15 Best Soft-Pull Credit Cards in 2018

Best Soft-Pull Credit Cards

credit card advice

Adam West
By: Adam West
Posted: January 26, 2018
Opinions expressed here are ours alone, and are not provided, endorsed, or approved by any issuer. Site may be compensated through the issuer affiliate programs.

Almost every time you apply for new credit, the lender credit check will usually result in a hard credit inquiry being noted on your reports, which will likely cause a small ding to your credit score. That’s because lenders see an application for new credit as a desire to take on more debt.

Doesn’t make sense? Think of it this way: if a married person were to sign up for an online dating site — whether or not they really intended to do anything wrong — their spouse would likely view the action as a major negative. Whether or not you intend to take on more debt, hard inquiries represent the ability to, and that’s enough to ding your score.

In most cases, you can’t obtain a credit card without a hard inquiry, though you may avoid some wasted inquiries by checking for pre-qualification offers before you apply. The only exception seems to be a popular “shopping cart trick,” though the trick seems to have mixed results.

Pre-Qualifying | Shopping Cart Trick

Most Major Credit Cards Require a Hard Inquiry for Approval

While the idea of skirting the rules and avoiding a hard credit inquiry is appealing to many prospective applicants — particularly the churners who most readily accrue inquiries — the fact of the matter is that inquiries generally can’t be avoided if you want a new line of credit. All major open-loop credit card issuers will check your credit reports before approving your application, which automatically means a hard credit inquiry.

That being said, you may be able to reduce the number of hard inquiries you have on your report by checking for pre-qualification offers before you fill out a full application. Credit card pre-qualification, also called pre-approval, uses a soft credit inquiry (the non-damaging kind) to get a basic idea of your credit risk to estimate whether you would be approved for a given card.

Credit card pre-approval can be especially helpful for those who have lower credit scores, as these consumers are overall most likely to be rejected for a credit card, but it can also be useful for those with good scores applying for a harder-to-get card. The issuers below make it easy to find pre-qualification offers, providing quick online applications that will only require your name, address, birthday, and the last four digits of your Social Security number.

Discover | Capital One | Citibank | Bank of America

Best “Discover” Credit Card Offers

The Discover pre-approval process is simple and can be completed entirely online through the Discover website. Discover’s entire catalog of cards come with no annual fee and cash back rewards, and many Discover cards also include introductory 0% APR offers.

Discover it® - Cashback Match™ Review

at Discover Card'ssecure website

EXPERT'S RATING
★★★★★
5.0
OVERALL RATING
5.0/5.0
  • Earn 5% cash back at different places each quarter like gas stations, grocery stores, restaurants, Amazon.com, or wholesale clubs up to the quarterly maximum each time you activate.
  • Earn unlimited 1% cash back on all other purchases – automatically.
  • INTRO OFFER: Discover will match ALL the cash back earned at the end of your first year, automatically.
  • Redeem cash back any amount, any time. Rewards never expire.
  • Use your rewards at Amazon.com checkout.
  • No annual fee.
  • Click "APPLY NOW" to see rates, rewards, FICO® Credit Score terms, Cashback Match™ details & other information.
Intro (Purchases)
Intro (Transfers)
Regular APR
Annual Fee
Credit Needed
0% for 14 months
0% for 14 months
13.49% - 24.49% Variable
$0
Good/Excellent
Discover it® - 18 Month Balance Transfer Offer Review

at Discover Card'ssecure website

EXPERT'S RATING
★★★★★
4.9
OVERALL RATING
4.9/5.0
  • INTRO OFFER: Discover will match ALL the cash back earned at the end of your first year, automatically.
  • Earn 5% cash back at different places each quarter like gas stations, grocery stores, restaurants, Amazon.com, or wholesale clubs up to the quarterly maximum each time you activate. Plus, earn unlimited 1% cash back on all other purchases – automatically.
  • Redeem cash back any amount, any time. Rewards never expire.
  • 100% U.S. based customer service.
  • Get your free Credit Scorecard with your FICO® Credit Score, number of recent inquiries and more.
  • Receive FREE Social Security number alerts-Discover will monitor thousands of risky websites when you sign up.
  • No annual fee.
  • Click "APPLY NOW" to see rates, rewards, FICO® Credit Score terms, Cashback Match™ details & other information.
Intro (Purchases)
Intro (Transfers)
Regular APR
Annual Fee
Credit Needed
0% for 6 months
0% for 18 months
13.49% - 24.49% Variable
$0
Good/Excellent
Discover it® Miles Review

at Discover Card'ssecure website

EXPERT'S RATING
★★★★★
4.8
OVERALL RATING
4.8/5.0
  • We'll match all the Miles you've earned at the end of your first year. For example, if you earn 30,000 Miles, you get 60,000 Miles.
  • Unlimited 1.5x Miles per dollar on all purchases, every day, with no annual fee.
  • No Blackout Dates - fly any airline, stay at any hotel.
  • Redeem your Miles as a statement credit towards travel purchases.
  • Freeze your account in seconds with an on/off switch either on the mobile app or website to prevent new purchases, cash advances, and balance transfers.
  • Get your free Credit Scorecard with your FICO® Credit Score, number of recent inquiries and more.
  • Receive FREE Social Security number alerts-Discover will monitor thousands of risky websites when you sign up.
  • No Annual Fee.
  • Click "APPLY NOW" to see rates, rewards, FICO® Credit Score terms, Discover Match® details & other information.
Intro (Purchases)
Intro (Transfers)
Regular APR
Annual Fee
Credit Needed
0% for 14 months
10.99% for 14 months
13.49% - 24.49% Variable
$0
Good/Excellent

+See More Discover Cards

Best “Capital One” Credit Card Offers

Getting pre-approved for a Capital One card takes just a few minutes online through the Capital One website. In addition to its popular Venture® Rewards cards, Capital One also offers a range of other solid rewards cards, as well as a number of business card options.

EXPERT'S RATING
★★★★★
5.0
OVERALL RATING
4.8/5.0
  • Earning unlimited 2% cash back could mean thousands of dollars each year going back into your business
  • Plus, a one-time $500 cash bonus once you spend $4,500 on purchases within 3 months from account opening
  • Use Spark Cash across all your business spend, with no categories to limit your purchasing
  • $0 intro annual fee for the first year; $95 after that
  • Rewards won't expire for the life of the account, and you can redeem your cash back for any amount
  • Get employee cards at no additional cost, and earn rewards from their business spend
Intro (Purchases)
Intro (Transfers)
Regular APR
Annual Fee
Credit Needed
N/A
N/A
18.49% (Variable)
$0 intro for first year; $95 after that
Excellent, Good
EXPERT'S RATING
★★★★★
4.9
OVERALL RATING
4.9/5.0
  • Enjoy a one-time bonus of 50,000 miles once you spend $3,000 on purchases within 3 months from account opening, equal to $500 in travel
  • Earn unlimited 2X miles per dollar on every purchase, every day
  • New! Earn 10 miles per dollar on hotels when you pay with your Venture card at hotels.com/venture; learn more at hotels.com/venture
  • Fly any airline, stay at any hotel, anytime
  • Travel when you want with no blackout dates
  • Miles won't expire for the life of the account and there's no limit to how many you can earn
  • No foreign transaction fees
  • $0 intro annual fee for the first year; $95 after that
Intro (Purchases)
Intro (Transfers)
Regular APR
Annual Fee
Credit Needed
N/A
N/A
14.49% - 24.49% (Variable)
$0 intro for first year; $95 after that
Excellent, Good
EXPERT'S RATING
★★★★★
4.8
OVERALL RATING
4.8/5.0
  • Earning unlimited 1.5% cash back could mean thousands of dollars each year going back into your business
  • Plus, a one-time $200 cash bonus once you spend $3,000 on purchases within 3 months from account opening
  • Save on interest with 0% intro APR on purchases for 9 months; 14.49% - 22.49% variable APR after that
  • No annual fee
  • Use Spark Cash Select across all your business spend, with no categories to limit your purchasing
  • Rewards won't expire for the life of the account, and you can redeem your cash back for any amount
  • Get employee cards at no additional cost, and earn rewards from their business spend
Intro (Purchases)
Intro (Transfers)
Regular APR
Annual Fee
Credit Needed
0% for 9 months
N/A
14.49% - 22.49% (Variable)
$0
Excellent, Good

+See More Capital One Cards

Best “Citibank” Credit Card Offers

Citibank’s pre-qualification form can be completed quickly online and you should get a response right away. Citi’s family of credit cards includes over a dozen options, including many co-branded cards for popular airlines and merchants.

CITI® RATING
★★★★★
4.8
OVERALL RATING
0.0/5.0
  • Earn cash back twice on every purchase with unlimited 1% cash back when you buy, plus an additional 1% cash back as you pay for those purchases.
  • Earn $100 bonus cash back when you make $500 in card purchases in the first 3 months of account opening
  • Balance Transfers do not earn cash back.
  • Click 'Apply Now' to see the applicable balance transfer fee and how making a balance transfer impacts interest on purchases.
  • No categories to track and no caps on cash back.
  • No annual fee
Intro (Purchases)
Intro (Transfers)
Regular APR
Annual Fee
Credit Needed
N/A
N/A
14.99% - 24.99% (Variable)
$0
Excellent/Good
CITI® RATING
★★★★★
4.7
OVERALL RATING
0.0/5.0
  • The ONLY card with No late fees, No penalty rate, and No annual fee... EVER.
  • 0% Intro APR on Balance Transfers and Purchases for 18 months.
  • The same great rate for all balances, after the introductory period.
  • Save time when you call with fast, personal help, 24 hours a day - just say "representative"
  • Enjoy the convenience of setting up your own bill payment schedule on any available due date throughout the month.
Intro (Purchases)
Intro (Transfers)
Regular APR
Annual Fee
Credit Needed
0% for 18 months
0% for 18 months
15.49% - 25.49% (Variable)
$0
Excellent/Good
CITI® RATING
★★★★★
4.6
OVERALL RATING
0.0/5.0
  • Enjoy 0% Intro APR on purchases for 15 months from date of account opening and 0% Intro APR on balance transfers for 15 months from date of first transfer*
  • Points are redeemable for gift cards to popular retailers, restaurants and department and home stores. 2,500 ThankYou® Points can be redeemed for a $25 gift card at thankyou.com
  • Earn 2X Points on dining out and entertainment
  • Earn 1X Points on all other purchases
  • No expiration and no limit to the amount of points you can earn with this card
  • No annual fee*
Intro (Purchases)
Intro (Transfers)
Regular APR
Annual Fee
Credit Needed
0% for 15 months
0% for 15 months
14.99% - 24.99% (Variable)
$0
Excellent

+See More Citibank Cards

Best “Bank of America” Credit Card Offers

Checking for pre-approval offers from Bank of America will require you to sign into your online account if you have one, though you have the option to continue as a guest. Bank of America’s card offerings include several no-annual-fee options with solid rewards, as well as a range of co-branded cards like its MBL series and nonprofit Affinity cards.

BankAmericard Cash Rewards™ Credit Card Review

at Bank of America'ssecure website

EXPERT'S RATING
★★★★★
4.7
OVERALL RATING
0.0/5.0
  • No annual fee
  • $150 online cash rewards bonus after you spend at least $500 on purchases in the first 90 days of account opening
  • Earn 1% cash back on every purchase, 2% at grocery stores and wholesale clubs, and 3% on gas up to the first $2,500 in combined grocery/wholesale club/gas purchases each quarter
  • No changing categories and no expiration on rewards
  • Get a 10% customer bonus every time you redeem your cash back into a Bank of America® checking or savings account
  • If you're a Preferred Rewards client, you can increase that bonus to 25% - 75%
Intro (Purchases)
Intro (Transfers)
Regular APR
Annual Fee
Credit Needed
0% Intro APR for 12 Billing Cycles
0% Intro APR for 12 Billing Cycles (for balance transfers made in the first 60 days)
13.99% - 23.99% (Variable)
$0
Excellent/Good
Bank of America® Travel Rewards Credit Card Review

at Bank of America'ssecure website

EXPERT'S RATING
★★★★★
4.7
OVERALL RATING
0.0/5.0
  • Earn unlimited 1.5 points per $1 spent on all purchases, with no annual fee and no foreign transaction fees and your points don't expire
  • 20,000 online bonus points if you make at least $1,000 in purchases in the first 90 days — that can be a $200 statement credit toward travel purchases
  • Use your card to book your trip how and where you want — you're not limited to specific websites with blackout dates or restrictions
  • Redeem points for a statement credit to pay for flights, hotels, vacation packages, cruises, rental cars, or baggage fees
  • Comes with chip technology for enhanced security and protection at chip-enabled terminals
  • Get an additional 10% customer points bonus on every purchase when you have an active Bank of America® checking or savings account
  • If you're a Preferred Rewards client, you can increase that bonus to 25% - 75%
Intro (Purchases)
Intro (Transfers)
Regular APR
Annual Fee
Credit Needed
0% Intro APR for 12 billing cycles
N/A
15.99% - 23.99% (Variable)
$0
Excellent/Good
BankAmericard® Credit Card Review

at Bank of America'ssecure website

EXPERT'S RATING
★★★★★
4.6
OVERALL RATING
0.0/5.0
  • 0% Intro APR for 15 billing cycles for purchases, and for any balance transfers made in the first 60 days, then 12.99% - 22.99% Variable APR
  • $0 Intro Balance transfer fee during first 60 days of account opening. After that, the fee for future balance transfers is 3% (min. $10).
  • No annual fee
  • No penalty APR. Paying late won't automatically raise your interest rate (APR). Other account pricing and terms apply.
  • Access your FICO® Score for free within Online Banking or your Mobile Banking app
Intro (Purchases)
Intro (Transfers)
Regular APR
Annual Fee
Credit Needed
0% Intro APR for 15 billing cycles
0% Intro APR for 15 Billing Cycles (for balance transfers made in the first 60 days)
12.99% - 22.99% (Variable)
$0
Excellent/Good

+See More Bank of America Cards

Some People Have Success Using the “Shopping Cart Trick”

Though it may not be a law in the legal sense, one of the universal “laws” of the bureaucratic world of paperwork and fine print seems to be: Where there’s a will — there’s a loophole.

Enter the “shopping cart trick.” A hard-inquiry loophole supposedly exploited by some online shoppers, the trick involves taking advantage of store credit card offers that pop up during the online checkout process for a number of retailers.

Of course, you may need to take this trick with the proverbial grain of salt. According to consumer finance site, WalletHub, the shopping cart trick isn’t a way to get approved for a credit card without a hard inquiry. Instead, WalletHub says it’s only a way to get pre-approved, which simply gives you an indication of how likely you are to be approved if you do apply.

Now, you may have heard a different story about the shopping cart trick from other sources. A lot of people misuse the term, saying it’s a way to actually get approved for store credit cards from Comenity Bank, Synchrony Bank, and Wells Fargo without a hard inquiry. But that’s just not true. WalletHub confirmed with all three issuers that you can’t get approved for one of their cards without a hard inquiry. —

If you don’t believe the naysayers and want to give the trick a try, you can do so easily online. You’ll need to be opted in for credit card offers — this is automatically the case, unless you’ve purposefully opted out — and have your popup blockers disabled, since most offers appear in a popup.

You then go to an eligible retailer’s online store and place a few items in your shopping cart. Continue the checkout process as normal, being sure all the information you enter is the same as shown on your credit report, including your name and address.

Providing the trick has worked, at some point before the final checkout page, you should be presented with a store credit card offer. According to reports, accepting this offer should result in only a soft credit pull, rather than a hard pull. However, some reports warn that if, at any time, you are asked for your full Social Security number (rather than only the last four digits), it may end up being be a hard pull.

While this trick reportedly only works reliably with store cards offered by Comenity Bank, it may work with some cards from Synchrony and Wells Fargo. We’ve put together a few of the cards that have been reported to qualify for the shopping cart trick below, but remember that your own experience — and success rate — will likely vary.

13. Express Next Credit Card

The Express Next Credit Card can be a boon to frequent shoppers, providing an 8% rewards rate on Express purchases by giving cardholders a $10 rewards certificate for every 2,500 points (which means $125 in eligible purchases).

Express Next Credit Card

  • Earn 20X points per $1 spent on eligible Express purchases made with your card
  • Receive free shipping on online orders
  • Pay no annual fee

Keep in mind that the Express Next Credit Card comes with a pricey 25.99% APR, so be sure to pay off your clothing purchases right away to avoid paying large interest fees.

14. Gamestop PowerUp Rewards Credit Card

While the Gamestop PowerUp Rewards Credit Card offers a hefty-seeming points bonus — 5,000 points for every $250 you spend — those 5,000 points are only worth a $5 coupon, which amounts to a pretty basic 2% rewards rate.

GameStop PowerUp Credit Card

  • Earn 20X points per $1 spent on eligible Gamestop purchases made with your card
  • Receive exclusive cardholder offers
  • Pay no annual fee

You can boost your rewards into overdrive by being a PowerUp Rewards Pro or Elite member, but that membership will cost you at least $15.99 a year to obtain. Plus, the giant 27.99% APR means it will get very expensive if you carry those game purchases beyond your due date.

15. Victoria’s Secret Angel Card

The Victoria’s Secret Angel Card offers a decent 4% rewards rate, with every 250 points earning a $10 Angel Rewards certificate.

Victoria's Secret Credit Card

  • Earn 1X point per $1 spent on eligible Victoria’s Secret purchases made with your card
  • Receive exclusive offers & bonus buys
  • Pay no annual fee

Though competitive for a store card, the 25.99% APR charged by the Victoria’s Secret Angel Card is anything but angelic. Always pay off your purchases before your due date to avoid being hit with large interest fees.

+See More Store Cards

Hard Credit Inquiries Aren’t the End of the World

Sometimes, despite having the purest intentions, our actions can be misinterpreted in all the wrong ways. This can happen when curiosity pushes us to sign up for websites we maybe shouldn’t, and it can also happen when hard credit inquiries are assumed to be a sign of an attempt to take on more debt.

Depending on the disposition of your spouse, an innocent dating site experiment might be laughed off — or you may be looking at a few bad nights of sleep on the living room sofa. Your hard inquiries, on the other hand, will generally take a bit longer to disappear; most hard inquiries will stay on your credit report for up to two years.

But you aren’t doomed for those two years, particularly if you’re prudent about how many new applications you make. One or two hard inquiries generally won’t cause significant damage to your credit score, nor will a handful that are spread out over six months or so. Plus, hard inquiries will typically affect your credit score less over time, with most of the impact dissipating after the first year.