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What is the ‘shopping cart trick,’ and does it still work?

The shopping cart trick is a way to get pre-approved for a store credit card without a hard pull, but whether or not it works is up for debate.


The “shopping cart trick” is a way to check if you are pre-qualified for a store credit card. It’s a simple process, but it’s not guaranteed to work for every retailer. Here’s what you need to know about the shopping cart trick to decide if it’s worth a try.

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If you are interested in getting a new retail credit card, you may have heard of the “shopping cart trick” and its supposed ability to get you preapproved for a credit card without impacting your credit score.

But does it really still work? Here’s what you need to know about the shopping cart trick and getting preapproved for store credit cards.

What is the shopping cart trick?

The “shopping cart trick” is a way to check if you’re prequalified for a credit card without the “hard pull” that is typically associated with the card issuer reviewing your credit.

The concept is a simple one: To see if you are preapproved for a credit card, add a few items into your cart. This (in theory) will trigger a pop-up letting you know if you are preapproved for the retailer’s credit card.

See related:Best instant approval credit cards

How to try the shopping cart trick

  1. Determine what retail credit card you want to apply for.
  2. Add items from the retailer’s online shop to your cart (you don’t have to actually purchase the items).
  3. Continue to the checkout page and look for pop-ups or advertisements for the store’s credit card.
  4. If an offer appears, go through the preapproval process.
  5. If you’re preapproved, apply for the store card.

Pay attention to the wording

If you’re looking for a new credit card, you may want some assurance that you’ll be approved. Pop-up banners touting common phrases like, “see if you prequalify” sound enticing and lend a sense of certainty to your decision.

When it comes to credit card offers, however, the devil is in the details. Prequalified offers and preapproved offers are not the same, which can lead to confusion in the application process. While no two issues have the same underwriting and approval process, language such as “prequalified” is typically vaguer than “preapproved.”

On the other hand, preapproval often means that the issuer intends to look more closely at your credit file, and they adhere to the preapproval results. It’s important to remember that neither preapproved nor prequalification can guarantee with 100% certainty that you’ll be approved for a credit card.

See related: Prequalified vs. preapproved: What’s the difference?

The shopping cart trick: fact vs. fiction

Much of the excitement surrounding the shopping cart trick comes from claims that it helps customers get approved for a new credit card without a hard pull. Unfortunately, this is not true.

Viewing prequalified offers won’t hurt your credit score, but when you apply for a credit card, a hard pull is triggered so the card issuer can gauge your creditworthiness before making an approval decision.

The dip in your credit score that comes from a hard inquiry isn’t the end of the world. On average, a hard pull will only reduce your credit score by five points or fewer, and your score will typically bounce back soon, barring any other negative credit report items like missed payments. Additionally, while a hard pull stays on your credit report for two years, it only factors into your credit score for one year.

See related: Why does a hard inquiry hurt your credit score?

Bottom line

Put simply, the shopping cart trick is a way to find out if you are prequalified for a credit card without hurting your credit score. While this trick can work to help customers see if they qualify for a credit card, there are easier ways to find the same information.

Many credit card issuers and financial websites offer prequalification tools that utilize a “soft pull” to determine approval odds – no tricks or insider knowledge required.

If you want to see what cards you may be prequalified for without hurting your score, consider giving CardMatch a try. CardMatch can help you find special credit card deals by matching your credit profile with offers you’re likely to qualify for. It’s free and doesn’t impact your credit.

See related: How to increase your chances of getting preapproved on CardMatch

Editorial Disclaimer

The editorial content on this page is based solely on the objective assessment of our writers and is not driven by advertising dollars. It has not been provided or commissioned by the credit card issuers. However, we may receive compensation when you click on links to products from our partners.

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