Skip to main content

What does pre-approved mean for a credit card?

minute read

    Have you ever received a pre-approval offer in the mail? Or maybe you've received a pre-approval offer via email? Then you may have asked yourself, “What does pre-approved mean for a credit card?” Let's find out.

    What's a pre-approved credit card offer?

    When you've been pre-approved for a credit card offer, this means that you've been prescreened based on specific criteria, including your credit and payment history. Lenders prescreen consumers by requesting a soft inquiry to check credit and determine who qualifies.

    Based on these factors, you may be pre-approved for an offer. You might receive these offers from card issuers that you already have an account with, or from affiliated partners who are looking for ways to promote their credit card offerings. Pre-approval offers can be delivered by physical mail or email, or provided verbally through a phone call.

    A pre-approval offer suggests you've passed the first step in the screening process. But remember — you can't actually be approved for the card unless you apply. You may seem like a promising candidate, but the lender will likely want more information to process your application.

    Pre-approved vs. pre-qualified credit card offers

    Prequalified and Preapproved are both terms used by issuers to suggest you have met criteria established in advance. If you've received a pre-approval offer, the credit card issuer has reached out to you first because you meet the basic requirements.


    Prequalification and pre-approval processes can be presented differently. Pre-approved credit card offers differ because lenders already have the information needed to assess your credit worthiness.


    Pre-qualification for a card indicates that you've made the first request and reached out to the credit card company to see if you might be approved for the card you're interested in. The credit card issuer may then look at your financial profile and show you credit cards and offers that you might qualify for if you apply. It's not a guarantee, but it's a good sign.

    How to get pre-approved for a credit card

    In short, the card issuer needs to pre-approve you for a credit card, and then you can take action. Some people receive a pre-approved credit card offer in the mail, whereas others may need to complete an online form to provide the credit card issuer with basic information. Ways to apply for a pre-approval offer include:

    Respond to an offer from a credit card issuer

    One way to possibly get pre-approved for a credit card is by applying for an offer that the credit card issuer has sent you by mail, email or phone, also known as “prescreened offers.” Although mail may not be as popular as it once was, pre-approved offers may appear in the pile. Offers may include an invitation code that you can enter when you apply.

    Request to see if you're pre-qualified on the credit card issuer's website if available

    Most major credit card issuers that offer pre-qualification have online links on their website to a simple form where you can apply. These forms will often ask you to provide basic personal and financial information. Once the information is entered, you may be shown a credit card offer that the issuer feels best fits your financial needs. Your offer may be more personalized since you provide information about yourself. In this situation, you'll need to get pre-qualified first to get pre-approved. Once you're pre-qualified, you may receive a pre-approval offer.

    Does a pre-approved credit card affect your credit score?

    Pre-approved offers, alone, typically don't impact your credit score because the card issuers perform a soft inquiry instead of a hard inquiry before providing an offer of pre-approval. However, if you follow through and apply for a pre-approved offer, the issuer may request a hard inquiry, which would then be indicated on your report and may impact your credit score.

    In summary

    So, if you've been asking yourself, “what does pre-approved mean for a credit card?” know that you're not the only one. And while pre-approval offers don't guarantee approval, they can indicate that you have a higher chance of being approved once you finally apply for that card.

    What to read next