What You Need to Know About “Pre-screened” or “Pre-approved” Credit Offers

What is a “pre-screened” or “pre-approved” credit offer, and why are institutions I’ve never inquired with before now reaching out to me?

If you’ve ever applied for new credit or a loan before, chances are you’ve received additional offers from other companies advertising that you’ve been “pre-screened” or “pre-approved” for a product they’re selling. Typically, this is not the company you’ve applied for credit through who is selling or sharing your information – but rather, it is information the credit bureaus share with companies who are seeking to advertise a product they’re selling with similar criteria.

So why do you receive these pre-screened offers in the first place, and is there anything you can do to opt-out of receiving these communications in the future? We’ll go over all that (and more!) below.

Here’s how pre-screened or pre-approved credit offers work:

Credit card companies, lenders, insurance companies, or other credit-issuing institutions use information from credit bureaus and reporting agencies to make firm offers of credit to consumers whose credit histories meet their criteria, like a minimum credit score. Major U.S. credit bureaus—such as Equifax, Transunion, and Experian—are legally allowed to share a list of eligible consumers’ information with credit issuers upon request.

Although a consumer may be pre-approved for that offered line of credit, it does not mean the credit-issuing company must give it to you. You will still need to apply and be approved. Once you do apply, the company can review your application and other information—like an updated credit report and income details—to determine whether your current standing still meets the criteria used when you were given the initial offer.

Does a pre-screened offer impact my credit score or credit report?

No, pre-screened offers will not hurt your credit—although they will be shown as inquiries on your credit report. (Note that the initial credit issuer you applied for credit with will be reflected as a hard inquiry, but subsequent pre-screened offers from other companies will not be shown as a hard inquiry.)

What are the pros and cons of receiving pre-screened offers?


  • If you are searching for a new line of credit, these offers can help you learn more about what’s available, compare costs, and find the best product to fit your needs.
  • The terms of pre-screened offers may be more favorable than those available to the general public. (Some companies may even only have available offers through pre-screenings!)
  • Since you were pre-selected for the offer, you can be turned down only under limited circumstances.


  • Pre-screened offers are essentially unsolicited mail—so they may clutter your email inbox or be an unwanted marketing communication delivered to your home. (They’re often seen as a wasteful use of print materials and postage resources.)
  • Although pre-screened offers are among the least common forms of identity theft, any mail that includes a person’s name and mailing address could potentially be stolen. (Fortunately, identity thieves usually need more personal information—which pre-screened offers don’t include.)
  • Any list of personal information stored—especially lists shared among agencies or companies—has the potential to be hacked or stolen. Data privacy violations of pre-screened customer lists are a risk, but not likely to be common.

How do I opt-out of receiving pre-screened offers?

Should you want to remove yourself from receiving pre-screened credit offers, you’ve got a couple options:

  • Opt-out for 5 years: Go to optoutprescreen.com or call 1-888-5-OPT-OUT (1-888-567-8688). The major credit bureaus operate this phone number and website.
  • Opt-out permanently: Visit optoutprescreen.com or call 1-888-5-OPT-OUT (1-888-567-8688) to start the process. To complete your request, you’ll need to sign and return the Permanent Opt-Out Election form (which you get online) once you’ve started the process.

When you call or visit optoutprescreen.com, they’ll ask for your personal information, including your name, address, Social Security number, and date of birth. The information you give is confidential and will be used only to process your request to opt-out.

Keep in mind that if a company’s offer isn’t based on pre-screening, opting-out won’t stop their mailings.

The bottom line:

Pre-screened or pre-approved offers are a marketing tactic for many credit issuers. And while these advertising efforts may be useful when seeking out a new credit opportunity, they may also be seen as a nuisance for consumers who do not wish to receive them. At the end of the day, it’s a personal preference on whether you’d like to opt-out of receiving pre-screened offers—so we advise you consider your options and ultimately make the best decision for you.

For more information on pre-screened credit offers, visit the Federal Trade Commission’s website.