How to check your odds of getting approved for a credit card without hurting your credit score (2024)

Looking to open a new credit card but not sure if you'll get approved? There's a simple feature that many card issuers offer for free: pre-qualification. You can submit a prequalification form online to see whether you may qualify for a card.

In fact, you can submit multiple pre-qualification requests without any damage to your credit score, since it involves a soft inquiry of your credit. A soft inquiry (also called a "soft pull") isn't connected to a specific application for new credit (a mortgage or a credit card, for example) and doesn't require your permission, so it doesn't show up on your credit report.

Once you submit an actual application though, you give the card issuer permission to check your credit, which is called a hard inquiry (or "hard pull"). This can sometimes result in a slight ding to your credit score, which is why it's recommended you only apply for a credit card every six months. Applying for many cards at once is a red flag to issuers and can have a bigger impact on your credit score.

How to pre-qualify for a credit card

Using a pre-screened offer

You may receive targeted offers in the mail or via email saying you've been "pre-screened" or "pre-selected to apply" for a credit card. These offers typically provide an invitation code that you enter on the card issuer's site and a date when the offer expires.

These offers can help you kick-start the credit card search process, but you should still compare other cards to find the best fit for your needs. A pre-screened offer may seem tempting because it's personalized, highlights the main perks of the card and is time-sensitive. That doesn't necessarily make it the best credit card for your lifestyle, however.

As with any financial product, you should do your research and make sure the card is a good fit for you before applying.

Find the best credit card for you by reviewing offers in ourcredit card marketplaceor get personalized offers viaCardMatch™.

Using the card issuer's website

Many card issuers provide pre-qualification links where you can check if you may qualify for a credit card. When you click on the link, there's often a statement that says checking your qualification chances does not affect your credit score.

These online forms typically ask for your name, address, contact information and social security number (or at least the last four digits).

At the end of the form, there is also a disclaimer you need to acknowledge that expresses this is not an official application and if you apply, your credit will be pulled.

Here are some card issuers that provide pre-qualification forms:

Easiest credit cards to get approved for

The easiest type of credit card to get approved for is generally a secured credit card. You can qualify for a secured credit card with bad credit or no credit history.

Secured credit cards are an excellent option for building your credit history or improving your credit score. The way they work is, instead of receiving an unsecured credit limit you'll need to make a (refundable) deposit, and your spending limit is based on the deposit.

A typical minimum deposit for a secured credit card is $200 and it goes up from there. While credit card rewards aren't the focus of secured cards, a number of the best secured credit cards also offer cash back on purchases.

The Discover it® Secured Credit Card, for example, earns 2% back at gas stations and restaurants on up to $1,000 in combined purchases each quarter, then 1% back, and it only requires a $200 minimum deposit.

Discover it® Secured Credit Card

On Discover's secure site

  • Rewards

    Earn 2% cash back at Gas Stations and Restaurants on up to $1,000 in combined purchases each quarter, automatically. Plus earn unlimited 1% cash back on all other purchases.

  • Welcome bonus

    Discover will match all the cash back you've earned at the end of your first year

  • Annual fee

    $0

  • Intro APR

    N/A on purchases

  • Regular APR

    28.24% Variable

  • Balance transfer fee

    3% intro balance transfer fee, up to 5% fee on future balance transfers (see terms)*

  • Foreign transaction fee

    None

  • Credit needed

    New / Rebuilding

  • *See rates and fees,terms apply.

Read our Discover it® Secured Credit Card review.

If you need a secured card with a higher spending limit, the Platinum Secured Mastercard® fromFirst Tech Federal Credit Union might be a good fit. It has a maximum credit limit of $25,000 and offers 1X points on all purchases.

Platinum Secured Mastercard®

Information about the Platinum Secured Mastercard® has been collected independently by Select and has not been reviewed or provided by the issuer of the cards prior to publication.

Terms apply.

FAQs

  • Does pre-qualification mean approval?
  • What to do if you pre-qualify
  • What to do if you don't pre-qualify
  • Which credit score do banks use for credit cards?
  • How many credit cards can you apply for without hurting your credit?

Does pre-qualification mean approval?

Pre-qualification is not a guarantee of approval. There's a chance you'll pre-qualify for a card and still be denied during the official application process.

A pre-qualification form only provides the lender with partial information. If you decide to submit an actual application, lenders will receive a more holistic picture of your finances. Multiple factors, such as your monthly housing payment, credit score and income, are taken into consideration.

What to do if you pre-qualify

When you submit a pre-qualification form, you'll typically receive several credit card offers that you have good approval odds for. Once you choose an offer, you still need to submit an official application.

Here are two steps to take after you pre-qualify for a card:

  • Compare credit cards. Pre-qualification is a great way to shop around for the best credit card offers without hurting your credit score. We recommend submitting multiple pre-qualification requests so you can compare the fees, rewards and added perks to find the card that provides the most value for your needs.
  • Submit an official application. Once you decide which card is the best fit, submit an official application. You'll typically receive a decision immediately, though it can take longer in some cases. If you're approved, great! If you're denied, you can apply for one of the other cards you were pre-qualified for.

What to do if you don't pre-qualify

If you were denied a pre-qualification, it's not the end of the world — you still have options. After all, pre-qualification only looks at part of your finances. An official credit card application provides the lender with more information on your financial situation.

Here are some actions you can take if you didn't pre-qualify for a card:

  • Apply for the card anyway. While this is an option, you most likely have slim chances of approval. Still, an official application considers more factors, such as income and employment status, which may improve your odds. Just beware that each application you submit results in a hard credit inquiry and may lower your credit score by a few points.
  • Try to pre-qualify for different cards. If you were denied pre-qualification by one card issuer, try another and you may have better luck. Since it doesn't hurt your credit score, you can submit multiple pre-qualification forms to increase the chances you'll pre-qualify.
  • Improve your credit. Take some time to work on raising your credit score. Practice responsible credit behavior, such as making on-time payments and using a small amount of your credit. If you don't have a credit card yet, ask a family member with good credit if they'll add you as an authorized user. This allows you to piggyback off their positive credit. After you've seen improvements in your credit score, try to pre-qualify again.
  • Consider applying for a secured card. If you don't have much credit history and are struggling to get approved for a credit card, another option is signing up for a secured card. With a secured card, you put down a deposit (typically starting at $200) and have access to a credit limit up to that amount. Many secured credit cards allow you to upgrade to an unsecured card after making on-time payments for a certain amount of time.

Which credit score do banks use for credit cards?

The most commonly used credit scoring model is the FICO® score. The FICO scoring model is frequently updated but is based on five main factors:

  • Payment history (35%)
  • Amounts owed (30%)
  • Length of credit history (15%)
  • New credit (10%)
  • Credit mix (10%)

There are a many ways to check your credit score for free and you can access your full credit report from each of the three major credit reporting agencies for free at least once a year. Credit scores fall into ranges that are classified from poor to excellent.

FICO Score categories:

  • Poor: 300 to 579
  • Fair: 580 to 669
  • Good: 670 to 739
  • Very good: 740 to 799
  • Excellent: 800 to 850

How many credit cards can you apply for without hurting your credit?

There's no limit to how many credit cards you can apply for, but applying for a lot of credit cards in a short period could be a red flag to card issuers. And each application results in a hard inquiry on your credit report, which temporarily lowers your credit score.

When deciding how many credit cards you should have it's important to consider how you'll manage multiple credit cards. Paying late fees for missing due dates and getting stuck with annual fees for cards you didn't want to keep can quickly add up.

It's generally a good idea to wait six months between credit card applications. Depending on your other financial goals, you may want to be even more conservative with card applications. If you're planning on refinancing your mortgage or purchasing a home, then you may want to hold off on card applications for a while. Too many inquiries can reduce your credit score, which can affect the mortgage rate you can qualify for.

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Bottom line

Checking to see if you're pre-qualified for a credit card offer doesn't hurt your credit score. But, being pre-qualified for a card also doesn't guarantee you'll be approved once you submit an official application.

Card issuers consider your income, employment status, credit score and other factors to determine whether they will issue you a specific card. If you're struggling to get approved for the best credit cards, you may be able to build your credit with a secured credit card, which is typically easier to be approved for.

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Read more

The best credit cards for fair and average credit

What is a good credit score and how to get one

Prequalified vs preapproved: What you need to know about your approval chances for a credit card

Looking to apply for a credit card? Know if you're eligible and have this information ready

For rates and fees of the Discover it® Secured Credit Card, click here.

Editorial Note: Opinions, analyses, reviews or recommendations expressed in this article are those of the Select editorial staff’s alone, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any third party.

How to check your odds of getting approved for a credit card without hurting your credit score (2024)
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