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¹The credit scores provided under the offers described here use the Equifax Credit Score, which is a proprietary credit model developed by Equifax. The Equifax Credit Score and 3-Bureau scores are each based on the Equifax Credit Score model, but calculated using the information in your Equifax, Experian and TransUnion credit files. The Equifax Credit Score is intended for your own educational use. It is also commercially available to third parties along with numerous other credit scores and models in the marketplace. Please keep in mind third parties are likely to use a different score when evaluating your creditworthiness. Also, third parties will take into consideration items other than your credit score or information found in your credit file, such as your income.
²The Automatic Fraud Alert feature is made available to consumers by Equifax Information Services LLC and fulfilled on its behalf by Equifax Consumer Services LLC.
³Equifax Credit Report Control™ is only available while you have a current subscription to Equifax Complete Premier. Locking your credit file with Equifax Credit Report Control will prevent access to your Equifax credit file by certain third parties, such as credit grantors or other companies and agencies. Credit Report Control will not prevent access to your credit file at any other credit reporting agency, and will not prevent access to your Equifax credit file by companies like Equifax Personal Solutions which provide you with access to your credit report or credit score or monitor your credit file; Federal, state and local government agencies; companies reviewing your application for employment; companies that have a current account or relationship with you, and collection agencies acting on behalf of those whom you owe; for fraud detection and prevention purposes; and companies that wish to make pre-approved offers of credit or insurance to you. To opt out of such pre-approved offers, visit www.optoutprescreen.com/.
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If you’re in the market for a new credit card, a pre-approved offer can be a tempting way to accelerate the process. But with all of the different options, it can be hard to determine if you’re truly pre-approved.
Pre-approved offers, also known as pre-screened offers, are issued based on information in your credit report indicating that you meet basic credit criteria.
Before you apply for a pre-approved credit card, there are a few things you should understand about a pre-approved credit card offer:
1. A pre-approval is an offer.
While an initial screening process does occur for pre-approved offers, this does not mean that the credit card issuer must provide you with a credit card. You will still need to apply in order to get final approval. In this way, a pre-approved credit card offer is more of an invitation than an acceptance letter. It means that the lender has identified you as a potential candidate, is aware of your general credit standing, and wants to make you aware of the credit products offered for people in your credit range.
Offers may also be based on membership in certain groups or relationships with certain companies. For example, frequent travelers may receive solicitations for pre-approved airline credit cards.
After you apply, the lender will determine whether your credit history meets the lending criteria. There’s no guarantee you’ll receive the terms of the original offer, and you could be rejected entirely.
2. A pre-approved credit card offer will not impact your credit score.
The initial screening that lenders use to select pre-approved individuals does not impact your credit score. In fact, your credit score will not be impacted until you decide to apply for the card.
After you submit your application to the lender, the lender will request your credit score. The credit score request is called a “hard inquiry,” and it will remain on your credit report for 24 months. Even if your credit request is denied, the inquiry will still impact your credit score.
While being sent a pre-approved credit offer doesn’t hurt your credit score, every time you apply for a credit card a lender will pull your credit report, which will result in a hard inquiry that will impact your credit score. For that reason, you may want to avoid applying for several credit cards at the same time.
You may want to pull your free credit report through AnnualCreditReport.com or purchase your credit score from one of the three credit reporting agencies (CRAs) beforehand so that you know your general standing and can apply for the type of credit card that fits your credit range. You should be aware that the credit score you purchase may be an educational credit score and may not be the credit score used by your potential lender. That said, the credit score you purchase may help you figure out what type of interest rate you can reasonably expect the lender to offer you.
3. After you apply, you may be approved for terms that are different from the offer.
If you are approved after you apply for the credit card, you may end up with different terms and conditions than what was included in the original offer.
Your credit card APR dictates the interest rate you will pay if you carry a balance from month to month. The higher the APR, the more the credit card will cost you if you carry a balance. Many credit card offers advertise an attractive APR, but the rate you get will depend on your credit history and credit score.
Read over the terms and conditions and, if you are approved, be sure you understand your APR and other financial obligations related to the account. If you do not carry a balance from month to month, then you will not have to pay interest on the credit card, but you may still be obligated to pay other costs, such as an annual fee.
4. You can opt out of pre-approved credit card offers.
If you already have several credit cards or aren’t interested in borrowing, you can opt out of pre-approved credit card offers by calling 1-888-5-OPTOUT (1-888-567-8688) or by visiting OptOutPrescreen.com.
You may also contact the Direct Marketing Association (DMA), which manages an opt-out list for consumers who generally prefer not to receive mail or phone offers. You can sign up for this service on the DMA’s website or download a form to submit by mail. You can also call the DMA at 212-768-7277 to have the form mailed to you.
According to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), has no effect on your ability to apply for or obtain credit, but you may not receive the terms from pre-approved offers that may be more favorable than those offered to the general public.
5. Shred any unused credit card offers.
Credit card offers may contain sensitive personal information, such as your full name and address. You should shred these documents to protect yourself from identity thieves and scammers, who are known to scavenge dumpsters in order to find documents with personal information. Be sure to lock your financial documents and records in a safe place and destroy them when they are no longer needed.
6. If you are sent a physical card with a pre-approved offer, don’t try to use it.
A bank or lender cannot legally send you an actual credit card in the mail, so if there is a card in the offer envelope, don’t try to use it. This precaution, which was instituted by the Unsolicited Credit Card Act of 1970, is for your protection—to guard you against fraud, payment liability, or credit damage.
Before you respond and apply to a pre-approved credit card offer, be sure you read all the terms and conditions. Also be wary of incurring hard inquiries that could impact your credit score.
The information contained in this blog post is designed to generally educate and inform visitors to the Equifax Finance Blog. The blog posts do not give, and should not be assumed to provide, personalized tax, investment, real estate, legal, retirement, credit, personal financial, or other professional advice. Before making any financial decision, you should always consult with the appropriate professionals who can explain your options, rights, and legal responsibilities, and advise you on any tax, legal, credit, or business implications that may result from those decisions. The views and opinions expressed by the authors of blog posts are their own views and may not be the views or opinions of Equifax, Inc. and/or its affiliates.
Equifax maintains this interactive forum for education and information purposes in order to allow individuals to share their relevant knowledge and opinions with other members and visitors. We encourage you to participate in discussions about personal finance issues and other topics of interest to this community, but please read our commenting guidelines first. Equifax reserves the right to monitor postings to the forum and comments will be published at our discretion. Do you have questions or comments about your Equifax credit report or customer-service issues regarding an Equifax product? If so, please contact Equifax directly. All opinions and information expressed or shared in blog comments are solely those of the person submitting the comments, and don't necessarily represent the views of Equifax or its management.