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Are Pre-Approved Credit Card Offers Guaranteed?

If you’re like most adults, you probably receive mail from credit card companies regularly. In some cases, you might receive a notice about your latest credit card statement. Or you may get a letter that says you’ve been pre-approved for a card. Wondering whether you’re guaranteed to get a pre-approved credit card? Read on as we explain what pre-approved credit card offers mean.

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How Pre-Approved Credit Card Offers Work

Getting a pre-approved credit card offer may seem strange. Chances are, you received it without contacting a credit card company directly. But don’t fret. A credit card issuer can pre-approve you for a card based on what it knows about your credit score or financial status.

How did a credit card issuer get access to your personal information? It probably bought it. Since the national credit bureaus and other credit agencies have access to credit scores and financial information, credit card issuers can purchase that data and tailor their offers to groups of people.

Credit card companies cannot see your actual credit scores or credit history unless you’ve authorized them to look at that information. But card issuers can get lists of consumers who meet certain qualifications (like being within a specific income bracket or credit score range). After buying these lists from credit reporting agencies, card issuers send pre-approved offers to folks who may be interested in a particular credit card.

What It Means to Be Pre-Approved for a Credit Card

Are Pre-Approved Credit Card Offers Guaranteed?

Getting a pre-approved credit card offer means you meet some of the basic criteria needed to qualify for a card. It doesn’t mean that you’re guaranteed approval for that credit card. It simply means that you may want to apply (if the credit card is a good fit for you).

However, your application may be rejected, even if you’re pre-approved for a card. A card issuer must review your credit history and decide whether your income level, credit score and other financial information indicate that you could handle another credit card, before approving you for a card.

If a company is hesitant about extending a line of credit to you, it may approve you for a credit card but limit your access to benefits. For example, you may qualify for a card but be ineligible for the high credit limit or the low interest rate mentioned in the offer letter.

Pre-Screened vs. Pre-Approved Credit Card Offers

Note that there’s a difference between pre-approved and pre-screened credit card offers.

Getting a pre-screened offer means that a card issuer essentially did a background check. It looked at your credit history and reviewed other personal details. Banks and credit card companies send out pre-screened offers when they think a card could be ideal for someone who belongs to a certain organization, falls within a certain age or income group or has a certain credit score.

You must submit an application to reap the rewards of a pre-screened offer. But your chances of getting approved for a credit card are high (even if you don’t qualify for the same perks in the offer letter). That’s not the case with pre-approved credit card offers.

Do Pre-Approved Offers Affect Your Credit Score? 

Pre-approved credit card offers have no impact on your credit score. They’re considered soft inquiries. When they pre-approve consumers, credit card issuers don’t view their credit information in order to grant them any credit.

Applying for a credit card for which you’ve been pre-approved, however, triggers a hard inquiry. Hard inquiries can knock a few points off your credit score.

What to Do With Your Pre-Approved Credit Card Offer

Are Pre-Approved Credit Card Offers Guaranteed?

When you receive a credit card offer, it’s a good idea to figure out whether it’s a pre-approved or pre-screened offer. If it’s a pre-approved offer, you’ll need to consider whether you have a good chance of getting approved.

Do some research ahead of time if you’re interested in applying for a card. That way, you’ll understand the credit card’s general terms. If you don’t want the card advertised in the mailing, it’s best to shred the offer to protect yourself from identity theft.

Sick of receiving credit card offers? You can opt out by visiting optoutprescreen.com. But you may need to take additional steps if a company purchased lists from a private or public source (instead of one of the national credit bureaus).

Final Word

Pre-approved credit card offers invite you to consider applying for a particular credit card. Those offers are not guaranteed. In fact, since a credit card issuer doesn’t know much about you, your odds of approval could be low.

Photo credit: ©iStock.com/andresr, ©iStock.com/SIphotography, ©iStock.com/oatawa

Amanda Dixon Amanda Dixon is a personal finance writer and editor with an expertise in taxes and banking. She studied journalism and sociology at the University of Georgia. Her work has been featured in Business Insider, AOL, Bankrate, The Huffington Post, Fox Business News, Mashable and CBS News. Born and raised in metro Atlanta, Amanda currently lives in Brooklyn.
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