How to find the best pre-qualified credit card offers
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With each issuer using its own approval criteria for applications, it can be hard to know which credit card offers you are likely eligible to receive. This can be especially difficult if you don’t have a long credit history or a good credit score.
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That’s where pre-qualified offers — and the tools you use to find them — can come in handy. Not only do pre-qualified offers help you figure out which cards you are most likely to be approved for, but they can also help you find targeted offers that aren’t available to every applicant.
Today, I’ll walk you through how pre-qualified offers work and how you can use tools such as CardMatch to find elevated bonuses and other special offers.
What is a pre-qualified offer?
When you receive a pre-qualified credit card offer, that means an issuer has looked over your basic financial information and determined you are a good candidate for a specific credit card. Sometimes issuers will send out pre-qualified or even preapproved offers via snail mail, but you can also request pre-qualified offers using different tools online.
A pre-qualified offer is different than being approved for a credit card upon filling out an application. While issuers will typically look at an overview of your creditworthiness, they don’t pull your full credit report when you go through a pre-qualification process. A pre-qualified offer is simply meant to indicate that you are a strong candidate for approval if you were to apply officially. To open a new line of credit, you will have to actually go through an official application process. Just because you were given a pre-qualified offer doesn’t automatically mean you’re guaranteed approval for a specific card.
There are multiple ways for you to get a pre-qualified credit card offer. As annoying as mail offers can be when they crowd your mailbox, don’t be too quick to shred them all. You can get great personalized offers with elevated bonuses, extended low-interest introductory periods and more. Many issuers have a pre-qualification tool on their website, including Capital One.
In a time when many issuers have tightened approval criteria to mitigate risk, pre-qualification tools are more important than ever. They can help those with midrange credit scores determine which cards they are most likely to be approved for without having to submit applications that could temporarily ding their credit score.
Using CardMatch to find pre-qualified offers
Check the CardMatch tool to see which card you pre-qualify for. Keep in mind these offers are targeted and subject to change at any time.
First, you fill out your information within the CardMatch tool.
From there, you’ll be taken to a results page with the relevant offers. Your results will, of course, be catered to you.
We’ve seen offers as high as 125,000 Membership Rewards points for the Amex Platinum and 75,000 points for the Amex Gold after meeting minimum spending requirements — both significantly higher than their publicly available welcome bonuses. The public bonus on the Amex Gold card is currently 60,000 bonus points after spending $4,000 in purchases in the first six months of account opening. The Amex Platinum is currently offering a public welcome bonus of 75,000 bonus points after spending $5,000 in purchases in the first six months of account opening.
Note that with the Amex Platinum, you’ll currently earn 10x at U.S. gas stations and U.S. supermarkets (on up to $15,000 in combined eligible spending) in your first six months of account opening, which is also valid as part of the CardMatch offer.
Issuer pre-qualification tools
Many issuers provide their own pre-qualification tools to help potential applicants understand whether they are likely to be approved for certain cards. Generally speaking, you may not find the best sign-up bonuses through this method. But those with limited credit histories and less-than-stellar credit scores can utilize these tools to see which cards they are likely to be approved for.
Capital One offers a way to see if you are pre-qualified for five of its credit cards:
- Capital One Quicksilver Cash Rewards Credit Card
- Capital One Quicksilver Cash Rewards Credit Card for Good Credit
- Capital One SavorOne Cash Rewards Credit Card
- Capital One Platinum Credit Card
- Capital One Platinum Secured Credit Card
The information for the Quicksilver Rewards for Good Credit cards has been collected independently by The Points Guy. The card details on this page have not been reviewed or provided by the card issuer.
All of these cards are best suited for beginners looking to start with credit card rewards or for those looking to build or improve credit. Unfortunately, you won’t be able to use this tool to see if you are qualified for a top Capital One credit card such as the Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card or Capital One Savor Cash Rewards Credit Card.
The information for the Capital One Savor Rewards Card has been collected independently by The Points Guy. The card details on this page have not been reviewed or provided by the card issuer.
The pre-qualification application is short, but you will need to provide your annual income, Social Security number and address.
I was pre-qualified for the Quicksilver, Platinum and Platinum Secured. As an aside, I am currently a cardholder of the Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card.
Related: Best Capital One credit cards
Discover also has an on-site pre-qualification tool you can utilize. Compared to the Capital One tool, you’ll have to fill out a bit more information, including your current housing situation.
When I went through the process, I was pre-qualified for the Discover it Miles and the Discover it Cash Back cards. I’ve never owned a Discover card, potentially explaining why (and how) I qualified for these “top” Discover cards.
The information for the Discover it Miles and the Discover it Cash Back has been collected independently by The Points Guy. The card details on this page have not been reviewed or provided by the card issuer.
Related: Best Discover credit cards
Credit One Bank offers several credit card options. However, this issuer certainly isn’t anywhere near the level of Chase or Amex in terms of benefits offered or potential rewards earned. At the time of writing, Credit One Bank was requiring new customers to pre-qualify for all new credit cards before applying.
I actually went through this process and was only pre-qualified to apply for the Credit One Bank® Platinum Visa® for Rebuilding Credit. This could be because I recently opened another credit card within the past couple of months. Note that Credit One Bank lists its full credit card lineup as potential options for pre-qualification (unlike Capital One, which only checks pre-qualification for select cards).
Related: The best Credit One credit cards
Does a pre-qualified offer cause a hard pull on my credit report?
A pre-qualified offer is based on what’s called a soft pull on your credit report. Going through the CardMatch tool or an issuer’s pre-qualification tool to check for targeted offers will not affect your credit score or show up as a hard pull on your credit report. This is because the issuer is only receiving a summary of your credit score and accompanying report. While the information gathered at this stage can give a bank a solid picture of whether you would be approved based on certain criteria, your full report isn’t pulled.
Pre-qualified offers aren’t the same as official applications. If you decide to apply for a new line of credit, that will result in a hard inquiry on your account, regardless of whether you went through the pre-qualification process.
Difference between pre-qualified and preapproved
Though some issuers use these terms interchangeably, there is a distinction between a pre-qualified offer and a preapproved offer.
A pre-qualified offer is based on a soft pull done on your credit report where you’ve met certain criteria that may make you eligible for a certain card or a certain card offer. Generally, a pre-qualification offer results from a consumer submitting a pre-qualification application (which is separate from an official credit application).
On the other hand, a preapproved offer is typically a prescreened offer that is targeted to you. When you accept a preapproval offer and apply, the issuer is required to honor the offer it sent you should you be approved for the card. These are more common via direct mail, either through email or snail mail. Issuers with a pre-qualification portal will generally have a section where you can input an ID or invitation number from a mail-in offer to identify your targeted offer within the system.
Neither preapproved nor pre-qualified offers will hurt your credit score because they result from a soft pull on your credit report. However, if you decide to go forward with an application after either of these types of offers, it will result in a hard inquiry once you officially apply and give the credit issuer permission to pull your full report.
Can you be denied if you are preapproved?
Neither a preapproved nor a pre-qualified offer counts as an official approval for a card. While it might mean that your credit profile has a higher likelihood of being approved, there is no guarantee. There is a possibility that you could still be denied a credit card for a host of reasons. The only way to find out if you are officially approved for a credit card is to put in a formal application.
In that same vein, just because you aren’t pre-qualified for an offer doesn’t mean you wouldn’t be approved for a certain card if you formally applied.
Whether you’re looking for the best targeted offers or you simply want a better idea of which cards you are likely to be approved for, there is a lot of value in searching for pre-qualified offers. Sometimes, like in the case with the Amex Platinum offer through CardMatch, you can even find lucrative sign-up bonuses or welcome offers that you otherwise would lose out on. Whenever I’m considering a new credit card, I always check CardMatch and other pre-qualification tools to make sure I’m getting the best offer available.
Check the CardMatch Tool to see which card you pre-qualify for. Keep in mind these offers are subject to change at any time.
Additional reporting by Stella Shon.
Featured photo by Bloemenmarkt/Getty Images.
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