalist with 30 years of experience writing and editing for newspapers, magazines and websites. Her work for SoFi covers a range of topics related to personal finance, including budgeting, saving, borrowing, and investing.