"Pre-Approved" Credit Card Applications

Just like most of y’all, I receive unsolicited credit card applications on a very regular basis. I know credit card companies love me because I tend to carry a fairly high balance and pay more than I know I should in interest. I have never in my life missed a payment.

For the last two years or so, I have taken advantage of the low-interest introductory rates until it is time to pass the debt on to another card.

So far so good. I figure, why not? if they are offering.

I am always “pre-approved” for these cards. Congratulations! and all that. Well, my last two “pre-approved” applications were not approved. Their stated reason boiled down to the fact that I pass a lot of debt around.

My comments:

  1. Since they have access to my credit reports, they knew my credit history before sending me an application.

  2. I never solicit these applications; they seek me out. I only take advantage of what they offer.

  3. Since when does the definition of “pre-approved” mean “not pre-approved”? Are these not mutually exclusive?

I don’t have a problem with being turned down per se. And I understand setting limits based on applicant factors. It is their business and they have every right to choose the customers they want, even if that doesn’t include me any longer. I just can’t figure out the whole ‘pre-approved = not a chance’ thing.

“Pre-approved” simply means that you meet certain criteria for the credit card, not ALL the criteria for the credit card. They may know your income range but not know your credit history until they check AFTER you sign up- If you don’t sign up, they don’t check = less work for them.

Two things can change the Pre-Approved status on your application/solicitation.

(1) You are Pre-Approved based upon a simple look at your credit - negatives, balance owed total compared to overall credit. Once they get the application, they look into the details behind the simple figures and see what you mentioned above.

(2) Things can change in your credit between them getting a print-out of people who meet their conditions, checking that list against current card holders from that institution, mailing it out and getting applications back. If your credit report changes in any way, it can affect your approval.

Yer pal,

“Pre-Approved” means whatever the furshlugginer lawyers want it to mean. Terms like “fixed rate” suffer the same fate; if you read the teeny, tiny print on the 28th page of your contract, you find out that your rate is fixed until the credit company decides to change it.


“Believe those who seek the truth.
Doubt those who find it.” --Andre Gide

Legally, a company cannot access your credit report without your prior agreement. Each time a company pulls your credit report an “inquiry” is added to your file. The next company sees all of the previous inquiries, and so on. A high number of inquiries in a short time is normally construed by a lender as a bad thing. It looks as if you are applying for tons of credit. Pre-approved offers are normally contingent on your credit rating, which is obtained after you return the application. Look in the small print, there’s probably a note to that effect in there somewhere.

On a related note, car dealers are the world’s worst at pulling a credit report unbeknownst to the consumer. They will talk you into a test drive, then ask to copy your license for “insurance purposes”. If your SSN is on your license the dealer will take that as implied consent and pull credit while your out on the road. That way the know what they’re dealing with before you ever begin to deal. Make sure you let the dealer know (and get it in writing, if possible) that they are not to attempt to pull your credit report until and unless you sign a credit application with them.

The overwhelming majority of people have more than the average (mean) number of legs. – E. Grebenik

Let me add that you should read the wording carefully. I’ve seen some offers that say “you are pre-approved for the credit card”, but the vast majority nowadays say “you are pre-approved to send in an application”, which pretty much means nothing.

La franchise ne consiste pas à dire tout ce que l’on pense, mais à penser tout ce que l’on dit.
H. de Livry

It would seem to me that, given my current circumstances, ‘pre-approved’ means the credit card company has my name an address. period.
I am a resident alien in the US, i work on a J-1 visa, have no right of abode, have no credit record (I can’t get it!) to speak of and yet still i get these offers for pre-approved credit cards at the rate of about one every two weeks or so.
Incidentally, i looked at the various small print, and the annual fee is rather high (typically between $69-99) and the interest rate none too competitive either (over 20%, up to 29%). In addition, no grace periods are offered. I think these cards are intentionally designed for people with bad credit.

…name AND address. Period

Goddamn these stubby fingers…

I recently got one of those pre-approved applications from Discover. Here’s my story.

I was loathe to apply for Discover because I remember they were the most blatant abusers of college students with their frequent ads and applications strewn all over campus when I was matriculating. Also, they’re owned by Sears, whom I don’t like to frequent with my business since their Allstate insurance company bailed out on the entire state of Florida post-Hurricane Andrew in 1992.

Anyway, I was inticed by their pre-approval of my admittedly-dismal credit history, and promise of a 2.9% rate on transferred balances. As I owe many thousands of dollars to other CC companies with less generous APRs, I vowed to use the Discover card solely for the balance transfers, and not for normal purchases.

So, I applied for the card, and about three weeks later I found out I was rejected, for the usual reasons. I was kind of annoyed, but said c’est la vie. A week or so after that, I got a call from one of their telemarketers saying that I’d be getting the pre-approved application in the mail shortly. I responded that I had already gotten it, and sent it in. He asked if I had heard a reply yet, and I said “yes, you rejected me.” His backpedalling was classic, and definitely worth the shame of a failed CC application.

Now, just this past week I got another identical pre-approved invitation from Discover. I’m tempted to fill it out again, just in the hopes I’ll get another phone call from them.

(How’s that for MPSIMS?)

Montfort: Now, just this past week I got another identical pre-approved invitation from Discover. I’m tempted to fill it out again, just in the hopes I’ll get another phone call from them.

As fun as hearing a telemarketer backpedal and stammer, don’t do it. Every application that checks your credit record also goes on your record. If you have more than a couple of inquiries, it’ll look like your despirate and your rejection will be all the swifter. Lay off any credit card applications (even if they give you free stuff :)) for a year or two, and try to stay current on all your accounts you have now. Then, maybe, you’ll have a better chance at getting another credit card (for balance transfer only, of course :)).