When you are “pre-approved” for credit card offers, it typically means the card issuer has determined that you meet certain criteria by doing a soft credit check, which does not impact your credit. If you continue to meet the issuer’s credit standards and have sufficient income when you apply, your chance of getting approved could be higher.

When considering your next credit card, consider what it means to be pre-approved and how that process works.

  1. How do I become pre-approved for a credit card?
  2. Pre-approved credit card offers in the mail
  3. Pre-approved credit card offers online
  4. Interested? You still need to apply.

1. How Do I Become Pre-Approved for a Credit Card?

Sometimes, people receive a pre-approved credit card offer in the mail, in which they are invited to apply for a specific card offer. Other times, in order to become pre-approved, you will need to complete an online form that provides credit card issuers with some basic personal and financial information.

2. Pre-Approved Credit Card Offers in the Mail

Here’s how it works: One way to be pre-approved for a credit card is by applying for an offer received in the mail. These are also known as “prescreened” offers. You may receive prescreened offers in the mail because a credit card issuer obtained a list of consumers who met the credit card’s initial credit criteria from the credit bureaus.

What are the benefits? The benefits of receiving pre-approved credit card offers in the mail is that you can sometimes get very competitive introductory APRs. This is also a great way to learn more about various credit card offers from different issuers and weigh the benefits of each one. You could learn more about rewards programs and member benefits associated with each card and select the one that best fits your particular lifestyle and financial needs.

3. Pre-Approved Credit Card Offers Online

Here’s how it works: An online approval tool like Discover’s pre-approval form involves filling out a short, simple online form where you provide your basic personal and financial information. From there if you meet the credit card’s criteria, you may be shown a credit card offer that the issuer feels best fits your financial needs.

What are the benefits? Filling out a credit card pre-approval form will have no impact on your credit, because there is no hard inquiry on your credit until you choose to apply for the card. Furthermore, since you are giving the issuer information about yourself, your offers will be personalized.

Another benefit of getting pre-approved online is to help with your research. You can see what credit cards you might qualify for prior to applying and consider the benefits of each one.

When you decide to fill out the actual application for a credit card, Discover will auto populate the application with the information that you already provided, making the process that much simpler. All you’ll have to fill out is a few more additional fields.  

4. Interested? You Still Need To Apply.

Keep in mind even if you receive a pre-approved credit card offer, you will still have to apply for the card once the offer is presented. However, depending on whether the information in your credit report changed from the time you were pre-approved, you may be denied for a pre-approved offer. If you are declined, you will receive a letter explaining the reason why you were not approved, and you may also be entitled to a free copy of your credit report.

Always remember to read the terms and conditions carefully. Just because you were pre-approved for the credit card offer doesn’t mean the card will be a good fit. Always make sure to choose a credit card that best fits your lifestyle and financial situation. Before you apply, shop around online and compare rates and introductory periods.


Published February 17, 2015

Updated December 15, 2020

Legal Disclaimer: This site is for educational purposes and is not a substitute for professional advice. The material on this site is not intended to provide legal, investment, or financial advice and does not indicate the availability of any Discover product or service. It does not guarantee that Discover offers or endorses a product or service. For specific advice about your unique circumstances, you may wish to consult a qualified professional.