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Credit is a necessary tool for Canadians to live a financially successful and healthy life. Roughly, 95% of Canadians have a credit card which is a great way to use credit and not only affords you the ability to purchase products and services in a secure manner but also helps build your credit history. Many credit cards have substantial rewards systems that offer cash back incentives when you use the card, while others have systems that offer travel points and additional benefits. When it comes to choosing the right credit card and getting approved, many credit card providers offer pre-approvals. Similar to a mortgage pre-approval, it can help you determine if you meet the necessary criteria. 

Are Pre-Approved Credit Cards Legit?

Yes. Credit card companies do offer clients the option to obtain pre-approval on their cards. While there is nothing illegal about a pre-approval offer for a credit card, there are definitely some specific considerations everyone should be aware of.

How Do Credit Card Pre-Approvals Work?

Credit card companies often use pre-approved credit cards as a promotional tactic to secure more clients. A pre-approval acts as a pre-screening and allows a customer to see if they meet the credit card’s initial criteria without having to submit to a hard credit check. Some criteria a pre-approval might have include:

  • Credit score
  • Income
  • Other debts and assets

After the credit card company decides on pre-approval, they inform the customer and then the customer can decide whether or not they’d like to apply formally for the credit card. It’s important to note that pre-approval doesn’t indicate a full approval. Consumers will apply formally for the card after pre-approval, and the credit card company will then do a hard credit check before deciding on approval. 

Advantages of Credit Card Pre-Approvals

Pre-approved credit cards might seem like an extra layer of the process; however, they offer a few benefits.

Improves Credit Score

Accepting a new form of credit helps you build your overall credit. This is especially true for newcomers to Canada, who may not have a substantial credit history yet in the country. Assuming the new credit card limit, as well as your other forms of credit, is within your financial capabilities, having a diverse portfolio of credit is great in improving your credit score. 

More Buying Power

More credit means more buying power. Life brings unpredictable events and emergencies, so having the power to spend a bit more money is a great way to feel more secure. 

Prescreening 

Prescreening through a pre-approval can save you the credit score mark of a hard credit check. Although you will need to undergo a hard credit check once you apply, the prescreening can save you the hard credit check if you aren’t able to meet the criteria.

Disadvantages of Credit Card Pre-Approvals

Despite the plus sides of getting a credit card pre-approval, there are a few negative aspects that warrant consideration. 

Too Much Credit 

Though more credit is a plus when managed correctly, it can be detrimental to your financial health if you take on more credit than you can handle. Luckily, 70% of Canadians pay off the full balance of their credit card every month, but there are still many who struggle with making their monthly and minimum payments. It’s important to consider your financial situation honestly to assess whether or not you should apply for a new credit card.  

Hard Credit Check

Though a pre-approval only requires a soft credit check, you will undergo a hard credit check when you formally apply after the pre-approval. If you haven’t submitted too many loan or credit applications recently, this shouldn’t pose a problem. However, if you have applied to many credit cards and other forms of credit, this hard credit check could impact your credit score, even if only temporarily. 

Pre-Approval Isn’t The Same as Approval

A pre-approval does not guarantee approval for a credit card. You might find that you gain pre-approval but once you apply for approval, you can still be rejected by the credit card company. 

Bottom Line

Pre-approval can be helpful in assessing your credit situation and evaluating your ability to take on more credit without undergoing a hard credit check. If you’re not sure you’ll be able to obtain formal approval, pre-approvals can help you learn more about the criteria you need to meet to get approved for a credit card. Make sure you understand going in that a pre-approval is just a pre-screening – it does not guarantee you a credit card.

Chrissy Kapralos avatar on Loans Canada
Chrissy Kapralos

Chrissy is a Toronto-based communications advisor. With an English degree from the University of Toronto and editing courses under her belt from Ryerson University, she has continued her lifelong passion for writing and editing. In addition to working for Loans Canada on a variety of financial topics, Chrissy has a few years of resume writing and editing under her belt, and takes great pleasure in helping people find work that fits with their experience and passions. When she isn't working, you can find her practicing yoga, hanging out with her dog, reading up on financial and real estate news, or planning her next trip abroad.

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