Denied Credit After Receiving a Preapproval Offer From Credit Karma? You Could Be Eligible for a Payment

Save yourself time and protect your credit score by following these four tips before applying for a credit card.

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If you were among the nearly half a million people who received a credit card offer from Credit Karma but were denied credit from the card issuer, you may be eligible to receive a payment.

The Federal Trade Commission announced this week it is sending notices to people who may have responded to an offer between February 2018 and April 2021 that said they were “preapproved” or had “90% odds” of approval for a new card, but were then denied. If you get a letter or email with a claim number, you can apply online for a payment. The FTC will distribute $3 million in total to eligible individuals, following a settlement reached with Credit Karma.

Getting denied credit can be more than a waste of your time -- your credit score could also drop because a credit card application requires a hard credit inquiry. A hard credit check should only temporarily lower your credit score by a few points, but those points can make a difference if you’re in danger of dropping to a lower FICO credit score bracket or if you’ve applied for multiple cards in a short period of time.

Before you click the “apply” button on a credit card offer, follow these strategies for increasing your chances of getting approved.

What does getting preapproved for a credit card mean?

The preapproval process is one way for a credit card company to get a general idea of how creditworthy you are before you submit a formal application.

Preapproval typically only requires a soft credit inquiry, which shouldn’t affect your credit score. The credit card company will likely receive information from one of the three major credit card bureaus -- Equifax, Experian and TransUnion -- but not all of them.

Getting preapproved can help you find out how likely you are to have your credit card application accepted before you apply, but it’s not a guarantee. If a credit card issuer doesn’t offer preapproval, it might offer prequalification or preselection processes.

4 tips to improve your chances of getting approved for credit

By being prepared, you’ll help increase the chances you’ll get approved for the credit card you want. 

Check your credit score

To credit card companies, the higher your credit score, the better you appear at managing debt -- or paying your bills on time. If your credit score is less than stellar, it could decrease your chances of getting approved for a credit card. 

Although there are plenty of credit cards available to those with fair or average credit (defined as a score between 580 and 669 on the FICO scoring system), the best credit cards that offer rewards and perks typically require a higher score. 

Before applying for a card, check the issuer’s credit score parameters. If the card you want requires a credit score that’s higher than yours, follow this expert advice to help improve your credit score before applying.

Only apply for credit cards you need

If you’re applying for every credit card offer that comes along, you could hurt your credit score by more than just a few points. Before you apply for any credit card, ask yourself the following questions:

  • Why do I need this card? Only apply for a new credit card if there’s a specific reason, like you want to take advantage of a 0% intro APR offer to finance a large purchase. If you’re taking advantage of an offer like a welcome bonus, be sure you can meet the minimum spending requirements without overspending.
  • Can I use this credit card responsibly? You should know before you apply if you’re able to manage monthly payments and refrain from utilizing too much of your credit. Late payments and increased credit utilization could lower your credit score. 
  • Have I applied for other lines of credit recently? Each credit application results in a hard inquiry and another ding to your credit score. Applying for multiple credit cards in a short period could indicate to lenders that you’re a risky borrower. Consider spacing out applications by at least a few months if you want to apply for multiple credit cards.

Know that preapproval does not guarantee approval

Getting preapproval for a credit card can give you an idea of how likely you are to qualify before going through the application process. However, even if you find out you are preapproved for a credit card, you could still be denied.

That’s because preapproval involves a soft credit check, which only gives a snapshot of your current financial situation. A hard credit inquiry will reveal additional information about your borrowing history, including how you’ve managed past debt. If you have marks for missed or late payments on older accounts, those could show up in a hard inquiry and hurt your chances for approval. 

You can check your credit reports for free to ensure they’re accurate and to avoid any unwelcome surprises.

Beware of third-party offers

If you want to go through the preapproval process before applying, the best way is by using a card issuer’s preapproved tools, instead of trusting offers from a third-party service. If you’re denied after applying for a credit card, the Equal Credit Opportunity Act requires credit card issuers to send you the reason for the denial within seven days. This can provide helpful information about what you can work on so you can get accepted if you decide to apply for another credit card in the future.

Update, Dec. 7: In a statement emailed to CNET, a Credit Karma spokesperson said: “We fundamentally disagree with allegations the FTC makes in their complaint, which relate solely to statements we ceased making years ago. Any implication that Credit Karma rejected consumers applying for credit cards is simply incorrect, as Credit Karma is not a lender and does not make lending decisions. Rather, Credit Karma helps our more than 130 million members understand their finances, including their likelihood of approval for financial products. We have a track record of positive outcomes, and members shopping for credit cards on Credit Karma have a significantly higher approval rate than the national average. We reached this agreement to put the matter behind us so we can maintain our focus on helping our members find the financial products that are right for them.”

The editorial content on this page is based solely on objective, independent assessments by our writers and is not influenced by advertising or partnerships. It has not been provided or commissioned by any third party. However, we may receive compensation when you click on links to products or services offered by our partners.

Tiffany Wendeln Connors is a senior editor for CNET Money with a focus on credit cards. Previously, she covered personal finance topics as a writer and editor at The Penny Hoarder. She is passionate about helping people make the best money decisions for themselves and their families. She graduated from Bowling Green State University with a bachelor's degree in journalism and has been a writer and editor for publications including the New York Post, Women's Running magazine and Soap Opera Digest. When she isn't working, you can find her enjoying life in St. Petersburg, Florida, with her husband, daughter and a very needy dog.
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