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Am I Guaranteed to Qualify for a Pre-Approved Credit Card?

Credit Card Basics, Credit Cards
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Am I Guaranteed to Qualify for a Pre-approved Credit Card?

If you get a letter in your mailbox saying you’re “pre-approved” for a credit card, does that mean you’ll actually, you know, get approved? It’s a little misleading, but even though such offers (also known as “pre-qualified” offers) don’t necessarily guarantee that you’ll get the card. Sometimes, they just prompt you to apply, which dings your credit score, only to turn around and reject you. Here’s the hard truth about pre-qualified credit cards.

You might not actually qualify for a “pre-approved” offer

It seems counterintuitive, but just because you’ve received a pre-approval letter from a credit card company, you may not actually be able to obtain the card advertised in the offer. This is because credit card companies use broad criteria – such as credit scores within a certain range – to determine who to send pre-approval letters to. This way, they’re targeting a large potential customer base.

However, when those customers actually have their specific information credit pulled when they apply for the cards, they may find that their credit isn’t good enough to qualify for the card they were “pre-approved” for after all. Others may be able to get the card, but not the cool perks (like favorable interest rates) advertised in the mailing. Either way, pre-approval letters aren’t necessarily the solid show of confidence in your ability to use credit responsibly that they appear to be.

Be careful about tossing those mailings in the trash

Since it seems like pre-approval letters are constantly flooding your mailbox, you may be tempted to just toss them in the trash, unopened. But it’s important to make more of an effort to destroy these mailings if you’re not interested in applying for the card. Ideally, you should shred them, but at the very least be sure to tear them up. Why? Identity theft.

Pre-approval letters contain little personal information about you, and it’s unlikely that an identity thief will be successful if he or she tries to apply for a credit card in your name. But it’s not impossible, especially if the credit card is being offered by a less-than-reputable issuer. It’s best not to take the chance that a scoundrel might find your unopened pre-approval letter and use it for nefarious purposes; be sure to rip that sucker up before throwing it in the trash.

» MORE: Credit cards for bad credit

Not all of those offers are a good deal

While many credit card pre-approvals are from legitimate lenders seeking to peddle their product to potential customers, many are not operating on such an innocent pretense. In some cases, no-name lenders are seeking out customers with less-than-ideal credit and hocking a product chock-full of fees. This is why it’s important to carefully research any credit card you’re thinking of applying for to see if it’s really a good deal. Don’t fall victim to a clever marketing scheme from a sketchy lender, and be sure you have all the facts before pursuing any credit card you’re offered.

Pre-approval letters may seem like a sure thing, but they don’t always guarantee the deal they seem to. Be sure to do your due diligence before applying for a credit card you’ve received a mailing about. Do some pre-approving of your own before you commit to a card!

» MORE: Alternatives to instant approval credit cards