smart spending

Trick or treat: 7 money tips

'Preapproved' credit card offers
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'Preapproved' credit card offers

Chances are what you've really received isn't a preapproval notice, but an invitation to apply for a credit card, says John Ulzheimer, president of consumer education for SmartCredit.com.

The trick: "A lot of people think they are guaranteed credit," he says. Read it again, and you'll probably notice language advising you that you could be approved for a credit up of "up to" a certain amount, he says. Or it mentions a rate that could be "as low as" a specific (and attractive) annual percentage rate, or APR.

But too many times, consumers' eyes skim past any qualifiers, Ulzheimer says.

The potential treat: If your credit is good, you could get the card with the advertised terms, he says. But you could also get lesser terms or be denied entirely if you don't qualify.

Looking for a card? Here's how to give yourself a real treat:

  • Pull your credit history to gauge your creditworthiness.
  • Shop for a card with the features and terms you want.
  • Understand that every time you apply for a card, your score can decrease slightly. Shop first and apply only once, if possible.

Like what you see on that mailer? Put that card on your shopping list.


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