How does pre-approval affect your credit scores?

Learn whether pre-approved credit cards require a hard inquiry and if pre-approval affects your credit scores.

Thinking about applying for a new credit card? Receiving a prescreened or pre-approval offer can be a great opportunity to explore your options. 

And lenders sometimes offer pre-approved candidates perks like lower interest rates and rewards bonuses. But even if you get a great offer, you may wonder: Will pre-approval affect my credit scores? Read on to learn more about pre-approval offers and how different inquiries could affect your credit scores.

How does prescreening work for credit cards?

Think of prescreened offers as offers of credit in which the credit card issuer has reviewed parts of your credit history using a soft inquiry—also known as a soft pull—which doesn’t affect your credit scores. And the credit card issuers use this type of credit review to determine if you are a good candidate for their product. Prescreened offers often are sent as pre-approved offers. 

Credit card issuers typically look at things like your payment history and credit scores for pre-approval. Then they generally ask a credit bureau like Experian®, TransUnion® or Equifax® for the names of people whose credit reports match their pre-approval criteria. 

Next, credit card issuers notify qualified customers that they’ve been pre-approved. They typically send these offers via mail. But you could also receive pre-approval offers by email, or existing credit issuers could update your pre-approval options through their online platform. 

Keep in mind, pre-approval doesn’t guarantee that you’ll be approved for a new credit card. It simply means that the credit card issuer has determined you’re a good candidate based on the information in your credit report. If you’re pre-approved and want to follow through with the credit card offer, you’ll still need to apply.

Does getting a prescreened pre-approved offer hurt your credit?

The short answer is: No. That’s because a prescreened pre-approval involves a soft inquiry, which doesn’t affect your credit scores. The prescreen soft inquiry is simply a way for lenders to determine if you may qualify for their credit card offer.

In addition to prescreen offers that you may receive in the mail, you may also be able to use tools like Capital One’s pre-approval tool to help you explore your options without impacting your credit scores. By using the tool, you can find out about Capital One credit cards you’re pre-approved for. It often takes less than a minute. You’ll just need to fill out some basic information to get started. 

Does a prescreened pre-approved offer require a hard inquiry?

Pre-approval prescreenings do not require a hard inquiry. But if you choose to apply for the credit card offer, it’ll trigger a hard inquiry. This occurs when a lender is considering extending a line of credit to you. 

Hard inquiries show up on your credit report and can affect your credit scores. For example, if you apply for a pre-approval offer, it will trigger a hard inquiry, and you could see a dip in your credit scores. 

Although hard inquiries remain on your credit report for two years, scoring agencies may consider inquiries from the last 12 months. Applying for a credit card probably won’t cause a large drop in your credit scores. But experts advise against applying for many credit cards in a short time period. Doing so could result in multiple hard inquiries on your credit reports and could negatively affect your credit scores.  

What are the benefits of pre-approval?

Pre-approval offers can help you find the credit card that best meets your needs, and it may come with appealing benefits. Credit card companies often use pre-approval to market promotional offers. They might include perks like competitive interest rates, better annual fees and travel or cash-back rewards. 

Here are some other potential benefits of pre-approval:

  • Take the guesswork out of your credit card search. With pre-approval, you can compare rates and rewards.
  • Explore your options before applying to minimize the impact to your credit scores. 
  • Potentially lock in better interest rates and rewards than those offered to the general public.

How can I increase my chances of getting pre-approved for a credit card?

You now know that pre-approval offers may provide appealing introductory rates and rewards. And if you’re in the market for a new credit card, boosting your credit scores can help you attract better offers. 

Here are some ways that can help increase your credit scores and pre-approval odds over time:

  • Check your credit reports for mistakes. And if you find errors, dispute them with the credit bureau. You can get free copies of your credit reports from each of the three major credit bureaus by visiting You can also monitor your credit with CreditWise from Capital One. CreditWise is free and available to everyone—even if you don’t have a Capital One account. And using CreditWise won’t hurt your credit scores.
  • Stay under your credit limit. Experts recommend keeping your credit utilization ratio—or the amount of available credit you’re using—below 30%. 
  • Use credit responsibly. You can do this by doing things like making on-time payments and not opening too many accounts at once.

Exploring your pre-approval options can help you make informed decisions about opening a new credit card. And being selective with credit card applications may minimize the number of hard inquiries that appear on your credit report—and the impact on your credit scores.

You might want to consider Capital One’s pre-approval tool to browse your options without harming your credit. Once you fill out some basic information, you’ll have your pre-approval results in minutes.

We hope you found this helpful. Our content is not intended to provide legal, investment or financial advice or to indicate that a particular Capital One product or service is available or right for you. For specific advice about your unique circumstances, consider talking with a qualified professional.

Capital One does not provide, endorse or guarantee any third-party product, service, information, or recommendation listed above. The third parties listed are solely responsible for their products and services, and all trademarks listed are the property of their respective owners.

Your CreditWise score is calculated using the TransUnion® VantageScore® 3.0 model, which is one of many credit scoring models. It may not be the same model your lender uses, but it can be one accurate measure of your credit health. The availability of the CreditWise tool depends on our ability to obtain your credit history from TransUnion. Some monitoring and alerts may not be available to you if the information you enter at enrollment does not match the information in your credit file at (or you do not have a file at) one or more consumer reporting agencies.

See if you’re pre-approved

Check for pre-approval offers with no risk to your credit score.

Get started

Related Content