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TPG reader Kevin tweeted me a question that I’m sure many of you have also wondered about:

@thepointsguy — “If you receive an invitation to apply for a credit card, does that mean you’ll be accepted automatically?”

These days, some of the most lucrative credit card offers are those you get in the mail. (Yes, it’s 2015 and companies are still using snail mail for targeted marketing offers!)

In general, credit card companies buy huge batches of customer names that they think may fit the profile for a given card. If you receive an “invitation to apply,” you’re being targeted because you fit into a certain demographic, rather than meeting specific credit requirements. Plus, the marketing department that buys those lists of consumers is often completely separate from the underwriting and approvals department.

The verbiage used in these offers is a little misleading — especially because there are several different terms thrown about by card issuers. Expressions like “pre-qualified,” “pre-screened” and “pre-approved” don’t mean you’re guaranteed approval for a given card either, but they generally indicate that a credit card issuer has done a soft inquiry into your credit history. In other words, these offers hold more weight than an “invitation to apply,” and you’re much more likely to be approved. And frankly, you can get approved for most credit cards these days as long as you’ve got decent credit. The competition between credit card companies is strong, especially for travel rewards-seeking consumers.

Credit cards Shutterstock 145590460
Image courtesy of Shutterstock.

Anything is possible; some issuing banks are much more picky than others about underwriting. However, while a “pre-approved” offer is not an automatic yes, your chances of getting approved are generally pretty good, as the bank has already taken the first step by viewing you as a credit-worthy customer. If you get an “invitation to apply,” though, your chances could be slimmer if your credit score is less than ideal.

At the very least, it means you’re not on a blacklist, because if you were, you wouldn’t even receive that kind of mail.

If you have any other questions, please tweet me @thepointsguy, message me on Facebook or send me an email at

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Editorial Disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airlines or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

Disclaimer: The responses below are not provided or commissioned by the bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the bank advertiser. It is not the bank advertiser’s responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.