If you are an American citizen and you have a mailbox, then you probably receive daily pre-approved/pre-qualified/pre-selected credit card offers.
In this post, we will discuss everything you need to know about these offers.
What does it mean to be pre-approved, pre-qualified, or pre-selected?
There are different terminologies that different credit card issuers use. Pre-approved is a stronger lingo and usually means a more certain approval. Pre-qualified and pre-selected means that the credit card issuer prescreened you and found that you are likely to get approved for their credit card, based on data they obtained from the credit bureaus or based on the information you provided to them.
For example: A credit card issuer will go to the credit bureaus and ask them for a list of all consumers who have a credit score between 680-700 and did not have any late payments within the last 12 months and had no recent opened accounts. The credit bureaus will provide the credit card issuer with a list of people who meet these conditions. The credit card issuers will then mail a credit card offer to all consumers on the prescreened list.
Firm offer of credit
The FCRA restricts the credit bureaus from releasing information to any third party for marketing purposes. However, the statute does allow a creditor to buy a pre-screened list of consumers who meet certain criteria, as long as the creditor plans to extend a “firm offer of credit.”
A firm offer of credit means that as long as the consumer’s credit score stays within the same criteria as the pre-screened list they obtained (and income, housing expense, and everything else makes sense on the application) then the creditor will have to approve the applicant for the credit card or loan.
Many credit card issuers offer tools on their website where you can check if you’re pre-qualified for one of their credit cards as well (we will discuss more about them, further in the post). But, do not confuse them with the pre-selected offers we discussed above, as the Firm Offer of Credit law only applies if the credit card issuer received your information without your consent from the credit bureaus. It is different, though, when you check your approval chances on an online pre-qualification tool where you are giving the bank consent to check your credit reports. In that case, this law will not apply.
How can I check if I am pre-qualified?
Many banks offer online tools where you can check if you’re pre-qualified. The credit card issuer will ask you for some basic information. Then they will do a soft pull to check your credit report. A soft pull does not affect your credit score in any way.
Here is a list of where you can check if you’re pre-qualified:
Apply With Confidence” feature, Amex will first do only a soft pull on your credit report and will let you know if approved or not. Only after you accept the approval will Amex do a hard pull on your credit (this feature is currently only available on Amex consumer cards. See more details below)
Amex Busines – Business
Does being pre-approved / pre-qualified / pre-selected guarantee that I will be approved?
Being pre-qualified or pre-selected does not guarantee that you will be approved. We discussed above that if you received the offer in the mail then the credit card issuers do have an obligation to approve you as long as your credit score did not change. But the banks can still claim that your income, housing expense, etc. does not meet their requirements. Pre-approved is a much stronger language and is usually used only when the banks really feel that they will approve your credit card application.
When it comes to online tools, some of them are more accurate and some of them are less. Discover I usually found to be pretty accurate but the others, based on my experience, are not accurate. In either case, you should always take it with a grain of salt. Being pre-qualified does not guarantee your approval, and not being pre-qualified does not guarantee you will be declined.
How do I stop receiving prescreened offers in the mail?
If the junk mail got out of hand and you would like to stop receiving these credit card offers in the mail, you can opt-out at any time by going to https://www.optoutprescreen.com/ and choose to opt-out.
But please note that even after opting out you can still receive offers from credit card companies you already do business with. This is because they are not receiving your information from the credit bureaus, but rather from their own internal system, which will not be stopped by opting out from the credit bureaus pre-screening programs.
If you have any questions about anything discussed in the post, please leave a comment.
*The new application experience is currently available for individuals applying for a U.S. Personal Card via HelpMeBuildCredit, at AmericanExpress.com/us/credit-cards, or by calling American Express, and is not available if you apply for a Card after you log into an existing Card Member Account