The Truth About Pre Approved Credit Cards

Posted by CreditCardGuru

approved stamp“You’ve been pre-approved!” is stamped on the envelope of just about every credit card mailing. The letter and credit card application inside also say the same thing. But have you ever read the fine print?

Here’s the truth…
Pre approved credit cards are nothing more than a deceptive marketing gimmick…

There is no such thing as “pre” approval in the credit card industry. You are either approved or denied, there’s no in-between. However sending a letter in the mail that says “You might be approved” doesn’t sound very captivating, now does it?

So the industry came up with this term. In other words, it is not an approved credit card offer… if it was they would call it exactly that! Rather, it is “pre” (as in, not yet approved). In reality, everyone has “pre-approved” status unless they have already been “approved” for that credit card. It’s nothing but a word game to try and make you feel special for receiving the application.

Why was an offer sent to me?
Credit card companies purchase bulk mailing lists from marketing companies and credit bureaus of people they suspect who might be a good fit for the particular card they are peddling. They might be looking for consumers with a certain credit-score or income range, for example. The bank is merely guessing that you might fit the profile.

For example, let’s say you are subscribed to a magazine about yachting. That magazine sells their subscriber list to a marketing firm. Because that’s a sport typically associated with the wealthy, the firm classifies the people on that list as likely having a high income.

Then along comes a credit card company that wants to push their premium platinum card to high-income individuals. So they buy a list meeting that criteria from the firm to send their pre-approved card offers to. Many recipients will actually be a good fit, but there may be students subscribed to that magazine, non-citizens, and even people who have since passed away (which is why you frequently hear about pre-approved credit card applications being sent to dead people).

The bottom line is this…
Pre-approved credit cards are nothing but targeted junk mail. All they really mean is that the credit card company suspects you would probably be interested and qualify for the particular card they mailed you about.

Unfortunately many people fall for these pre-approved offers and assume it means they have actually been approved. In reality, the actual decision isn’t made until you submit your application and have your credit thoroughly evaluated… the exact same process that happens any other time you apply for a credit card. These offers do NOT mean you will get the card nor do they guarantee it!

Are guaranteed approval cards the same thing?
Credit cards that say they have guaranteed approval are something completely different. These are cards which are literally offered to everyone 18 or older. They truly are “guaranteed” as long as you agree to the terms… usually consisting of a hefty security deposit, extremely high fees, and a very small credit limit. The only people that would actually choose to apply for these types of cards are those recently out of bankruptcy or with really bad credit.

Conclusion?
Ignore these marketing tricks and simply research and apply for the best credit cards suited for you, because the approval process is really just the same.

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Editorial Disclosure: The editorial content on this page is not provided by any bank, credit card issuer, airline or hotel chain, and has not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities. Opinions expressed here are author's alone, not those of the bank, credit card issuer, airline or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

18 comments... read them below or add your own

  1. Slim Lancaster September 4, 2014 at 4:02PM

    wow.. the editor is way off with this.. credit card companies are not going to send out pre-approval letters to people who have a credit score of lets say 498.. “pre”liminary screening is done before offers are sent out. Did you see that prefix editor.. ‘PRE’.. so yes, pre-approval is just what it is..

  2. Linda Salas August 7, 2014 at 3:09PM

    Can I be approved I got a call saying I was approved to log in to card approval but I can’t find the right post.

  3. Kevin H May 15, 2014 at 6:50AM

    The person who wrote this article should get the facts straight. I worked at a major credit bureau for over a decade, helping banks put together preapproved credit card offers.

    The offers mean what they say. The banks are not guessing. Each offer has been screened against detailed credit criteria before the offer is sent. Every person who responds and still meets the initial criteria must be offered credit.

    • Joseph K June 23, 2014 at 11:33AM

      I might be considered just a little green as pertains to the CC Industry but with recent experience with these offers, Kevin H is 100% Spot On in his assessment. In ANY bank mailers received to date that specifically spelled out PreApproved,that’s exactly what I got with the terms outlined in it with no changes thereafter. And there’s been more then one over a good long stretch scattered out here & there.
      On the other hand, and even though my credit is very acceptable, I hesitate on the one’s displaying Pre-Qualified. I yet to experience any concrete proof that those carry the same weight as the Preapproval Forms, so I stick to what’s been proven true.

    • maria August 30, 2014 at 11:21PM

      I agree with you.

  4. charlie farrow February 25, 2014 at 10:08AM

    I want too apply for pre approved credit to co sign for my daughter.

  5. James Devlin February 11, 2014 at 6:04AM

    Also I forgot to say that this pre-approved accepts bad credit applications

    • Ruell March 28, 2014 at 11:36PM

      yeah they can accept application for review but they don’t have to Aprove it

  6. Wedge August 5, 2013 at 5:52AM

    I do believe that the “pre-approval” often means they have soft pulled your credit. This does not give them your full credit score but gives them an good idea that you will be approved. I have always had more luck receiving a credit card that I am “pre-approved’ for because of this.

    • carlos August 7, 2014 at 9:49PM

      wedge it is the opposite the cc company soft pull your credit and they get your credit score but not your full report, so base on that score let say they will send pre-approval to scores 670 and up, banks have different criteria for approval some wont approve if you have a bankruptcy or short credit history, income to credit ratio is to high etc. so you can have a 700 score but a 9 year old bk you will get denied, I think the article writer confuse a pre-approval with just a cc offer this offer are targeted like the writer mention if you are a mileageplus member from united chase will send you offers to apply for the mileageplus credit card and they will send pre-approvals to those who meet their criteria.

  7. nick February 20, 2013 at 3:35PM

    my wife just got a letter in the mail from discover saying she’s already “Pre Approved”
    she applied online and they denied her.
    my guess is because of her short credit history.
    so if your under 25 my advise is stay away from discover, because they denied me and I have a car under my name and an excellent credit score. My guess again is because of my age.

    • Danielle March 22, 2013 at 7:56AM

      I would recommend calling them. I got denied online but I called the number I was provided and approved with a 1500.00 CL within minutes of talking to the girl. I also had at that time 1 secured Cap1 card and a Car loan in both mine and my dads name. This was 6 months ago. I now have 4 CC’s and the car in MY name only. Call them. Good luck!

  8. Crystal February 6, 2013 at 1:40PM

    I get all kinds of pre-approved credit cards but they are for online shopping only, so I don’t think that is right because I can’t go to any store I want to and use them.

  9. Christopher Kandrat February 3, 2013 at 8:26PM

    Usually when I get pre-quailifed in my cases, I was approved. I don’t know about others though.

  10. Brian December 27, 2012 at 12:55AM

    They’re not all scams. I had a Capital One card for just over a year (low limit and crazy high interest rate) when I started getting those pre-approved offers. Since they were offering rates 8-10 % lower then Cap One and 12-18 months free interest I went for it. First one was a Discover Card then a year later it was a Chase Slate Card. I got both cards without any hassle and I know with one of them, maybe both, I was able to submit the application online and got immediate verification of acceptance. They only requested a minimal amount of information like my annual income and name of employer. I still got all three but only use and carry a balance on the Chase card.

  11. Jacob S. December 12, 2012 at 9:56AM

    What I always find funny is that Citi sends me preapproved card mailers for a card I already have! How wasteful. They should check their own internal database too, instead of just relying on these mailing lists they buy.

  12. john October 20, 2012 at 2:21PM

    Great article, I wondered how these offers worked.

  13. creditsleuth May 11, 2012 at 10:18PM

    I would love to have the ease of mind to know that cc companies are required to verify not only ss# but also other more difficult identifiers like previous addresses, employers, etc. I hate having to take the time to sort and shred all of the pre-approved applications I get in the mail. It use to be much worse, but I still feel like I get at least one or two of these a week!

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