Reader Question: What Is The Difference Between A Pre-Qualified And Pre-Approved Credit Card Offer?

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Becoming accustomed to credit card lingo is very similar to learning a new language. If you don’t spend time learning the foundational “language,” like APR, variable interest rate, and credit utilization ratio, the big picture can seem overwhelming.

Unfortunately, Rosetta Stone and Babbel don’t offer a course in “credit card language” so customers often learn from experience (good and bad).

Fortunately, 1TP subscribers pay off our cards every month so we, at least, don’t have to spend too much time focused on the first two terms.


That takes me into a subject that can be very confusing. A 1TP subscriber recently contacted me about a frustrating experience in which she was Pre-Qualified for an American Express credit card and then was denied when she applied.

If you have an American Express account, you may have seen a Pre-Qualified or Pre-Approved offer (probably in your Amex offers section) that looked like this… 

The words “Special Offer For You” may be replaced by “You Are Pre-Qualified” or “You are Pre-Approved.”

Note: You are able to click on “Apply Now” without the application being instantly submitted. You will be taken to another screen where you are able to the see the details of the offer. Additionally, you will have to fill in some of your personal information, so feel free to click “apply now” to see the full offer.


When I selected my Blue Cash Preferred card offer (seen above), I was taken to another screen that informed me that I was, in fact, pre-approved and listed the details of the offer including:

EARN $300 BACK after you spend $3,000 in purchases on your new Card in your first 6 months. You will receive the $300 back in the form of a statement credit.

Special Offer: $0 intro annual fee for the first year of Card Membership, then $95.This offer may not be available if you leave this web page and return later.

0% intro APR on purchases for 12 months from the date of account opening, then a variable APR, 13.99% to 23.99%.¤

The introductory annual fee for the Blue Cash Preferred®Card will be $0 for the first year of Card Membership. After that, the annual fee will be $95.¤

I didn’t apply for the card because I already have a strategy in place for my Amex card but what’s the difference between “You Are Pre-Qualified” and “You are Pre-Approved?”

In short, if you satisfy certain criteria, you may be selected by a credit card issuer for a PRE-QUALIFIED offer but in that case, the card issuer does not guarantee that you will be approved.

However, if you are selected by a credit card issuer and offered a PRE-APPROVED offer, it means they have already done their due diligence, scoped out your background, and are making you an offer that you will be approved for as soon as you apply.


It seems trivial doesn’t it!? But to the person who saw a card that fit their needs and thought they would be approved for it, it’s everything but trivial. It feels like deception.

Credit card denials are frustrating and it’s even more frustrating when you know your credit score will be “dinged” for the hard inquiry despite not being approved.

The silver lining is you will never forget the lesson. I’ve made countless errors, but I’m not afraid to share them. In fact, I was denied for a card last week despite what I already knew so I hope you learn from them.

Do you see any pre-approved or pre-qualified offers on your account? Have you ever been denied a card despite being pre-approved?

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