Credit card preapproval allows you to compare different card offers to find the right one for you.

Credit Card Preapproval: What Is It?

Last Updated: December 14, 2023
4 min read

Key points about: preapproved credit cards

  1. Preapproved credit cards are cards where the lender reviewed your credit history (through a soft pull) and determined you met basic qualifications for that offer.

  2. Credit card companies do a soft pull of your credit report to see if you meet certain criteria before sending you preapproval offers.

  3. You can compare the different preapproval offers you receive before deciding which card is right for you.

What does it mean to be preapproved for a credit card?

Preapproval isn’t the same thing as being approved for a credit card. When a credit card company gives you a preapproved offer, it simply means that you have met basic qualifications. For example, a credit card company may send preapproval offers to prospective customers who already meet specific credit and payment history criteria. In most cases, you won’t know if a credit card company is evaluating you for a preapproval offer, and they don’t need your permission to check your credit report.

Credit card issuers will typically determine who receives a preapproval offer by making a soft inquiry (also called a soft pull) on your credit report. Soft pulls don’t impact your credit score and don’t require you to give the lender permission to do a soft pull. If you meet the lender’s criteria, you may receive a preapproved offer for an unsecured or a secured credit card.

Are credit card preapprovals guaranteed?

Preapproval just means that your information has gone through this initial process. You still have to apply to get approved for the credit card. Your lender might need more information to finish your application.

Who gets preapproved credit card offers?

Sometimes you’ll receive preapproval offers from credit card companies that you already have an account with, while other times card issuers you don’t have an account with might send you preapproval offers as a part of their promotions. You may receive preapproval offers in the mail or by email.

A credit card company may look for people who meet certain criteria that it desires for new card customers. The companies work with the three major credit reporting agencies (Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion) to get contact information for prospective customers who meet the criteria they’ve outlined. They’ll use that information to send prospective customers preapproval offers to encourage them to apply for an account.

Because lenders typically look for borrowers with good credit history, your chance of getting preapproval offers may increase when you practice responsible credit habits. If you meet the criteria of a lot of different credit card companies, you might get many different preapproval offers. This can allow you to compare them to determine what credit card terms would be best for you.

Benefits of preapproved credit cards

Preapproved credit card offers are potentially a much better way to apply for a new account than selecting a credit card company at random. Here are some of the reasons why:

Preapproval is a process that just requires a soft credit check. You won’t get hit with a hard inquiry until you actually apply for the credit card. This is important because if you have multiple preapproved credit card offers, you can compare them before you apply for one without worrying about the impact on your credit report.

With preapproved credit card offers, lenders come to you. This means you don’t have to scour the internet looking for cards you might like and guessing at what the terms might be. And if you have a good credit score and credit history, you might attract offers with amazing benefits and rewards.

Some preapproved credit card offers include low intro APR promotions good for a certain amount of time. With a low intro APR card, you won’t collect interest on purchases during the promotional period. So, you can transfer balances from high-interest accounts to the new card to help pay off the debt quicker and save on credit card interest.

If you’ve been looking for a travel rewards credit card or a credit card with great cash back benefits, preapproval is a great way to find the credit cards you may qualify for and compare their features and benefits.

Preapproved vs. prequalified credit card offers

Preapproval is one way to review your credit card options, but you may have heard of something called prequalification. What’s the difference?

The major difference between preapproval and prequalification is who reached out first. Here’s what we mean:

In the case of preapproval, the credit card issuer reached out first. You may not have considered getting a card from them, but because you met some of their basic requirements for an account, they sent you an offer. That means lenders have already looked at some of your information to determine your creditworthiness (how likely you are to pay your credit card bill).

What is a prequalified credit card offer?

Prequalification is different. When you prequalify for a credit card offer, you make the first move and reach out to the credit card company to see if they could approve you. When you do, the credit card company will look at their different offers and decide which ones you could qualify for if you apply. A prequalified offer is not guaranteed approval but gives you a good idea of the best credit card offers you may be eligible for.

It’s important to note that neither preapproval nor prequalification are guarantees that you’ll get a credit card account. This is because the details of your credit report could have changed between the time of the offer and the hard credit pull that you approve when you apply for a card.

Did you know?

You can use prequalified or preapproved credit card promotions as an opportunity to compare options before applying. This allows you to decide where you want to apply, which can reduce the number of hard inquiries that you would have on your credit report and the impact to your credit score.

Does a preapproved credit card affect your credit score?

Generally, credit card preapproved offers don’t impact your credit score. However, if you apply for the offer, the lender may request a hard pull of your credit file(s) to make a final decision about your application. A hard inquiry may show up on your credit report(s) and affect your credit score.

How to apply for a preapproved credit card

Once you get the preapproval offer and decide to apply, you’ll likely be asked for more information from the potential lender. For instance, they may ask about your income and finances before pulling your credit.

Before you go with any offer, you should look at the interest rate and other card terms to determine the best credit card for you. And remember that these terms will give you a good idea of the credit card details, but the specifics may vary slightly depending on your specific credit report details. You may want to look at credit card features and benefits, such as cash back or travel rewards, $0 fraud liability on unauthorized purchases, and more.

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