How to find the best pre-qualified credit card offers
This post contains references to products from one or more of our advertisers. We may receive compensation when you click on links to those products. Terms apply to the offers listed on this page. For an explanation of our Advertising Policy, visit this page.
Editor’s note: This is a recurring post, regularly updated with new information.
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.
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.
Want more credit card advice? Make sure to sign up for the TPG newsletter
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 pre-approved offers via snail mail, but you can also request pre-qualified offers using different tools.
A pre-qualified offer is different than being approved for a credit card. 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 officially apply. In order 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’ll be 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 are crowding 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 are starting to tighten approval criteria to mitigate risk, pre-qualification tools are more important than ever. They can help those with mid-range 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 100,000 Membership Rewards points and 125,000 points for the Amex Platinum and 75,000 bonus points for the Amex Gold after meeting minimum spend 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 on U.S. gas stations and U.S. supermarkets (up to $15,000 in combined 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 welcome offers 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.
Keep in mind that, because of the coronavirus pandemic, some offers may not currently be available. That may change going into the end of the year or early 2021, depending on what’s going on with the economy at that point in time.
Capital One pre-qualification
Capital One offers a way to see if you are pre-qualified for three of its credit cards: the Capital One QuicksilverOne Cash Rewards Credit Card, Capital One Platinum Credit Card and Secured Mastercard® from Capital One. All three of these cards are best suited 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 QuicksilverOne, Capital One Platinum, Secured Mastercard from Capital One, Capital One Savor 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 social security number and address.
Related reading: 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 and annual income.
When I went through the process, I was not pre-qualified for any of Discover’s credit cards. This could be because I already have the Discover it Cash Back, and therefore they wouldn’t pre-qualify me for another Discover card.
The information for 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 reading: Best Discover credit cards
CreditOne Bank pre-qualification
CreditOne Bank offers a number of credit card options, though 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, CreditOne Bank was requiring new customers to pre-qualify for any and all new credit cards before applying.
I actually went through this process and wasn’t qualified to apply for any of their cards, despite having a 770+ credit score. This could be because I recently opened another credit card within the past couple of months, or it could be due to the fact that I don’t have a pre-existing relationship with the company. For those who do qualify, CreditOne Bank lists its full credit card lineup as potential options for pre-qualification (unlike Capital One, which only checks pre-qualification for a select few cards).
Related reading: 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 (which is what results in a hard inquiry listed on your account).
Pre-qualified offers aren’t the same as official applications. If you do 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 pre-approved
Though some issuers use these terms interchangeably, there is a distinction between a pre-qualified offer and a pre-approved 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 is a direct result of a consumer submitting a pre-qualification application (which is separate from an official credit application).
Related reading: “Soft pull” credit cards: Are they worth it?
A pre-approved offer, on the other hand, is typically a pre-screened offer that is targeted to you. When you accept a pre-approval 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 that have 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 pre-approved nor pre-qualified offers will hurt your credit score because they are the result of 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 pre-approved?
Neither a pre-approved 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 for the 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.
Related reading: Denied for a credit card? Here’s what to do when it happens
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 welcome offers that you otherwise would lose out on. Any time I’m considering a new credit card, I always check CardMatch and other pre-qualification tools to make sure I’m getting the best welcome bonus available.
Have you taken advantage of any great offers through CardMatch or another pre-qualification tool? Tell me all about your success stories in the comments.
Check the CardMatch Tool to see which card you pre-qualify for. Keep in mind these offers are subject to change at any time.
Featured photo by Shutterstock
Welcome to The Points Guy!
WELCOME OFFER: 75,000 Points Terms Apply.
TPG'S BONUS VALUATION*: $1,500
CARD HIGHLIGHTS: Delta Sky Club and Centurion lounge access, up to $200 annual airline fee credit and up to $200 in Uber savings annually (only for use in the U.S.)
*Bonus value is an estimated value calculated by TPG and not the card issuer. View our latest valuations here.
- Earn 75,000 Membership Rewards® Points after you spend $5,000 on purchases on your new Card in your first 6 months of Card Membership.
- Earn 10x points on eligible purchases on your new Card at U.S. Gas Stations and U.S. Supermarkets, on up to $15,000 in combined purchases, during your first 6 months of Card Membership. That’s an additional 9 points on top of the 1 point you earn for these purchases.
- Enjoy Uber VIP status and up to $200 in Uber savings on rides or eats orders in the US annually. Uber Cash and Uber VIP status is available to Basic Card Member and Additional Centurion Cards only.
- Earn 5X Membership Rewards® Points for flights booked directly with airlines or with American Express Travel. Starting January 1, 2021, earn 5X points on up to $500,000 on these purchases per calendar year.
- 5X Membership Rewards® Points on prepaid hotels booked with American Express Travel.
- Enjoy complimentary access to the Global Lounge Collection, the only credit card airport lounge access program that includes proprietary lounge locations around the world.
- Receive complimentary benefits through American Express Travel with an average total value of $550 with Fine Hotels & Resorts® program at over 1,100 properties. Learn More.
- Get up to $100 in statement credits annually for purchases at Saks Fifth Avenue on your Platinum Card®. That’s up to $50 in statement credits semi-annually. Enrollment required.
- $550 annual fee.
- Terms Apply.
- See Rates & Fees