Most credit card users can surely imagine the disappointment of being declined for a new card, especially when there’s a handsome welcome bonus or a long 0 percent balance transfer offer at stake. You’re not only missing out on a special promotion or limited-time credit card offer but you might even get a temporary hit against your credit score.
What is credit card pre-approval and how does it work?
Credit card pre-approval is exactly what it sounds like: a way to check your chances of being approved for a card without incurring a hard inquiry, which stays on your credit report for two years and is likely to lower your credit score by a few points.
Pre-approval requires only a soft pull, which doesn’t impact your score but does allow credit card issuers like Citi to view enough information in your report to evaluate your creditworthiness as a potential customer. That’s because a soft inquiry isn’t tied to a formal application for credit. In other words, you’ll still need to apply for, say, the Citi® Diamond Preferred® Card—which offers one of the longest introductory 0 percent APR offers available—even after you’re prequalified, which will trigger a hard pull.
Keep in mind that credit card pre-qualification doesn’t guarantee approval later on. In most cases, it simply gives you a better idea of where you stand before you decide to move forward with applying, though in some cases it can also uncover targeted offers you wouldn’t find elsewhere, like a higher sign-up bonus, a lower interest rate or better rewards.
How to get pre-approved for a Citi credit card
You have a few options for finding out whether you prequalify for a Citi credit card—and the good news is, the pre-approval process is super simple regardless of the route you take.
Check for offers on Bankrate’s CardMatch tool
Bankrate’s CardMatch™ is a quick and easy way to gauge your approval odds for a Citi credit card. All you have to do is plug in a few pieces of personal information (your name, address and contact details, plus the last four digits of your Social Security number) to reveal a personalized list of credit cards—all matched to your credit profile in less than a minute.
And if you do prequalify for a Citi card and decide to apply, you can submit your application right there in the free CardMatch tool.
Prequalify on Citi’s website
While Citi provides a pre-qualification tool on its own website, it’s not providing matches to potential customers right now:
If you’d rather not apply for a Citi card without first prequalifying on the issuer’s website, check back regularly so you can try again when the form is up and running.
Additional ways to prequalify for Citi credit cards
Citi’s pre-qualification tool may be on the fritz, but that doesn’t mean you’re out of luck when it comes to being pre-approved. For instance, Citi and other issuers frequently send prescreened credit card offers in the mail. These offers target consumers based on their credit scores, credit utilization, location and other factors, debt-settlement attorney Leslie H. Tayne previously told Bankrate. If you receive an offer, it essentially means you’re already prequalified, so you can either fill out the paper application or submit the invitation number in the “Respond to a Mail Offer” tab on Citi’s pre-qualification page. (The same rules apply, of course; getting an offer doesn’t mean you’re automatically approved.)
Tip: To make sure you’ve opted in to receive targeted offers, go to OptOutPrescreen.com, scroll to the bottom of the page and select “Click here to opt-in or opt-out.”
Other ways to prequalify for a Citi credit card include calling the issuer directly to talk to a customer rep—or, if you live near one, visiting a bank branch to speak with someone in person.
Best Citi credit cards for prequalified offers
Citi’s lineup of business credit cards is pretty thin, but fortunately, the bank has a number of great rewards credit cards for personal use, many of which come with extras such as bonus rewards in certain spending categories (think: dining and travel), valuable welcome offers and low intro APRs. Below are some of our favorite Citi credit cards for prequalified offers.
Citi® Double Cash Card: Best for regular spending
- Rewards: Unlimited 1 percent cash back as you buy, plus another 1 percent back when you pay for your purchases; redeemable for statement credits, direct deposit, a check or Citi ThankYou points.
- Welcome bonus: None.
- Annual fee: None.
- Other things to know: 0 percent intro APR on balance transfers for 18 months, then a variable APR of 13.99 percent to 23.99 percent; 24-hour fraud protection, Citi Identity Theft Solutions and $0 liability; Lost Wallet Service (card replacement and emergency cash); Citi Entertainment.
With no rotating bonus categories to track or spending caps to monitor, the Citi® Double Cash Card makes it easy to get a little money back on your everyday purchases. And though it lacks the flashy perks of a premium credit card, its simplicity is unrivaled; you essentially get an unlimited 2 percent cash back on everything you buy (or, more accurately, 1 percent back at the time of purchase and another 1 percent when you pay it off). Further, a long, low-interest balance transfer offer means the Citi Double Cash is also a great card for eliminating high-interest debt moved over from another issuer.
Tip: Pay at least the minimum amount due on time every month to avoid losing out on an additional 1 percent cash back.
The Double Cash isn’t without downsides, of course. For starters, it charges a 3 percent foreign transaction fee and requires you to amass at least $25 in cash back before you can claim it, To boot, it no longer offers most of the useful benefits that once came standard with many rewards credit cards, like purchase protection, travel insurance and extended warranty coverage. And, frankly, cardholders looking to maximize their earnings can probably do better with a rotating bonus category card, such as the Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express or the Capital One SavorOne Cash Rewards Credit Card.
All that said, if you’d rather not put much effort into managing your cash back credit card, the Citi Double Cash is a solid option for everyday swiping—not to mention one of the best flat-rate cash back credit cards available.
Citi® Diamond Preferred® Card: Best for balance transfers
- Rewards: None
- Welcome bonus: None
- Annual fee: None
- Other things to know: 0 percent intro APR on purchases and balance transfers for 18 months, then a variable APR of 14.74 percent to 24.74 percent; balance transfer fee of $5 or 3 percent of the amount of the transfer, whichever is greater; Citi Identity Theft Solutions and $0 liability; Citi Entertainment, Citi Easy Deals and Citi Flex Loan
If a long break from paying interest is what you’re looking for, it may be time to stop the search. Thanks to an introductory 0 percent APR on both balance transfers and purchases for 18 months (14.74 percent to 24.74 percent variable APR after), the Citi® Diamond Preferred® Card might be your match. And when you use the card to chip away at high-interest debt or finance a pricey purchase, you could end up saving a chunk of change in unnecessary interest charges. (Note that balance transfers must be completed within four months of account opening.)
Unfortunately, the card’s appeal basically stops at the end of those 18 months. With no ongoing rewards program or welcome bonus and few perks, the Premier has little potential for snagging a long-term slot in your wallet. But if keeping hundreds or even thousands of dollars in your wallet is your goal, the Citi Diamond Preferred could very well be worth that hard inquiry.
Citi Premier® Card: Best for travel rewards on everyday expenses
- Rewards: 3X points on restaurants, supermarkets, gas stations, air travel and hotels; 1X points on everything else
- Welcome bonus: 60,000 points after you spend $4,000 on purchases within your first three months (redeemable for $600 in gift cards or cash back)
- Annual fee: $95
- Other things to know: $100 annual savings on a single hotel stay of $500 or more (must book through ThankYou.com); ability to transfer ThankYou points to airline loyalty programs such as TrueBlue and Virgin Atlantic Flying Club; World Elite Mastercard perks; no foreign transaction fees; Citi Entertainment
Thanks to a recent overhaul, the Citi Premier® Card now earns you 3X points at supermarkets and restaurants as well as the preexisting 3X points on travel, increasing its appeal to seasoned travel hackers and everyday cardholders alike. The changes doubled the value of ThankYou points redeemed for statement credits from 0.5 cents to 1 cent, and the new $100 annual discount off a single hotel stay of $500 or more offsets the $95 annual fee. (The current 60,000-point welcome bonus isn’t bad either.)
That said, the Premier, like most other Citi cards, lost a ton of valuable shopping and travel benefits in 2019, including Price Rewind, travel accident insurance and 90-day return protection. You’ll have to spend a bit more time digging for travel deals in order to maximize the value of your points, too. But if that doesn’t bother you, the Citi Premier could be a great way to turn everyday expenses into future vacations.
How to increase your chances of getting pre-approved
Lenders look at more than just your three-digit credit score when deciding whether to approve you (or, in this case, pre-approve you) for a new credit card. But, generally speaking, you can improve your chances of pre-approval by practicing good credit habits over the long run.
Take stock of where you’re at
Whether you’ll prequalify for a Citi credit card depends in large part on the information in your credit report, which is what the three credit bureaus use to calculate your credit score. If you’re unsure of where you stand, request a free copy from each bureau—TransUnion, Experian and Equifax—and read them closely for errors that could negatively impact your score (and thus your pre-approval odds), such as on-time accounts falsely reported as delinquent or hard inquiries you don’t recognize.
If you see anything wrong, file a dispute with the credit bureau(s) to have the item removed. Depending on the mistake, you might see a big upswing in your credit standing.
Boost your credit for free
If your credit report is squeaky clean but your score needs work—or if you’re new to credit entirely—consider a service like Experian Boost or UltraFICO, which use alternative financial data such as utility payments or bank account history to help expand consumer access to credit.
Individual results vary, but Bankrate reporter Ana Staples used Experian Boost to increase her credit score by 22 points. (UltraFICO is still in the testing phase; you can request to be notified when it becomes more widely available.)
Tip: If your credit history is short or your credit file too thin, think about asking a trusted family member or a close friend to add you to their card as an authorized user, allowing you to benefit from their responsible use of credit.
Calculate your income carefully
Citi doesn’t specify minimum income qualifications for credit card approval, but since income is considered one indicator of your overall ability to repay what you borrow, logic follows that your chances of pre-approval get better as your income gets higher. And in many cases, you can include more than just your own salary when calculating your income for a credit card application.
In the case of the Citi Double Cash Card, for instance, Citi asks for “total annual income” and explicitly notes the following in a pop-up box: “If you are 21 or older, you may include income from others that you can reasonably access to pay your bills.”
So if you have a partner with whom you split living expenses, it may make sense to report your household income—for example, wages, retirement benefits, rental payments and even child support—on the application if you think it could boost your chances of prequalifying and getting approved for a Citi card.
Keep (some) old credit accounts open
Length of credit history accounts for 15 percent of your FICO credit score. To keep this portion of your score in good standing, avoid closing old credit cards wherever possible. (The longer the card is open, the better, even if you don’t swipe it regularly.) Plus, closing an account also lowers your available credit limit, thereby automatically increasing your credit utilization ratio—an even bigger factor in your FICO score.
Of course, there are exceptions to the rule, like when the annual fee is too high to keep the account open (as is often the case with airline credit cards, for instance), or when you’re struggling to manage your accounts responsibly.
The bottom line
If you plan to apply for a Citi credit card, prequalifying through CardMatch (or by some other means) is truly a no-brainer; it’s free, it won’t impact your credit score and you may discover that you’re eligible for a special promotion you wouldn’t have found anywhere else.
But since pre-approval doesn’t guarantee you’ll get a yes later, be sure the card fits in with your lifestyle and can help you reach your financial goals before you click “apply.”
Good luck—and may the pre-approval odds be ever in your favor.