Are you ‘pre-approved’ for a credit card? Sorry, you may not get it

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Dear opening credits,
I applied for credit cards – pre-approved – but was declined three times. I have no credit history because I used my husband’s card as an authorized user. Since I now want to apply for my own card and create my own credit score, the credit card companies refuse me, even though they are the ones who send the pre-approved quote forms to me to apply on my behalf. I am confused and frustrated and wanted to know how to apply for a card in my name. Thank you. — JT

Answer for the CreditCards.com expert

Dear JT,
Put those pre-approved letters down!

I understand that you would like a credit card of your own (and you’ll have one), but filling out and submitting random “pre-approved” applications probably isn’t the best method. In fact, it can even hurt your chances of getting the account that’s best for you.

You would think that when the words “approved beforehand” or “prequalified” are stamped on the envelope or enclosed letter that a credit card with your name on it is waiting for you to claim it. Not so. These offers are just promotional mailings.

Here’s how it works: after some market research, the bank discovers that you meet the general requirements for a particular type of credit account they offer. It is a sensible cost-saving technique for issuers. By limiting their potential customer base to those who might be eligible for the card, they avoid wasting money by sending letters to people who absolutely don’t fit their profile.

If you meet what it’s looking for, the lender will send you the “pre-approved” letter inviting you to apply. When you do, they analyze your financial circumstances and credit history in detail. Assuming you are really the cardholder they want you to be approved and the card is yours. However, if it turns out that you are not a good match, you will be refused and the investigation will continue credit report. Too many of these investigations in a short period of time will lower your credit score, potentially making you less attractive to other creditors.

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