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.

Luckily, 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 you, 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 on their cards.

What’s the difference between prequalification and preapproval?

The difference between prequalification and preapproval may be hard to decipher as they are often used interchangeably. However, there are some slight differences between the two that are worth noting. Prequalification usually refers to a less formal screening that looks at your basic credit history and other personal information. You can check for prequalified offers on many issuers’ websites, or you may receive prescreened credit card offers in the mail that have been put together by issuers in partnership with credit bureaus.

Preapproval 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 offer will affect your credit score nor do they guarantee approval.

3 ways to see if you prequalify for a credit card

  1. Prescreened offers via the mail. Prescreened offers show up in your 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. Be sure to make sure the offer is legitimate. If you don’t recognize the issuer, do some online research before applying.
  2. Check to see if you are prequalified online. A few third-party sources, including Bankrate’s CardMatch, offer online tools for consumers to check to see if 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. Go directly to the issuer. If you already have an idea of what issuer you would like to bank with, go directly to the source. Many of the mainstream credit card issuers offer prequalification tools on their sites. However, we will get more into the specifics here shortly.

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 of the major issuers handle prequalification.

Issuer Prequalification 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 (optional)
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 No (requires a hard inquiry) N/A
Discover Yes Full name, address, date of birth, highest level of education, total annual income, monthly housing payment, whether you rent or own, types of bank accounts owned and full Social Security number
Credit One Bank Yes Full name, address, email address, phone number, full Social Security number, date of birth and total monthly income

Best credit cards that offer preapproval without a hard credit pull

Chase Freedom Unlimited

The Chase Freedom Unlimited® credit card is one of only a few cards from Chase that’s currently eligible for preapproval. However, with ample opportunity to earn cash back, it may be one of the best preapproval options available. This no-annual-fee card comes with some pretty generous perks, including a complimentary DashPass subscription, purchase protection and extended warranty coverage, trip cancellation insurance and more.

Cardholders earn 5 percent cash back on travel purchased through Chase Ultimate Rewards and Lyft purchases (through March 2025), 3 percent back on dining and drugstore purchases, and 1.5 percent cash back on all other purchases. New cardholders can also earn an additional 1.5 percent cash back on top of all purchases’ original cash back rate (up to $20,000) for the first year (offer through Bankrate)

Keep in mind that Chase has a “5/24” rule, which sets a limit on how many credit cards one consumer can have. If you’ve opened five credit cards in the past 24 months, you most likely won’t be eligible to open a new Chase credit card. This includes any kind of credit card, no matter the issuer.

Blue Cash Everyday Card from American Express

The Blue Cash Everyday® Card from American Express is available for prequalification only by navigating through the prequalification page on the American Express website. Keep in mind Amex is particular about eligibility requirements, so it is best to start this process if you have at least a good credit score.

The Blue Cash Everyday Card is a solid cash back card that offers 3 percent cash back at U.S. supermarkets, U.S. gas stations and U.S. online retail purchases (on the first $6,000 spent per year on each category, then 1 percent), and 1 percent on all other purchases. It has a $0 annual fee and new cardholders can earn a great welcome offer. Earn up to $250, earn 20% back (up to $150 in statement credits) on purchases with PayPal merchants. Plus, earn $100 as a statement credit after you spend $2,000. Complete both in the first 6 months of card membership.

New cardmembers also don’t have to worry about interest for 15 months with its introductory 0 percent interest period on purchases. The ongoing APR is 17.74 percent to 28.74 percent variable after the introductory period ends.

Discover it Cash Back

The Discover it® Cash Back credit card is another no-annual-fee card that makes earning cash back on your everyday purchases easy. Not only does this card offer 5 percent cash back after activation on rotating categories each quarter (up to $1,500 in purchases, then 1 percent), but with its Cashback Match program, Discover automatically matches the total amount of cash back you accumulate your first year with this card.

Keep in mind, that Discover lets you check for prequalified offers on its website with no impact to your credit score. If for any reason you aren’t approved, Discover will give you a reason and allow you to check again in eight days.

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

Issuers typically consider factors like credit score and history, income and debt obligations when screening customers for prequalified offers, with many offering an array of products for different types of customers and stages of credit-building.

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

Pay on time

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

Keep card balances low

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.

Check your credit report

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 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 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.

Improve your credit with more accessible products

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 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.

Update your income

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.

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