Receiving a preapproved credit card offer can be exciting. After all, this means a creditor has pre-screened information on your credit report to gauge your eligibility, and they think you may meet their criteria for approval.

But does this pre-screening impact your credit score like a regular credit card application? Fortunately not. Preapprovals use soft credit pulls, which do not affect your credit score.

Read on for more information about preapproved credit card offers and to know what actions will ding your credit score.

What is a preapproved credit card offer?

According to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), many banks and insurance companies use prescreening to help identify potential customers for their products. As such, preapproved credit offers are based on information in your credit report that indicates you could be a good candidate for an offer.

Ultimately, your profile may make it on a preapproved offer list in one of two ways:

  • A creditor might establish minimum criteria, such as a minimum credit score, then reach out to consumer reporting agencies for help compiling a list of consumers who meet that criteria.
  • Conversely, the creditor might make their own list of potential customers and present it to a consumer reporting company to have them identify people who meet specific criteria they set.

Once the credit card issuer has your information, they will contact you to let you know you’re preapproved. While it’s possible you could get a preapproved offer for credit in a phone call or email, the FTC says most prescreened solicitations arrive via standard mail. When you receive a preapproved credit card offer in the mail, the correspondence will usually make this crystal clear. It might say you’re preapproved or prequalified, and your offer will also have an expiration date.

It’s important to understand that preapproved credit card offers do not guarantee approval. You still have to apply for the credit card you’ve been preapproved for, and there are numerous reasons you could be denied. For example, it’s possible you met a minimum credit score requirement but your income is insufficient. Or perhaps the creditor finds that you applied for too many credit cards in a short time.

Do preapproved credit card offers affect your credit score?

Here’s the good news: Preapproved credit card offers do not impact your credit score in any way. That’s because creditors only place a “soft pull” on your credit report to determine your eligibility.

You’ll only see an impact if you move forward with the application. In that case, a “hard pull” will be placed on your credit report, and a hard pull is different from a soft pull. A hard pull shows creditors you applied for a line of credit, and it has the potential to impact your credit score in the short term.

Benefits of preapproved credit cards

Preapproved credit card offers can be beneficial if you’re unsure you’ll be eligible for a credit card. If your credit score is good but needs some work, for example, you can check to see if you even have a chance at approval before moving forward with a full application and facing a hard pull on your credit report.

Not only that, but some preapproved credit card offers can be more lucrative than those advertised to the general public. For instance, preapproved credit card offers can come with:

  • Higher sign-up bonuses on rewards credit cards
  • Higher introductory earnings on cash back credit cards
  • Promotional rewards offers for more points on spending
  • Longer introductory APR offers on balance transfer credit cards
  • A lower interest rate

In any of these cases, you could get a “better deal” on a credit card than you could if you applied on your own. This is one reason preapproved credit card offers are worth exploring regardless of your credit score and income.

Increase your chances of credit card preapproval

Improving your credit score can boost your chances for prequalification. You can typically do this by using credit responsibly and wisely: paying your bills on time, not maxing out credit cards and avoiding opening or closing too many accounts.

From there, take steps to be proactive about the situation. With the help of Bankrate’s CardMatch Tool, you can enter some basic information and see if you’re approved for the best credit card offers within 60 seconds. Using this tool won’t affect your credit in any way, and you could find you’re eligible for better bonus offers or other generous terms on the best rewards credit cards. You can also check your approval odds before you apply for many credit cards offered on Bankrate.

Some credit card issuers, like Chase and Credit One Bank, also offer their own online tools to help potential customers see if they’re preapproved.

The bottom line

Credit card preapprovals are usually a good sign since they show you have met basic criteria like having good credit or a history of employment. That said, you may not want to go after the first prequalified credit card offer you receive. That’s because, by and large, preapproved doesn’t always mean best. Take the time to explore the best credit cards available, and only apply for cards that give you the rewards and benefits you want the most.