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What Does ‘Preapproved’ Mean for a Credit Card?

What Does ‘Preapproved’ Mean for a Credit Card?
Jason Steele
Jason SteeleUpdated January 10, 2023
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Editor’s note: Lantern by SoFi seeks to provide content that is objective, independent and accurate. Writers are separate from our business operation and do not receive direct compensation from advertisers or partners. Read more about our Editorial Guidelines and How We Make Money.
You may have received a preapproved credit card offer in the mail and wondered exactly what it means. Credit card preapproval is a type of prescreening that signifies you’ve met the initial criteria for the credit card. Read on to learn more about how credit card preapproval works.

What ‘Preapproved’ Means and Doesn’t Mean

While opening a preapproval offer, you’ve probably asked yourself, what does preapproved mean for a credit card? When you receive a preapproved offer, it means a credit card issuer has determined that you meet the basic requirements for a particular card based on your credit profile. It does not mean that you will be automatically approved if you apply for the card. 

How Credit Card Preapproval Works

Preapproval can be a way for card issuers to promote their cards. Essentially, they are inviting you to apply for the card because you look like a promising customer. But how do they find you? Credit card companies purchase data on prospective customers from the major consumer credit bureaus. They do this by sending specific criteria they’re looking for to the credit bureaus. The credit bureaus then do a soft pull to find people who match the criteria. The credit card issuer sends out preapproval offers to these individuals.Receiving a pre-approved offer means you fit the profile of a consumer who might be approved for that card, but it doesn’t guarantee that you will be approved if you apply. For example, your credit profile could have changed since the data was initially collected for the offer. 

Does Credit Card Preapproval Affect Your Credit Score?

What does a preapproved credit card mean for your credit score? Preapproved offers typically don’t impact your credit score because the card issuers do what’s known as a soft pull on your credit. This kind of inquiry gives the basic details of your credit and generally does not affect your credit score. Soft pull is one of the credit card terminologies you should be familiar with when using a credit card.

What Are the Benefits of Credit Card Preapproval?

There may be some significant advantages to credit card preapproval offers, such as:

Does Not Affect Your Credit Score

Getting a preapproved offer for a credit card typically doesn’t affect your credit score. This is because a soft pull is done for preapproval offers. However, when you actually apply for a credit card—even one that you’re preapproved for—the credit card company will do a hard inquiry on your credit report, which does affect your credit score. If you use credit monitoring, you’ll see that your score doesn’t change when you receive a preapproved credit card offer. 

Saves the Time of an Application

Receiving a preapproved offer for a new credit card can save you the time of applying for a card and waiting to find out if you qualify. 

Allows You to Check Your Credit Qualifications

When you get a preapproved offer, it could give you a good sense of your credit profile. For example, if you receive preapproved offers for premium travel rewards cards, it may indicate that you have strong credit. And if you’ve had a bad credit score in the past, and you start receiving offers for cards targeted to people with a good credit score, that might be a positive sign about your credit.

Can Lead to More Competitive Offers

Receiving preapproved offers could make you aware of different credit card opportunities so that you can weigh their benefits. You can learn about various credit rewards programs, for instance. These offers may also come with a sign-up bonus or better terms. In addition, you could even receive a more competitive credit card offer than you might have gotten on your own. For example, getting a preapproval for a credit card for those with good credit could indicate that you might qualify for a card with better rates and features than you realized.

Disadvantages of Credit Card Preapproval

There are some drawbacks to preapproved credit card offers, however. These include:

Preapproved Offers May Not Always Be the Best Offers 

When you get a preapproved offer, it might not be the best credit card offer available. Before applying for the card, go online and check offers from that credit card issuer and other issuers as well. As you are comparing credit cards, you may find one with more favorable rates and terms on your own. 

You Aren’t Guaranteed Approval

A preapproved offer does not mean that your application will be approved. You have to submit a formal application, and the card issuer needs to do a hard pull on your credit to see if you qualify.

Unsolicited Mail

Preapproved offers for credit cards are unrequested mail, which some consumers might not want. These offers can clog your mailbox, and the printed materials they contain may be considered wasteful. 

Instances Where You May Need Credit Card Preapproval

If you are trying to increase your likelihood of being approved for a card, then a preapproved offer may help. While preapproval is not a guarantee that you will be approved for a credit card, your chances may be greater than they would have otherwise since you have been prescreened.

Tips for Getting Credit Card Preapproval

These strategies may help you get credit card preapproval:
  • Fill out a form. Some credit card issuers offer credit card preapproval after you fill out an online form and provide some basic information. 
  • Build your credit. Doing this could help you become eligible for preapproval offers in the future. Pay your bills on time each month and keep your debt low. Becoming an authorized user on a credit card of someone with good credit can also help build your credit.
  • Don’t opt out. If you want to receive preapproved credit card offers, be sure not to opt out of marketing mailings from card issuers. 

Differences Between ‘Preapproved’ and ‘Prequalified’

With many credit card issuers, preapproved offers and prequalified offers are the same thing. But with others, you may need to be prequalified in order to receive a preapproval offer. In that case, you need to reach out to the card issuer and fill out a form to see if you meet the criteria. If you do, they may send you preapproval offers. 

The Takeaway

When you receive a preapproved credit card offer, it means that you meet certain criteria and may be more likely to be approved. These offers don’t affect your credit score. However, a preapproval offer does not guarantee that your application will be accepted. You can still be declined after the card issuer does a hard pull on your credit.Fortunately, you don’t have to wait for a preapproval offer to apply for a new credit card. If you’re looking for a card, Lantern by SoFi can help make the process easier. In our online marketplace you can compare offers from multiple lenders all at once to find a credit card with the best rates and terms for you.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the preapproved credit limit increase?
Can I be denied a credit card after preapproval?

About the Author

Jason Steele

Jason Steele

Jason Steele has been writing about credit cards and award travel since 2008. One of the nation's leading experts in this field, he has contributed to dozens of personal finance and travel outlets and has been widely quoted in the mainstream media.
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