Credit card pre-approval vs pre-qualification
When considering applying for a credit card, knowing ahead of time if you have a good chance of getting approved, especially if you’re not sure if your credit score is high enough. This is because applying for a credit card usually means a “big pull” on your credit, which can cause your score to drop temporarily.
Consumers can get a better idea of their chances by getting “prequalified” or “pre-approved” from the credit card issuer. The terms are similar and some issuers even use them interchangeably. But there is an important distinction.
- Prequalification means the issuer has looked at your financial details and gave you their best guess as to whether you would be approved if you apply. It’s not a guarantee, but it’s a good sign.
- Pre-approval, on the other hand, is more official. If you’ve truly been pre-approved for a credit card, you are almost certain to get it if you apply for it.
To make matters even more confusing, both can also be referred to as “pre-selected” offers.
When you go through a prequalification or pre-approval process with a card issuer and get a thumbs up for a particular offer, read the disclosure provided to you. This should make it clear where you are – whether you’ve just passed the first hurdle or are almost at the finish line.
Pre-approval has a different meaning with credit cards
With installment loans, such as mortgages and auto loans, the difference between prequalification and pre-approval is more clearly defined, and it is not uncommon for consumers to go through both as they get closer to a decision. When you start looking for a home, for example, prequalification gives you an idea of how much you’ll be able to borrow. Getting pre-approved allows you to make a firm offer to the seller when you find what you want.
With credit cards, on the other hand, you usually don’t need this type of pre-approval. Prequalification is therefore much more common than true pre-approval. In fact, receiving an unsolicited approval guarantee from a credit card issuer can be a red flag. This is because some issuers promise pre-approval in the hopes of selling you on a card that you don’t necessarily need or need.
Pre-approved credit card offers can come from an institution where you are already a customer, with the aim of getting you to open another card. Or they can come from issuers that specialize in “instant approval” cards, which tend to pay extremely high fees.
Review any pre-approved credit card offer you receive with skepticism before you apply to make sure it’s the right choice for you.
If you would prefer not to receive preselected offers by mail, you can opt out by going to optoutprescreen.com, which is maintained by the consumer credit bureaus. You can subscribe to unsubscribe from pre-selected offers for five years or permanently.
Large issuers generally offer prequalification
Many large credit card issuers and some smaller ones offer a pre-qualification on their websites. The issuer requests personal information, including your name and address and all or part of your social security number. It uses this information to perform a “soft” check on your credit, which does not affect your credit scores.
In some cases, you will be able to see not only which card you are prequalified for, but also the exact terms of the offer – such as credit limit and interest rate – before you apply. These types of prequalifications are more specific and detailed and can even amount to a pre-approval, but you still have to officially apply for the card.
If you decide to apply for the card based on this information, the issuer will go ahead and perform a rigorous credit check. This will likely lower your score, but you will have more confidence in the approval.
You can also make your own estimate of whether you will be approved for a card by given your credit score. Some credit cards are only available to those with excellent credit or good to excellent credit.
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Kimberly Palmer is a writer at NerdWallet. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org. Twitter: @kimberlypalmer.
The article Credit Card Pre-Approval vs Pre-Qualification originally appeared on NerdWallet.
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