Does a Pre Qualification Letter from Capital One Mean Pre Approval?

Have you received a letter or an e-mail telling you that you’re pre-qualified for a Capital One credit card and that you should go to with your special code to access your offer?

Did you assume that meant you were already pre-approved for the card and all you had to do was jump on the site and say, “Yeah, gimme the card!”

Well, it might be just that easy, but the truth is that a pre qualification is not the same as a pre approval, neither in Capital One’s world nor in the world of any other issuer.

Here’s the difference:

  • A pre-qualification is essentially a way of letting you know that you’ve made it through some screens that Capital One has used to identify potential new customers. Maybe they did a “soft” check on your credit history (doesn’t impact credit score) to see if your credit score met a certain threshold that they use to find consumers who are likely to be approved. However, no decision on approval is actually made until you apply.
  • A pre-approval would mean that you have already been approved for a card and that all you have to do is ask to have it sent to you. In reality, however, there is no such thing as a pre-approved card because Capital One (or any other issuer) always requires its customers to verify the information it has about them. In addition, once a “preapproved” customer actually requests a card, a “hard pull” is done on their credit report, meaning the issuer takes a more in-depth look at the applicant’s credit history. (And the applicant’s credit score takes a minor hit.) At this point, the applicant could still be rejected if something on the credit report has changed in the recent past, or for any other reason of Capital One’s choosing.

Bottom line: Being pre-qualified means you are more likely to be approved by Capital One than a random applicant who has not been pre-qualified, but there is NO GUARANTEE.

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