Before applying for a credit card, you can often determine whether you’re prequalified. Prequalification means that the credit card company has completed a basic, superficial review of your credit and found that you’re likely to be approved if you apply for a particular card. Note that this doesn’t mean you’re guaranteed to get the card, but it indicates that the odds are in your favor. And, importantly, you can learn whether you’re prequalified without any negative effect on your credit score.
What does it mean to be prequalified for a credit card?
Prequalification for a credit card means that the credit card company has done a basic review of your credit and found that you’re a good candidate for a card. This basic review is referred to as a “soft credit pull,” or soft inquiry, which doesn’t leave an official mark on your credit history. Meanwhile, when you formally apply for a credit card, a “hard credit pull” does affect your credit score. Checking if you’re prequalified first can give you more confidence that your application will be worth the impact.
What’s the difference between preapproval and prequalification?
Prequalification and preapproval for credit cards both typically involve soft inquiries, which don’t affect credit scores. Though each credit card issuer has its own set of internal guidelines for preapproving or prequalifying potential applicants, the terms are often used interchangeably. Whether a card issuer offers to check for preapproval or prequalification, you’ll receive more information about your chance to become a cardholder.
How to see if you’re prequalified for a credit card
Though not all card issuers or specific products offer prequalification, you can go to the card issuer’s website to see if it’s available. If it’s offered on the website, you’ll have to submit the requested information like your name, profession, income and housing payment.
You’ll be told if you’re likely to be approved by the credit card issuer, and can decide if you want to officially apply. There is no fee for this service, nor will it impact your credit score.
Will prequalification for a credit card hurt my credit score?
No. As mentioned above, the prequalification or preapproval process involves only a soft inquiry also known as a soft pull. When you actually apply for the card, that gives the issuer permission to do a hard inquiry, or hard pull, which may lower your credit score by up to five points and remain on your credit report for up to two years, according to FICO.
What information do you have to provide to apply for a credit card?
In order to apply for a card, you’ll typically need to provide your full legal name, Social Security number or Individual Taxpayer Identification Number and address.
Additionally, the card issuer may want to know how long you have been at your current address, if you own or rent your home, your current employer, main source of income, and any assets you may have. Applying for a business credit card may require an employer identification number, or EIN.
The bottom line
If you’re interested in applying for a credit card, you can first check to see if you’re prequalified. This simply involves the credit card company doing a basic review of your credit to see if you might qualify for a card. This doesn’t mean you’ll be approved for the card, but it’s a good indication that you have the financial profile that’s likely to be approved. Checking to see if you’re prequalified for a credit card is a free service that won’t affect your credit score.
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Correction, 7:30 a.m. PT Jan. 25: We’ve replaced phrases that were not entirely original.