Just about everyone has gotten an offer in the mail at some point about a credit card pre-approval. It’s natural to wonder if a card issuer deciding to pre-approve you will result in a hard inquiry on your credit report, as those can bring down your credit score a bit.
Fortunately, pre-approvals don’t put hard inquiries on your credit report or affect your score at all. Here’s what you need to know about them and the other common pre-screening option card issuers use, pre-qualifications.
How Pre-Approvals Work
Card issuers go through the consumer information to figure out which people could have a financial profile that fits certain credit cards of theirs. This consumer information is available thanks to the three major credit reporting agencies. They then send those people invitations to apply for cards in the form of pre-approvals. These pre-approval offers can sometimes have better deals than the card issuer’s typical signup offer that’s available to anyone. For example, a card may typically have 50,000 bonus points available as its signup offer, but a pre-approval could have a link to get 75,0000 bonus points on it.
Keep in mind that since the card issuer isn’t running a hard inquiry to check your credit, they can’t guarantee that you’ll be approved for the card. You could apply and receive a denial. The card issuer is simply extending an invitation for you to apply because it feels you have the right financial profile for that card.
Finding Other Card Options with a Pre-Qualification
If you’d like to see what credit cards you may be able to get with a card issuer, you can go to their website and look for a pre-qualification tool. You’ll need to provide some basic information to them, including your name and Social Security number. The card issuer will run a soft credit check on you, which doesn’t affect your score, and then show you the cards that you would most likely qualify for.
Like a pre-approval, a pre-qualification doesn’t guarantee approval for a card. It only shows you the cards that would likely fit your profile. You have a better chance of getting approved after a pre-qualification, but nothing is guaranteed until you actually apply.
Pre-approvals and pre-qualifications can both be helpful when you’re trying to figure out what credit cards to apply for, but they don’t tell you anything concrete. Pre-approvals are primarily useful because you could end up scoring a better signup bonus through them than you would have gotten otherwise, and pre-qualifications can give you an idea of what cards are an option with your current credit score.