How to Get Pre-Approved for Credit Cards with Bad Credit

Pre Approved Credit Cards Bad Credit
Ashley Dull
By: Ashley Dull
Updated: June 23, 2020
Advertiser Disclosure

When it comes to qualifying for pre-approved credit cards, bad credit can fill consumers with dread — thinking their less-than-stellar credit history will immediately eliminate them from the running. And, few things can make a person feel more vulnerable than applying for something they really want or need. Whether it’s applying for your dream job, the perfect apartment, or a great credit-building credit card, the only thing more nerve-wracking than pushing that “Apply” button is waiting for the response.

But while it can be disheartening to be turned down for a job or apartment, each credit application — even the rejected ones — can make your credit situation even worse by adding a damaging hard credit inquiry to your credit report. Instead of applying blindly to any card that catches your eye, you can check for pre-qualification, giving you an estimation of your approval chances before you click the button. In this article, we’ll explore how to find out if you’re pre-approved, and we’ll also take a look at several unsecured and secured cards that may be attainable for consumers with bad credit.

Check Online | Unsecured Cards | Secured Cards

You Can Check for Pre-Approved Offers Online

If you’ve ever received a credit card offer in the mail, then you’re likely familiar with the idea of being pre-approved or pre-qualified for a credit card — mostly because these offers tend to say “You’re Pre-Approved!” in giant letters. You may also receive these offers through your current bank, credit-tracking apps, or airline loyalty programs.

You don’t need to sit around and wait for a pre-approval offer, however. Most major issuers provide an easy online pre-approval application that you can fill out in about a minute to check for pre-approved offers. Some issuers, such as Credit One Bank, actually make pre-approval a necessary part of the application process. On the other hand, some card companies (including Barclaycard) don’t provide online pre-approval at all.

Screenshot of Credit One Pre-Qualify Page

Many major credit card issuers allow you to easily check for pre-qualification offers online.

Since the pre-approval process doesn’t involve a hard credit check, the pre-approval application is typically less comprehensive than full credit applications. In most cases, the application only requires basic information, such as your name and address, as well as the last four digits of your Social Security number. Pre-approval applications will rarely require information about your income or employment.

Keep in mind that being pre-approved for a particular credit card offer doesn’t guarantee you’ll be accepted if you fill out a formal application, it merely indicates you have a decent chance of approval. At the same time, not being pre-approved for a specific credit card can be a strong indicator (but, again, not a guarantee) that you will be rejected if you apply for that card, so you may want to rethink your choice of cards.

Essentially, being pre-approved for a credit card means the issuer looked at your basic credit information — via a non-damaging soft credit inquiry — and you met the general requirements for that card. It does not mean that you meet every single requirement, as pre-approval doesn’t look at every factor that can affect approval, such as your income or recent credit inquiries.

Whether you’re accepted for a particular card will officially be determined by a more thorough look at your credit history, credit score, and income level, which requires a completed credit application and hard credit inquiry. Any red flags or areas that don’t meet the specific card requirements may result in a rejection.

Screenshot of Opt Out Homepage

You can opt-out online if you’re tired of receiving pre-screened credit card offers.

One thing to be cognizant of before rushing off to check for pre-approval offers everywhere is that filling out a pre-approval application for a credit card acts as consent to receive additional offers from the company. This means you may see an uptick in the number of credit card offers hitting your mailbox. If you don’t want to receive pre-screened credit card offers anymore, you can head online to opt-out, or call 1-888-5-OPT-OUT.

Best Unsecured Credit Card Offers for Bad Credit

Depending on your credit situation, checking for pre-qualification offers for unsecured credit cards may be a somewhat fruitless adventure, particularly if you stick to the major prime credit card issuers. Often, if your find your pre-approval checks are leaving you empty-handed, you may have better luck turning to a subprime credit card issuer that specializes in consumers with poor credit.

While most card issuers targeting subprime applicants don’t offer pre-approval forms online (Credit One is a notable exception), these companies often have extremely flexible credit score and income requirements. This makes applying directly a relatively safe bet for most consumers, even those with bad credit. Start comparing unsecured credit card options by exploring our expert-rated reviews.

  • All credit types welcome to apply!
  • Free access to your Vantage 3.0 score From TransUnion* (When you sign up for e-statements)
  • Monthly reporting to the three major credit bureaus
  • See if you’re Pre-Qualified without impacting your credit score
  • Fast and easy application process; results in seconds
  • Free online account access 24/7
  • Checking Account Required
  • Click here for official site, terms, and details.


Overall Rating

Application Length Interest Rate Reports Monthly Reputation Score
9 Minutes 25.90% - 29.99% (Variable) Yes 8.5/10
  • Checking Account Required
  • Fast and easy application process; response provided in seconds
  • A genuine Visa credit card accepted by merchants nationwide across the USA and online
  • Manageable monthly payments
  • $300 credit limit (subject to available credit)
  • Reports monthly to all three major credit bureaus
  • Click here for official site, terms, and details.


Overall Rating

Application Length Interest Rate Reports Monthly Reputation Score
9 Minutes See terms Yes 8.5/10

+See More Unsecured Credit Cards

Although unsecured credit cards are appealing to many consumers due to the fact that they don’t require an initial deposit to open, unsecured cards aren’t without their upfront costs. In fact, most unsecured cards designed for the subprime market will come with a variety of fees, many of which will need to be paid at the time you open your account. These fees can include annual fees, program or processing fees, and maintenance fees.

In addition, unsecured credit cards, particularly those catering to poor-credit consumers, will often have very high interest rates, with APRs easily reaching into the 25%-plus range. To avoid paying high interest fees on your purchases, be sure to pay off your balance in full each month before your due date. Known as the grace period, charges paid off during the same billing cycle in which they are made won’t accrue interest fees.

You should also be careful to always pay your bill on time each month, not only to avoid late fees but also because many unsecured credit cards will have a penalty APR that kicks in when you make a late payment. Penalty APRs are often higher than your purchase APR by 5% or more, which, for a subprime card, can wind up in the 30% range. Penalty APRs can remain in effect indefinitely, depending on the card.

Best Secured Credit Card Offers for Bad Credit

As the name suggests, secured credit cards are secured against default with a required cash deposit, which gives the issuer a way to guarantee it won’t lose money if you can’t pay your credit card bill. Since secured cards are much less risky than unsecured credit cards, the credit requirements are extremely flexible. In fact, some secured credit cards won’t require a credit check at all, provided you can meet the minimum deposit amount.

With secured credit cards, the size of your deposit will determine the size of your credit line, with typical credit lines equal to 90% to 100% of your deposit amount, up to the card’s maximum limit. Our expert picks for secured credit cards for poor credit include options that allow deposits up to $5,000.

  • Invest your tax refund to improve your credit by making the refundable deposit for your new secured card today
  • Receive Your Card More Quickly with New Expedited Processing Option
  • No Credit History or Minimum Credit Score Required for Approval
  • Quick and Complete Online Application
  • Full-Feature Platinum Mastercard® Secured Credit Card
  • Nationwide Program though not yet available in NY, IA, AR, or WI *See Card Terms.
  • Apply in just a few moments with no negative impact to your credit score; no credit inquiry will be recorded in your credit bureau file
  • Click here for official site, terms, and details.


Overall Rating

Application Length Interest Rate Reports Monthly Reputation Score
9 minutes 19.99% (V) Yes 7.5/10
  • Invest your tax refund to improve your credit by making the refundable deposit for your new secured card today
  • No Credit History or Minimum Credit Score Required for Approval
  • Monthly Reporting to all 3 Major Credit Bureaus to Establish Credit History
  • Credit Line Secured by Your Fully-Refundable Deposit of $200 -- $2,000 Submitted with Application
  • Nationwide Program though not yet available in NY, IA, AR, or WI *See Card Terms.
  • Apply in just a few moments with no negative impact to your credit score; no credit inquiry will be recorded in your credit bureau file
  • Click for for official site, terms, and details.


Overall Rating

Application Length Interest Rate Reports Monthly Reputation Score
8 minutes 9.99% (V) Yes 7.5/10

+See More Secured Credit Cards

While the initial deposit requirement may intimidate some applicants, secured credit cards may end up being the most economical solution in the long run. For one thing, unlike the fees associated with opening an unsecured credit card, the deposit you make to open a secured credit card account is just that: a deposit. So long as you don’t default, your deposit will be returned to you when your account closes — often with earned interest.

Furthermore, you don’t necessarily need to put down a massive deposit right off the bat. Instead, many secured credit card issuers allow you to add to your deposit at any time after you open your account. Since increasing the size of your deposit also raises your credit limit, you can build your available credit over time as funds become available.

Increasing your credit limit can also help boost your credit score by improving your credit utilization rate, which is the ratio of how much debt you’re carrying to your total available credit. Most unsecured credit cards in the subprime market will cap your credit limit to a few hundred dollars, so a secured credit card may actually provide the higher credit limit in the end.

The Perfect Card May Be a Pre-Approval Away

No matter how great your credit score is, waiting for that little loading wheel to reveal your credit card fate can be a nerve-wracking experience. But when you’re stuck trying to rebuild poor credit, all too often, the decision revealed when the screen clears isn’t the one you were hoping to receive.

Checking for credit card pre-qualification offers can be a good way to get an idea of your approval chances. And while pre-approval won’t guarantee you’ll be approved when you officially apply, it can help remove cards from your wish list before you waste a hard credit inquiry on another painful rejection notice.

In many ways, however, the best way to minimize credit card rejection is to make sure you apply for the credit cards for which you are most likely to qualify. Think of it this way: you wouldn’t expect to be hired for a job for which you don’t meet any of the basic qualifications — why should your credit card be any different?

Advertiser Disclosure is a free online resource that offers valuable content and comparison services to users. To keep this resource 100% free for users, we receive advertising compensation from the financial products listed on this page. Along with key review factors, this compensation may impact how and where products appear on the page (including, for example, the order in which they appear). does not include listings for all financial products.

Our Editorial Review Policy

Our site is committed to publishing independent, accurate content guided by strict editorial guidelines. Before articles and reviews are published on our site, they undergo a thorough review process performed by a team of independent editors and subject-matter experts to ensure the content’s accuracy, timeliness, and impartiality. Our editorial team is separate and independent of our site’s advertisers, and the opinions they express on our site are their own. To read more about our team members and their editorial backgrounds, please visit our site’s About page.