Before applying for a credit card, it's smart to shop around for the best one suited to fit your spending habits. Once you find one you like, whether it's a card with no annual fee or one that earns you cash back, your first step should be seeing if you're likely to qualify.
This is especially relevant in today's world as credit card issuers begin to tighten up lending for new and existing customers amid the economic fallout from the coronavirus pandemic.
Luckily, many of the major card issuers allow you to prequalify for some of their credit cards, which means you can check your odds of getting approved before actually applying. You may also be able to see your possible rates and terms as well.
Prequalifying, or preapproval (card issuers use these terms interchangeably), won't have any effect on your credit score — that happens once you formally apply. Keep in mind, however, that just because you've prequalified for a credit card, it doesn't guarantee approval when you submit your official application.
Below, CNBC Select explains why preapproval and prequalifications don't impact your credit score and where you can find these offers.
Whether you've applied for prequalification through a card issuer's website or you received a prescreened offer in the mail stating that you have been selected to apply for a certain credit card, neither of these situations hurt your credit score. Issuers only do a soft inquiry, or "soft pull" of your credit report during the preapproval process. It's not a full look — just a glance to see if you seem like an ideal card member.
Once you apply for the card you want, the lender or issuer will have your permission to do a hard inquiry, or "hard pull" of your full credit report from one of the three main credit bureaus (Experian, Equifax or TransUnion).
A hard inquiry can temporarily ding your credit score a few points, regardless of whether you're approved or denied for the credit card or loan. This is why it's recommended you only apply for a new credit product every six months or so. And if you do get denied, know there are many steps you can take to improve your credit score.
You can find preapproval offers sent in the mail, and they usually come with a special code to apply.
The second place you can check for preapproval is by going to the card issuer's website. This is a huge advantage since it's easy, convenient and free. Most of the best rewards credit cards require at least good credit, so it's important you check your credit score when you start searching for a new card.
If you are looking to apply for a great credit card for groceries, you could check your approval odds for the Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express. Alternatively, you could aim to apply for a balance transfer card like the Amex EveryDay® Credit Card. Both cards require good or excellent credit, so if you have any doubts we recommend you check for preapproval first.
The major card issuers that allow you to see if you prequalify online include the ones below:
Information about the Amex EveryDay® Credit Card has been collected independently by CNBC and has not been reviewed or provided by the issuer of the card prior to publication.