Key takeaways

  • Prequalified card offers can help you scope out how likely you are to qualify for a credit card, and the issuer typically only does a soft credit inquiry that will not impact your credit score.
  • If you improve your credit score by practicing habits such as paying on time and keeping your card balances low in relation to your total available credit, it's more likely that you'll prequalify.
  • A variety of major card issuers allow you to check if you're eligible for prequalified offers on their websites.

Applying for a new credit card can be intimidating. That’s due in no small part to the fact that almost all credit card applications trigger a hard credit inquiry, which temporarily drops your credit score and stays on your credit report for two years. What’s worse, there’s no guarantee of approval, so you could end up hurting your score with no new card to show for it.

Prequalified credit card offers can help you take a lot of guesswork out of the application process, allowing you to get a sense of where you stand before you apply. Checking for prequalified offers should give you some peace of mind and help you narrow your list as you try to find the best credit card for yourself, but each issuer handles prequalification a bit differently.

Here, we explore how prequalified offers work, how to improve your odds of getting a prequalified offer and how different issuers handle prequalification for their cards.

Prequalification vs. preapproval

The difference between prequalification and preapproval isn’t always obvious, especially since they’re often used interchangeably. Prequalification, however, usually refers to a less formal screening that looks at your basic credit history and other personal information.

Preapproval, on the other hand, typically results from a formal prescreening on the issuer’s side and could signal the highest approval odds an issuer can offer without pulling your credit. Neither process will affect your credit score, nor will they guarantee approval.

3 ways to see if you prequalify for a credit card

You can typically find out if you prequalify for a credit card when you:

  1. Check your mail for prescreened offers. Prescreened offers show up in both your email inbox and your actual mailbox because lenders are working to identify consumers who qualify for certain credit products. If you choose to apply for a credit card offer after receiving a prescreened offer in the mail, you’re likely to get approved — however, it is not guaranteed. Also, be sure to make sure the offer is legitimate. If you don’t recognize the issuer, do some online research before applying.
  2. Go online to see if you are prequalified through third-party sources. A few third-party sources, including Bankrate, offer online tools like CardMatch for consumers to check to see whether they prequalify for any offers from the site’s partners. Once again, there is no guarantee you will be approved once you formally apply.
  3. Contact the issuer directly. If you already have an idea of what issuer you want a card from, go directly to the source. Many of the mainstream credit card issuers offer prequalification tools on their sites.

Prequalified credit card offers by issuer

Each issuer approaches prequalification in its own way, with some giving applicants an easy way to check for prequalified offers across cards and others only featuring this option on select cards or via prescreened offers they put together themselves.

Prequalification tools typically ask for basic information such as your name, Social Security number, income and employment status to determine your eligibility. Here’s a look at how some major issuers handle prequalification:

Issuer Prequalification or preapproval available? What you need to prequalify
Chase Yes, but only on select cards Full name, address, last 4 digits of your Social Security number
American Express Yes Full name, address, last 4 digits of your Social Security number, total annual income
Capital One Yes, but only on select cards Full name, address, date of birth, email address, primary phone number, full Social Security number, employment status, total annual income, monthly rent or mortgage payment and types of bank accounts owned
Bank of America Yes, but only on select cards Full name, date of birth, address, last 4 digits of your Social Security number
Wells Fargo Yes Full name, address, last 4 digits of Social Security number
Discover Yes Full name, address, date of birth, highest level of education/current status as a student, total annual income
Credit One Bank Yes Full name, address, email address, full Social Security number, date of birth

Best credit cards that offer preapproval or prequalification without a hard credit pull

Chase Freedom Unlimite

Blue Cash Everyday Card from American Express

Discover it Cash Back

Capital One SavorOne Cash Rewards

How to boost your chances of scoring a prequalified credit card offer

Issuers typically consider factors like your credit score, credit history, income and debt obligations when screening customers for prequalified offers. Many issuers also offer an array of products for different types of customers and stages of credit building.

And while each issuer — each individual card, even — has its own approval requirements, there are a few basic steps you can take to improve your odds of getting a prequalified offer:

  • One of the first and most important steps you can take to improve your credit profile and approval odds is to keep up with payments on your existing accounts. Payment history makes up a whopping 35 percent of your FICO Score, so if you have any payments outstanding or have recently been paying your credit card bills, retail accounts, installment loans or other bills late, be sure to pay on time, every time, going forward.

    While you can try out prequalification tools with no impact to your credit score, repairing credit damaged by late payments takes time, so you may want to hold off on actually applying for new cards while you work to establish a positive track record. You can’t easily undo the negative impact of previous late payments, but several months of on-time payments can go a long way toward improving your score and showcasing your creditworthiness.
  • Another key step is to pay down as much of your existing card balances as you can — and to pay them off completely if possible. That’s because credit utilization — the amount of money you’ve borrowed relative to your total available credit — is one of the biggest credit scoring factors, accounting for 30 percent of your FICO credit score.

    Additionally, high credit utilization that’s negatively affecting your score can be resolved within just a few weeks, while the credit impact of missteps like late payments or bankruptcy can take years to fade.

    While you should aim for as low a credit utilization ratio as possible, a good rule of thumb is to try for a ratio of 30 percent or less. In other words, if you have a total credit limit of $10,000, aim to keep your card balances below $3,000. To quickly determine your current ratio, check out Bankrate’s credit utilization ratio calculator.
  • If you aren’t getting a prequalified offer on the card of your dreams, it’s worth requesting a free copy of your credit report at a trusted site like AnnualCreditReport.com and reviewing it to get a better sense of where you stand. Not only will this allow you to see any negative items on your report that may be holding you back and better focus your credit repair efforts, but you may also come across credit reporting errors that need to be disputed. Credit reporting errors are all too common, and you may even find you’ve been a victim of identity fraud.
  • If your credit score is in rough shape or you have a limited credit history, many of the prequalified offers you’ll receive will carry harsh terms and high fees. These so-called “fee-harvester” cards often do more harm than good.

    Instead of going with whatever issuer will have you, it’s wise to take your time to build or rebuild your credit with a safer option, like a no-annual-fee secured credit card or a credit-builder loan. These options are typically easy to qualify for, relatively low cost and, in the case of secured cards, sometimes offer you a chance to upgrade to an unsecured product after you’ve demonstrated responsible use.
  • While income is not included in your credit report, it can still be a factor when it comes to getting prequalified card offers. Card applications almost always ask for your income when you apply, but you can also update your income with card issuers voluntarily once you become a customer. If your income has increased since you first became a customer of your current card issuer, updating it may get you more prequalified offers for higher-tier cards.

The bottom Line

Finding out whether you’re prequalified or preapproved for a credit card is always a smart move to make before you apply. Doing so can save you from wasting a hard inquiry on your credit report on a card you might not even be able to get. It’s also a great way to see what kinds of offers are available to you as you shop around for the best credit card for your financial situation and lifestyle.

Just keep in mind that not all card issuers allow you to check your prequalification status, and even if you do prequalify, you’re still not guaranteed to get the card you want. Maintaining as high of a credit score as possible, as well as a low credit utilization ratio, will improve your application’s odds of success.

FAQs

  • Yes. Chase offers prequalification on only a select few of its cards. You can check for a prequalified offer on the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card, Chase Freedom Unlimited and Chase Sapphire Reserve® using the issuer’s online tool, but you’ll have to hold out for a targeted offer on most other cards.
  • Yes. American Express also offers a prequalification tool on its website. Not only will the Amex tool let you know whether you’re prequalified for a given card based on your credit profile, but you may also find you’re eligible for a personalized offer, such as a higher welcome offer or lower APR. You can also find special “Just for You” offers on individual card landing pages, so if you prequalify for a card, it’s worth checking out that card in a private browsing window to ensure you’re applying for the highest possible offer.
  • Yes. Like Amex and Chase, Capital One offers a prequalification tool on its website that lets you see cards you may qualify for with no impact to your credit score. However, the Capital One prequalification tool currently only lets you check your eligibility for a handful of its cards — all of which are geared toward credit-builders or those with a fair credit score. If you have your eye on a higher-tier Capital One card, you’ll have to accept a hard inquiry and submit a formal application.
  • Yes. Bank of America also offers a prequalification tool on its website, and if you already have a credit card or banking relationship with the issuer, you can get customized card offers by simply signing in to your account. Once you submit your information, you’ll get a list of cards you’re prequalified for, with a top recommendation based on your credit profile and preferred card type. Bank of America offers a wide range of cards for prequalification, including the Bank of America® Customized Cash Rewards credit card, Bank of America® Travel Rewards credit card and BankAmericard® credit card (secured and unsecured versions alike).
  • Yes, Wells Fargo does offer prequalification with only a soft credit inquiry.
  • Yes. Discover also lets you check for prequalified offers on its website with no impact to your credit score. You typically have one week to claim any Discover prequalified offers you receive. If you aren’t prequalified for any of Discover’s cards, the issuer will give you a reason and allow you to check again in eight days.
  • Yes. Credit One Bank specializes in cards for people with poor credit, but some of its cards require a higher score. The issuer features a soft pull prequalification tool on its website and also lets you check for prequalified Credit One offers via Bankrate’s CardMatch tool. After submitting your information, Credit One directs you to a page that gives you the option of getting a preapproval decision immediately or via mail.


Issuer-required disclosure statement
Information about the Chase Freedom Unlimited® and the BankAmericard® credit card has been collected independently by Bankrate. Card details have not been reviewed or approved by the card issuer.