What Does Preapproved Mean for a Credit Card?

By Jackie Lam · November 17, 2022 · 9 minute read

We’re here to help! First and foremost, SoFi Learn strives to be a beneficial resource to you as you navigate your financial journey. Read more We develop content that covers a variety of financial topics. Sometimes, that content may include information about products, features, or services that SoFi does not provide. We aim to break down complicated concepts, loop you in on the latest trends, and keep you up-to-date on the stuff you can use to help get your money right. Read less

What Does Preapproved Mean for a Credit Card?

When you get preapproved for a credit card, this means you’ve met initial criteria to receive an offer to get a credit card. In other words, you’ve popped up on a list of consumers that fit the bill for a credit card company’s requirements and are being invited to sign up for a card.

In this piece, we’ll discuss exactly how preapproved credit card offers work, the difference between what preapproved for a credit card means vs. prequalifed, and the pros and cons of preapproved offers.

What Is a Preapproved Credit Card Offer?

As mentioned, a preapproved credit card offer is when a credit card company officially invites you to apply for a specific credit card. Credit card issuers usually use criteria pulled from credit reporting agencies to extend these offers. If you fall within the parameters of the credit card requirements set by the card issuer, then you may receive an offer — either via email, snail mail, or over the phone — to formally apply for approval for the card.

How Do Preapproved Credit Card Offers Work?

While it sounds promising, getting a preapproved credit card offer doesn’t necessarily mean you’re guaranteed to get approved for a credit card. Even if you’re preapproved, you’ll need to properly apply.

When you do, the credit card issuer will look over your application and usually request additional financial and personal information. The credit card company will also check your updated credit report to figure out if your credit still meets the criteria it referred to when it sent you the preapproved offer.

Preapproved vs Prequalified Credit Card Offers

The terms “preapproved” and “prequalified” often are used interchangeably when it comes to prescreened credit card offers. And within the realm of credit cards, they often are one and the same. But in other types of lending, they mean different things.

Prequalified offers are usually requested by you, the consumer. To get prequalified, you typically need to provide basic personal and financial information. During the screening process, the credit card issuer will check your credit. However, it will only conduct a soft pull, which won’t impact your credit score. After reviewing the info you submitted, the credit card company will let you know if you’re likely to get approved.

Preapproval, on the other hand, is when you’re prescreened for offers by the credit card company. These credit companies work with the three major credit reporting agencies — Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion — to come up with a list of consumers that meet their lending criteria.

With both preapproval and prequalification, you’ll still have to submit to a hard credit inquiry and potentially provide additional financial information to actually get approved for the loan product. Keep in mind that unlike a soft inquiry, a hard credit inquiry will temporarily affect your score.

Benefits of a Preapproved Credit Card

Now that you know what preapproved means for a credit card, you may be wondering what the benefits are. In general, these are the upsides of preapproval, whether for a valuable rewards card or a virtual credit card.

Indicates Your Odds of Approval

Perhaps the most obvious benefit of getting preapproved for a credit card is that you’ll have a better sense of how likely you are to ultimately get approved for the card. Although preapproval is not a guarantee of eventual approval, if a credit card issuer has already selected you to apply and your financial situation hasn’t drastically changed, you’re likely within the required parameters to get the card.

Won’t Impact Your Credit Score

One of the major benefits of getting preapproved for a credit card is that it won’t impact your credit score. To get preapproved, the card issuer does a soft pull of your credit. Only if you decide to formally apply for the card will the credit card company do a hard pull of your credit.

Could Allow You To Secure More Competitive Terms

Getting preapproved for a credit card may allow you to secure a lower interest rate than you’d otherwise be able to get. This is because the lender is effectively advertising the card to you in order to get you to apply. Keep in mind, however, that your rates aren’t set until after you formally apply.

Recommended: How to Avoid Interest On a Credit Card

May Provide Access to Better Intro Offers

Another advantage of a preapproved credit card is that it might come with more lucrative perks than what’s more widely advertised to the public. You might be privy to cards with more attractive sign-up bonuses or introductory earnings opportunities. For instance, a cash-back credit card might offer a higher initial earnings rate through preapproval offers.

Could Get a Longer Intro APR for Balance Transfers Cards

For balance transfer credit cards that allow you to transfer your existing debt over to the new card, you might be able to get a lower introductory annual percentage rate (APR) for longer through preapproved offers. This longer introductory period could make it easier to pay off your balance in full before the regular interest rate kicks in.

Easier for You

Because credit card companies have vetted you and know that you’ve passed its criteria, you don’t have to spend time researching cards. Instead, these offers are coming to you. Still, when choosing a credit card, it doesn’t hurt to take a look around to make sure this is truly the right fit for you.

Drawbacks of a Preapproved Credit Card

While there are benefits of preapproved credit card offers, there are drawbacks to them as well.

Might Not Be the Best Card for You

While you don’t have to jump through the same hoops as you would looking for a credit card on your own, the credit card you’re preapproved may not be the right one for you. It might be a good idea to spend some time doing your own research and understanding differences in how credit cards work even if you do get preapproved.

Could Get Flooded With Unwanted Offers

Preapproval offers may lead to getting a lot of unsolicited emails, mail, or phone calls. Especially if you’re not in the market for a new credit card, you could feel inundated with offers you don’t necessarily want or need.

Potential for Theft of Personal Information

There’s a chance that a would-be identity thief can intercept your prescreened offer and get ahold of your name and mailing address. The good news is that prescreened offers are one of the least likely forms of identity theft. Plus, an identity thief would likely need information beyond what’s included in a preapproval offer.

Data Privacy Issues

This is not very common, but there’s a chance that your name, address, and other personal information are stored in databases for consumers that qualify for prescreened offers. This means that in the instance of a data breach, your information could be accessed.

Temptation to Open More Cards

Receiving preapproved offers for credit cards may tempt you to open a new credit card you don’t necessarily need, especially if the preapproval offer includes a lucrative sign-up bonus or an extended introductory APR offer. Especially if you’re already set with your lineup of credit cards, this might entice you to take on more cards than you can comfortably manage.

When You May Need Credit Card Preapproval

You might want to receive a preapproved credit card offer if you’re in the market for a new credit card and would rather not go through the full process of researching credit cards. As you know you already meet certain lending criteria, the odds of getting approved for a card are improved.

Keep in mind, however, that you don’t need to get credit card preapproval in order to apply for a credit card. If you’re getting a credit card for the first time and have a limited credit history, for instance, you’re likely not going to get so many preapproval offers — but that doesn’t mean you can’t still try applying.

Recommended: What is the Average Credit Card Limit?

Tips for Getting a Preapproved Credit Card Offer

If you’d like to get preapproved offers, you’ll want to opt in by visiting OptOutPrescreen.com . From there, you can choose to get these offers through the mail, email, or via phone.

Instead of waiting for offers to come to you, you can also get preapproved by visiting a credit card issuer’s website and applying for prequalification. This typically requires providing basic personal and financial information.

Recommended: How Long It Takes to Get a Credit Card

Tips for Improving Your Chances of Preapproval

While you can still get preapproved for offers with not-so-great credit, you’ll get offers with the most favorable terms and rates with a strong credit score. To keep your credit score game strong and thus improve your chances of improval, make sure to do the following:

•   Avoid late payments

•   Keep your credit utilization rate low

•   Aim to keep cards open

•   Don’t apply for too many new accounts

•   Maintain a diverse mix of different forms of credit

Recommended: When Are Credit Card Payments Due?

How Does a Preapproved Credit Card Impact Your Credit Score?

A preapproved offer for a credit card doesn’t impact your credit score. As we talked about, lenders will do a soft pull of your score, which doesn’t affect your score.

But if you decide to apply for a card, the credit card issuer will do a hard pull of your credit. This will most likely ding your score, though generally only temporarily.

Recommended: When Are Credit Card Payments Due?

Opting Out of Preapproved Credit Cards

If you don’t want to get flooded by preapproval offers, you can decide to opt out. Visit the website OptOutPrescreen.com and follow the simple steps outlined on the website to do so. You then won’t be included on lists to get considered for preapproval for five years.

Recommended: Does Applying For a Credit Card Hurt Your Credit Score?

The Takeaway

A preapproved offer for a credit card means you’ve met certain lending criteria to most likely get approved for a specific card. You’ll still need to officially apply to secure approval though. But if your credit score and financial history are the same as when you initially received the offer, there’s a high likelihood you’ll get approved.

Whether you're looking to build credit, apply for a new credit card, or save money with the cards you have, it's important to understand the options that are best for you. Learn more about credit cards by exploring this credit card guide.


How long does it take to get a credit card if you are preapproved?

It depends on the credit card and credit card company. If you’re preapproved for a card, you’ll still need to officially apply. If you do get approved for a card, it could take anywhere from five business days to two weeks for your card to arrive in the mail.

Can you get denied after preapproval?

In some cases, yes. For instance, if your credit or financial situation changed between the time you received a preapproved offer and when you applied, you might get denied.

Can I get a credit card if I am not preapproved or I don’t qualify for a credit card?

Yes, you don’t need to get preapproved for a credit card; it simply nixes a few steps and boosts your odds of getting a card. However, you will need to qualify for a credit card to get it. This happens if you meet the credit card company’s lending criteria. If you do, you’ll have a chance of getting a particular credit card.

Should I still apply if I am not preapproved for a credit card?

Just because you aren’t preapproved doesn’t mean you won’t be able to get a particular credit card. Spend some time doing your homework to figure out which cards are a good fit for your needs and financial situation. When choosing a credit card, it’s important to check the rates, credit limits, and fees.

Photo credit: iStock/akinbostanci

Financial Tips & Strategies: The tips provided on this website are of a general nature and do not take into account your specific objectives, financial situation, and needs. You should always consider their appropriateness given your own circumstances.

Disclaimer: Many factors affect your credit scores and the interest rates you may receive. SoFi is not a Credit Repair Organization as defined under federal or state law, including the Credit Repair Organizations Act. SoFi does not provide “credit repair” services or advice or assistance regarding “rebuilding” or “improving” your credit record, credit history, or credit rating. For details, see the FTC’s website .

External Websites: The information and analysis provided through hyperlinks to third-party websites, while believed to be accurate, cannot be guaranteed by SoFi. Links are provided for informational purposes and should not be viewed as an endorsement.


All your finances.
All in one app.

SoFi QR code, Download now, scan this with your phone’s camera

All your finances.
All in one app.

App Store rating

SoFi iOS App, Download on the App Store
SoFi Android App, Get it on Google Play

TLS 1.2 Encrypted
Equal Housing Lender