Between the envelopes in your mailbox and the emails in your inbox, you've probably come across something that says you're pre-qualified or pre-approved for a credit card offer. Or maybe you want to see if you're eligible for a card offer with a better rate. But what does this really mean? How do you find out if you're pre-qualified or pre-approved? And why does it matter anyway?

What Is a Pre-Qualified Credit Card?

Simply put, credit card pre-qualification means that a credit card company worked with a credit bureau to take a look at your basic credit information. They may have set a standard, such as a minimum credit score, and asked for a list of people who met it. Or maybe they gave the credit bureau a list of specific people and asked for a check on their credit.

Either way, the information the credit card company saw told them that you might be a good potential customer, and that's why you're pre-qualified. This happens before applying for a credit card, so you may not get the card you’ve been pre-qualified for after a full credit check. For example, this could happen if there were any major changes to your employment, salary or debt.

The pre-qualification process is a "screening" of your basic credit information, and you might see the term "pre-screened" instead.

How to Get Pre-Qualified for a Credit Card

Well, the arrival of an offer is one way, but you can find out if you’re pre-qualified any time with online tools like this one, which shows if you’re pre-qualified for a Capital One® card.

Can Pre-Qualification Hurt Your Credit Score?

A pre-qualification may appear on your credit report as an “inquiry” (banking talk for a request to check your credit. This could be a soft inquiry, which means it won’t have a negative effect on your credit report or credit score. A hard inquiry, which generally happens once you apply for a credit card, may impact your credit score.

What Is a Pre-Approved Credit Card?

On the surface, it may look like pre-approved and pre-qualified are used interchangeably. But when it comes to marketing, some credit card issuers will set up different customer parameters for each one. This could mean a higher approval rate for pre-approved offers than pre-qualified offers. However, it depends entirely on the parameters set by each issuer when letting potential customers know they may be eligible.

How to Get Pre-Approved for a Credit Card

Just like pre-qualified credit cards, the arrival of an offer is one way, or you can go straight to a credit card company to fill out some basic information to see if there’s an offer on the table.

Do Pre-Approvals Affect Credit Score?

Pre-approvals won’t affect your credit score and appear as soft inquiries on your credit report. Once you apply for a credit card, a hard inquiry will be made, which could impact your credit score.

Accepting a Pre-Approved or Pre-Qualified Credit Card

If you decide you want to apply, that's a good time to take a close look at things like interest rates and terms to determine which card is right for you.

If you'd rather not get pre-qualified credit card offers, you can opt out of receiving them by calling toll-free 1-888-5-OPT-OUT (1-888-567-8688) or visiting optoutprescreen.com.

See if You’re Pre-Qualified

Find out if you’re eligible for pre-qualified Capital One card offers. The best part? There’s no harm to your credit score.

Looking for a Card?

From cash back to travel rewards and much more, find a Capital One credit card that fits your needs.