If you get a notification from a credit card issuer that you're "preapproved" for a credit card, your odds of actually getting that card are quite high.
That's because many preapproval offers tend to come from a bank that you already do business with. (They'd like you to do more business with them, after all.) Since you're an existing customer, the bank already knows a lot about you, and if it extends a preapproval offer, that means the institution likely has the information it needs to make a decision as to your creditworthiness.
However, this may not be the case if what you really have is a "pre-qualification" offer, which is more common (and a bit less official). It's also worth noting that not every preapproval offer is a good deal.
Are you 'preapproved' or merely 'pre-qualified'?
Most major credit card issuers offer a pre-qualification process, which can give you a "soft yes" as to whether you'll be approved if you apply. You'll be asked to input some personal info, including your Social Security number, and the issuer will then perform a "soft pull" of your credit — which doesn't affect your credit scores — to determine whether you are pre-qualified.
As with a preapproval offer, a pre-qualification is a good sign you'll get the card. Some issuers even use the terms interchangeably.
But in general, true preapproval offers (particularly ones that come from a bank you already have a relationship with) carry a bit more weight than pre-qualification offers. And hence, they're also harder to come by. Whereas you may be actively seeking out a pre-qualification, preapproval offers tend to arrive randomly or unsolicited.
Not all preapproval offers are a good deal
Speaking of which, before jumping on any preapproval offer you may receive, you'll want to do your research on the card.
Some offers may be from less-reputable issuers that promise "instant-approval" cards — products that may guarantee approval, sure, but which also feature low credit limits and charge sky-high "maintenance" fees or exorbitant APRs.
Be careful about tossing mailers in the trash
If preapproval letters are constantly flooding your mailbox, you may be tempted to just throw them in the garbage can, unopened. But if you’re not interested in applying for the card, you should aim to destroy those mailers so that you protect yourself against identity theft. The risk is low, but not impossible.
Alternately, if you're tired of dealing with such offers, you can opt out of them. Here's how.