Everyone knows that if you ask for credit, your score takes a hit. But what if it’s an offer you can’t refuse? Does that offer ding your credit … even just a tiny bit? Read on to find out how getting preapproved for a credit card affects your credit score.
We’ve all gotten them from time to time. Some of us get them all the time. But is there a catch to just getting a notice saying “you’ve been preapproved” for a fabulous credit offer?
Everyone knows that if you ask for credit, your score takes a hit. But what if it’s an offer you can refuse? Does that offer ding your credit … even just a tiny bit?
Being preapproved or prequalified for credit cards means that an issuer took a look at your credit report. In order for lenders to verify your credit report for preapproved credit cards, they have to use a soft inquiry. Lenders verify if you may meet their criteria for their credit card products.
It’s important to remember that an offer for a preapproved credit card is not the same as being approved. To find out if you get approved for credit cards that has been preapproved, you must apply.
Do preapproved credit card offers affect your credit score?
All preapproved inquiries will appear as soft inquiries on your credit reports. This means the inquiries, which include the names of the companies that asked for your information, will be visible only to you. They will not be visible to any future lenders or creditors, and will not affect your credit scores.
A soft inquiry, also known as soft pull, is a credit report check made by the borrower to its personal credit. It applies for credit report checks made by lenders on their own in order to identify possible qualifiers.
If you apply for the credit card, that becomes a hard inquiry, which is the opposite of a soft inquiry. After you apply for the credit card, the lender checks your credit report to evaluate your application. This type of inquiry can have a small negative impact on your credit score. A hard inquiry stops showing up on your credit report after two years.
Being preapproved for a credit card without applying for it keeps your score unblemished. The preapproval is only an offer for you to be underwritten for new credit once you fill out an application. You may qualify and you may not. Basically, you’ve been prequalified for a product sales pitch.
Benefits of preapproved credit cards
On the plus side, preapproved offers often come with incentives not available to the general public. For example, American Express may offer a rewards card with an introductory bonus of 60,000 points to new customers, but a bigger bonus of 100,000 points may be offered in a preapproved offer.
This is because Amex asked the credit bureaus to give it a list of potential consumers who meet certain predefined criteria. As these criteria are particularly attractive to Amex (maybe a high credit score and a history of big charges) it is willing to offer more to attract you. People who just show up at an issuer’s doorstep and ask for credit don’t require the same incentives.
Preapproval credit cards can offer benefits such as:
- Better rewards offers
- Better welcome bonus on rewards credit cards
- Lower rate of interest
A preapproval or card matching service is useful in lowering your risk of a turndown and subsequent point drop.
How to increase your chances of credit card prequalified
Increase your chances by boosting your credit score. To achieve this, you can:
- Improve your habits to maintain a good score
- Pay on full your balance each month
- Do not open too many accounts
- Do not exhaust the available credit
You can use a third-party service such as CardMatch to link you to offers. Basically, they serve to help you narrow the field of possible offers without visiting every credit card issuer’s website. Third-party sites also help you know what cards you may qualify for based on a soft inquiry of your credit report.
When it comes to credit cards, I recommend that you be proactive and find out for yourself what you might qualify for rather than wait on a preapproved offer to come in the mail. You can even use a card matching service. Also, don’t rush to choose the first preapproved credit card offer — it’s always better to evaluate your options.