UPDATE: Some offers mentioned below have expired and/or are no longer available on our site. You can view the current offers from our partners in our credit card marketplace.
DISCLOSURE: Cards from our partners are mentioned below
Article originally published July 8th, 2021. Updated December 12th, 2022.
You may get utility bills, department store sales, the occasional check, maybe a birthday card, through your mail slot. Have you also been receiving multitudes of pre-selected credit card offers in the mail?
What are those and why are you getting them? Let’s check it out.
Pre-Qualified Credit Card Offers
A pre-qualified credit card offer is when a credit card issuer prescreens your credit profile and feels it is fit to be approved for their credit card. The way they let you know that is by sending you a pre-qualified credit card offer in the mail. Being pre-approved or pre-selected, whichever term they may use, makes you more likely to get approved for the card, should you apply for it.
If you get such an offer in the mail, it means that the credit card issuer prescreened you to see if you qualify for their credit card.
This is what credit card issuers do. They have a certain criteria consumers need to qualify for their products. Then, they ask the credit bureaus to get them a list of all consumers who fit these. For example, it could be: consumers who have a credit score in a specific range, have no new accounts within the past 2 years, have no late payments, etc. The credit card issuers make a list of all consumers who fit the bill and then mail out a credit card offer to all consumers on the list, saying “you’re pre-qualified for this offer.”
That means that according to the criteria the credit card issuer has, you qualify for the offer they sent you. And your chances for getting approved for the credit card are a drop more than anyone else.
FCRA Restriction and Firm Offer of Credit
You might feel like there’s a breach of confidentiality going on here. The act of a credit card issuer getting confidential information about a consumer from the credit bureaus is basically a company disclosing private info to a third party. The Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) does restrict the credit bureaus from disclosing information on your credit report to third parties without the consumer’s consent. However, there are some exceptions.
One exception to the rule is when a Firm Offer of Credit is provided. The firm offer of credit applies to situations where the creditor requests access to your private info from a second party without your consent.
This means that as long as the criteria you were screened for remains the same, and that everything on your application makes sense, such as your income, expenses, and housing, then the creditor must accept the same credit card terms if you apply for it.
However, if you go onto a website that has a tool that can tell you if you prequalify for an offer, since you’re the one authorizing the issuer to review your credit report, by law, the issuer does not have to offer you anything in return for having looked at your credit. So, the firm offer of credit won’t come in when using the website tool. Same goes for when you apply for a new line of credit. If you’re the one asking for your credit report to be reviewed, the creditors don’t owe you anything.
Let’s get back to the website tool we mentioned just above. Besides for the prequalified offers you get in the mail, there are many online tools, mostly on the banks websites, where you can check to see if you prequalify for a credit card offer. When you use said tool, the banks do a soft pull to review your credit to be able to report if you’re pre-qualified for a credit card or not. The soft pull does not harm your credit.
Following is a list of banks you can check online to see if you prequalify.
Amex – Personal / Business
Bank Of America
*Note: AMEX’s new pre-qualification experience introduces a new step. You can submit the form and review pre-qualification offers without impacting credit. A soft inquiry will be made has no impact on your credit score, but informs you if you’re 100% approved for a card. It also includes an extra step in which you can accept a card offer of your choosing if approved.. Once you accept an offer after applying, a hard inquiry will be made, which might impact your credit score.
*The new application experience is currently available for individuals applying for a U.S. Personal Card via Credit.com at AmericanExpress.com/us/credit-cards, or by calling American Express and is not available if you apply for a Card after you log into an existing Card Member Account.
Does It Mean Anything?
Technically speaking, do the terms prequalified, preselected, and pre-approved mean anything? Are you guaranteed approval?
Being pre-qualified, pre-approved, or pre-selected for an offer will never guarantee approval. But the reason you were dubbed prequalified is because the credit card issuer felt you were an excellent candidate and if they prequalified you, they’re more likely to approve you for the card.
Regardless of the firm offer of credit, even if the criteria for which you were prequalified for hasn’t changed, the bank can decide that they don’t like something on your application, such as income, expenses etc, and decline your application. So, being prequalified does not, after all, guarantee approval for the card. Because at the end of the day, the bank can blame declining you for the card on any simple detail on your application. However, being prequalified does up your chances a bit.
Are the online tools accurate? It depends. Even so, whatever the tools predict, it may be true and it may not be true. So, refrain from applying for a card you prequalify for according to the tool if you’re not certain you’re getting the card.
Opt in, Opt out
Talking about prequalified credit card offers may make you stop and realize that you may not be getting such offers in the mail. Have you ever opted out from receiving them? If you’re not getting the offers in the mail and would like to get them, check out https://www.optoutprescreen.com/ to opt back in.
Or if you’re getting the offers and you’re sick of the extra mail coming in through your slot or if you have no intention of getting more credit lines, you can always opt out using the same page.
Opting out of these offers though, won’t stop the banks you bank with from stopping to send you offers by mail. Since their mail listing has nothing to do with the credit bureaus system and the prescreened consumer list, they will keep sending you offers.
Additional Places to Check for Pre-Qualifying
There are plenty other places you can check to see if you prequalify for an offer.
1- You can check ExtraCredit where you can see your credit report and make sure it’s worthy of being prequalified for an offer. ExtraCredit will also show you personalized offers to consider.
2- You can check the HMBC Credit Card Database or CreditBoards to see many listings of recent approvals and declines of credit cards. You can search the card you’re interested in. And you can check if the people with the same credit score as you were approved for the card or not.
3- You can use a credit card finder. You get to put in your personal information and they match you up with credit card offers you’re more likely to qualify for. The results are not guaranteed but good enough for you to get an idea whether you’d qualify for a card.
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