What Are Preapproved Credit Card Offers?

Happy African American woman at home looking at a utility bill that came in the mail and smiling

From time to time, a preapproved credit card offer is bound to pass through your hands. It might come as a notice in the mail or as an email that’s trying to entice you to finish the application process and get the card. But what does preapproval mean? Where do these offers even come from? And just how do preapproved credit card offers work? If you’re asking questions like these, take a look at the world of preapproved credit card offers and whether you should pursue them.

How Do Preapproved Credit Card Offers Work?

Preapproved credit card offers are technically advertisements; they’re unsolicited communications from lenders regarding credit products. Lenders prescreen candidates based on basic qualifying criteria. If a person seems like a reasonable candidate for a particular credit card, the lender reaches out and encourages them to complete a formal application.

Receiving a preapproved credit card offer doesn’t guarantee you’ll get the card. Instead, it means you have reasonably good odds of qualifying, should you choose to pursue it.

The reason preapproved credit card offers don’t guarantee eligibility is because the lender doesn’t have access to all of the information it needs to decide. For example, while companies can perform soft inquiries on your credit report without getting your permission, they typically need your permission to perform hard pulls — which generally contain much more detailed information about your finances.

The Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) bars businesses from accessing your credit report without your permission unless specific conditions are met. Generally, this is a positive. New credit applications involving hard pulls make up 10% of your FICO score. If lenders could perform a hard inquiry at their discretion, your credit score could tumble without your knowledge.

How Do I Get Preapproved Credit Card Offers?

In most cases, unexpected preapproved credit card offers — such as those that typically arrive via the mail — aren’t something you request. Instead, companies use them as part of a marketing effort, and if you align with their target market, you may get the solicitation.

However, you can go through a preapproval process voluntarily. Many companies allow you to provide information online and undergo a soft pull to determine if you’re likely to qualify for a particular card. The response after submission is essentially a preapproved credit card offer. Additionally, that may trigger traditional mailed or emailed preapproval offers from the company moving forward because the process shows you’re interested in the lender’s offerings.

If you’re overrun with preapproved credit card offers, you can also take steps to limit the number you receive. Often, the simplest way is to opt out by heading to OptOutPrescreen.com or calling 888-5-OPT-OUT (888-567-8688). It takes approximately five business days for the removal request to process, and then another several weeks before mail activity from companies without an existing business relationship with you stops.

What Credit Cards Offer Preapproval?

At this point, nearly every credit card from a major issuer has a preapproval process. For example, you can find options with:

  • American Express
  • Bank of America
  • Capital One
  • Chase
  • Citibank
  • Discover
  • USAA
  • US Bank
  • Wells Fargo

Preapproval processes are usually advertised by telling aspiring borrowers they can check their eligibility without impacting their scores. So, check with your preferred issuer to see if it has that option available.

Are Preapproved Credit Card Offers Ever Worth Taking?

Preapproved credit card offers can be just as competitive as options you find on your own after doing some research. As a result, they’re potentially worth taking.

However, you should only do so after conducting your own research regarding interest rates, benefits and other details that can help you determine whether better options are available. Additionally, you shouldn’t move forward if you’re managing large debts or don’t have a need for a new card, as pursuing a preapproval will impact your credit report and score — as well as your financial future.