The Ultimate Guide to Credit Cards
Saturday, January 29, 2022

15 Best Soft-Pull Credit Cards in 2022

Soft Pull Credit Cards

credit card advice

Adam West
By: Adam West
Updated: April 13, 2020
Advertiser Disclosure

Is there a way to be approved for a credit card with a soft pull? Credit cards generally will not be issued without a hard credit inquiry, but here, we’ll explore the issue further and offer some insight into the process.

Almost every time you apply for new credit, the lender credit check will usually result in a hard 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 generous rewards, and many Discover cards also include introductory APR offers.

Discover it® Cash Back Review

at Discover Card'ssecure website

EXPERT'S RATING
★★★★★
4.9
OVERALL RATING
4.9/5.0
  • INTRO OFFER: Unlimited Cashback Match – only from Discover. Discover will automatically match all the cash back you’ve earned at the end of your first year! There’s no minimum spending or maximum rewards. You could turn $150 cash back into $300.
  • Earn 5% cash back on everyday purchases at different places each quarter like Amazon.com, grocery stores, restaurants, gas stations and when you pay using PayPal, up to the quarterly maximum when you activate.
  • Plus, earn unlimited 1% cash back on all other purchases - automatically.
  • Redeem cash back in any amount, any time. Rewards never expire.
  • Use your rewards at Amazon.com checkout.
  • No annual fee.
Intro (Purchases)
Intro (Transfers)
Regular APR
Annual Fee
Credit Needed
0% Intro APR for 14 months
0% Intro APR for 14 months
11.99% - 22.99% Variable APR
$0
Good/Excellent
Discover it® Balance Transfer Review

at Discover Card'ssecure website

EXPERT'S RATING
★★★★★
4.9
OVERALL RATING
4.9/5.0
  • INTRO OFFER: Unlimited Cashback Match – only from Discover. Discover will automatically match all the cash back you’ve earned at the end of your first year! There’s no minimum spending or maximum rewards. You could turn $150 cash back into $300.
  • Earn 5% cash back on everyday purchases at different places each quarter like Amazon.com, grocery stores, restaurants, gas stations and when you pay using PayPal, up to the quarterly maximum when you activate. Plus, earn unlimited 1% cash back on all other purchases – automatically.
  • Redeem cash back any amount, any time. Rewards never expire.
  • Get your free Credit Scorecard with your FICO® Credit Score, number of recent inquiries and more.
  • No annual fee.
  • Discover is accepted nationwide by 99% of the places that take credit cards.
Intro (Purchases)
Intro (Transfers)
Regular APR
Annual Fee
Credit Needed
0% Intro APR for 6 months
0% Intro APR for 18 months
11.99% - 22.99% Variable APR
$0
Good/Excellent
Discover it® Miles Review

at Discover Card'ssecure website

EXPERT'S RATING
★★★★★
4.8
OVERALL RATING
4.8/5.0
  • UNLIMITED BONUS: Only Discover gives you an unlimited match of all the Miles you’ve earned at the end of your first year. For example, if you earn 35,000 Miles, you get 70,000 Miles.  There’s no signing up, no minimum spending or maximum rewards. Just a Miles-for-Miles match.
  • Automatically earn unlimited 1.5x Miles on every dollar of every purchase - with no annual fee.
  • Redeem Miles to pay any part of your monthly bill, including your minimum payment.
  • Turn Miles into cash in any amount, any time. Or redeem as a statement credit for travel purchases like airfare, hotels, rideshares, gas stations, restaurants and more with no blackout dates. However you redeem, Miles keep the same value. And Miles never expire.
  • No Blackout Dates. Simply pay for travel purchases like airlines, hotels, rental cars, and more with your Discover it® Miles card.
  • Discover is accepted nationwide by 99% of the places that take credit cards.
Intro (Purchases)
Intro (Transfers)
Regular APR
Annual Fee
Credit Needed
0% Intro APR for 14 months
10.99% Intro APR for 14 months
11.99% - 22.99% Variable APR
$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
★★★★★
4.8
OVERALL RATING
4.8/5.0
  • Enjoy a one-time bonus of 60,000 miles once you spend $3,000 on purchases within 3 months from account opening, equal to $600 in travel
  • Earn unlimited 2X miles on every purchase, every day
  • Miles won't expire for the life of the account and there's no limit to how many you can earn
  • Receive up to a $100 credit for Global Entry or TSA PreCheck®
  • Earn 5X miles on hotels and rental cars booked through Capital One Travel, where you'll get Capital One's best prices on thousands of trip options
  • Use your miles to get reimbursed for any travel purchase—or redeem by booking a trip through Capital One Travel
Intro (Purchases)
Intro (Transfers)
Regular APR
Annual Fee
Credit Needed
N/A
N/A
15.99% - 23.99% (Variable)
$95
Excellent, Good
EXPERT'S RATING
★★★★★
4.8
OVERALL RATING
4.8/5.0
  • $0 annual fee and no foreign transaction fees
  • Earn a bonus of 20,000 miles once you spend $500 on purchases within 3 months from account opening, equal to $200 in travel
  • Earn unlimited 1.25X miles on every purchase, every day
  • Miles won't expire for the life of the account and there's no limit to how many you can earn
  • Earn 5X miles on hotels and rental cars booked through Capital One Travel, where you'll get Capital One's best prices on thousands of trip options
  • Use your miles to get reimbursed for any travel purchase—or redeem by booking a trip through Capital One Travel
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, Good
EXPERT'S RATING
★★★★★
4.8
OVERALL RATING
4.8/5.0
  • One-time $200 cash bonus after you spend $500 on purchases within 3 months from account opening
  • Earn unlimited 1.5% cash back on every purchase, every day
  • No rotating categories or sign-ups needed to earn cash rewards; plus, cash back won't expire for the life of the account and there's no limit to how much you can earn
  • 0% intro APR on purchases and balance transfers for 15 months; 14.99%-24.99% variable APR after that
  • $0 annual fee and no foreign transaction fees
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, 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
4.8/5.0
  • Earn 2% on every purchase with unlimited 1% cash back when you buy, plus an additional 1% as you pay for those purchases.
  • To earn cash back, pay at least the minimum due on time.
  • Balance Transfer Only Offer: 0% intro APR on Balance Transfers for 18 months. After that, the variable APR will be 13.99% – 23.99%, based on your creditworthiness.
  • Balance Transfers do not earn cash back. Intro APR does not apply to purchases.
  • If you transfer a balance, interest will be charged on your purchases unless you pay your entire balance (including balance transfers) by the due date each month.
  • There is an intro balance transfer fee of 3% of each transfer (minimum $5) completed within the first 4 months of account opening. After that, your fee will be 5% of each transfer (minimum $5).
  • The standard variable APR for Citi Flex Plan is 13.99% – 23.99% based on your creditworthiness. Citi Flex Plan offers are made available at Citi's discretion.
Intro (Purchases)
Intro (Transfers)
Regular APR
Annual Fee
Credit Needed
N/A
0% Intro APR Period 18 months on Balance Transfers
13.99% – 23.99% (Variable)
$0
Excellent, Good

Additional Disclosure: Citi is a CardRates advertiser.

Citi Premier® Card Review

at the issuer'ssecure website

CITI® RATING
★★★★★
4.8
OVERALL RATING
4.6/5.0
  • Earn 60,000 bonus ThankYou® Points after you spend $4,000 in purchases within the first 3 months of account opening
  • Earn 3 Points per $1 spent at Restaurants and Supermarkets
  • Earn 3 Points per $1 spent at Gas Stations, Air Travel and Hotels
  • Earn 1 Point per $1 spent on all other purchases
  • Annual Hotel Savings Benefit
  • 60,000 Points are redeemable for $600 in gift cards when redeemed at thankyou.com
  • No expiration and no limit to the amount of points you can earn with this card
  • No Foreign Transaction Fees on purchases
Intro (Purchases)
Intro (Transfers)
Regular APR
Annual Fee
Credit Needed
N/A
N/A
15.99% - 23.99% (Variable)
$95
Excellent, Good

Additional Disclosure: Citi is a CardRates advertiser.

Citi Custom Cash℠ Card Review

at the issuer'ssecure website

CITI® RATING
★★★★★
4.8
OVERALL RATING
4.7/5.0
  • Earn $200 in cash back after you spend $750 on purchases in the first 3 months of account opening. This bonus offer will be fulfilled as 20,000 ThankYou® Points, which can be redeemed for $200 cash back.
  • 0% Intro APR on balance transfers and purchases for 15 months. After that, the variable APR will be 13.99% - 23.99%, based on your creditworthiness.
  • Earn 5% cash back on purchases in your top eligible spend category each billing cycle, up to the first $500 spent, 1% cash back thereafter. Also, earn unlimited 1% cash back on all other purchases.
  • No rotating bonus categories to sign up for – as your spending changes each billing cycle, your earn adjusts automatically when you spend in any of the eligible categories.
  • No Annual Fee
  • Citi will only issue one Citi Custom Cash℠ Card account per person.
Intro (Purchases)
Intro (Transfers)
Regular APR
Annual Fee
Credit Needed
0% 15 months Purchases and Balance Transfers
0% 15 months Purchases and Balance Transfers
13.99% – 23.99% (Variable)
$0
Excellent, Good

Additional Disclosure: Citi is a CardRates advertiser.

+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.

Bank of America® Customized Cash Rewards Credit Card Review

at Bank Of America'ssecure website

EXPERT'S RATING
★★★★★
4.8
OVERALL RATING
4.8/5.0
  • Enjoy a $200 cash rewards bonus after spending at least $1,000 in purchases in the first 90 days of account opening
  • Earn 3% cash back in the category of your choice: gas, online shopping, dining, travel, drug stores, or home improvement/furnishings and 2% cash back at grocery stores and wholesale clubs on the first $2,500 in combined choice category/grocery store/wholesale club purchases each quarter, then earn 1%
  • Unlimited 1% cash back on all other purchases
  • Introductory 0% APR for your first 15 billing cycles for purchases and balance transfers made within 60 days of account opening (balance transfer fee applies), then a variable APR applies
  • $0 annual fee
Intro (Purchases)
Intro (Transfers)
Regular APR
Annual Fee
Credit Needed
0% for 15 billing cycles
0% for 15 billing cycles
13.99% - 23.99% Variable
$0
Good/Excellent
Bank of America® Premium Rewards® Credit Card Review

at the issuer'ssecure website

EXPERT'S RATING
★★★★★
4.8
OVERALL RATING
4.6/5.0
  • Earn 50,000 online bonus points (a $500 value) after you make at least $3,000 in purchases in the first 90 days of account opening
  • Earn unlimited 2 points for every $1 spent on travel and dining purchases
  • 1.5 points for every $1 spent on all other purchases
  • Flexibility to choose how you redeem your points – redeem for cash back as a deposit into Bank of America® checking or savings accounts, for credit to eligible Merrill® accounts including 529 accounts, as a statement credit to your credit card, or for gift cards and purchases at the Bank of America Travel Center
  • Get up to a $100 Airline Incidental Statement Credit annually for qualifying purchases such as seat upgrades, baggage fees, in-flight services, and airline lounge fees - automatically applied to your card statement. Also get up to $100 in Airport Security Statement Credits towards TSA Pre✓ ® or Global Entry Application fees, every four years.
  • No foreign transaction fees
Intro (Purchases)
Intro (Transfers)
Regular APR
Annual Fee
Credit Needed
N/A
N/A
15.99% - 22.99% Variable
$95
Good/Excellent
Bank of America® Unlimited Cash Rewards Credit Card Review

at the issuer'ssecure website

EXPERT'S RATING
★★★★★
4.7
OVERALL RATING
4.6/5.0
  • Earn unlimited 1.5% cash back on all purchases
  • No limit to the amount of cash back you can earn and cash rewards don’t expire
  • 0% Intro APR for your first 15 billing cycles for purchases, and for any balance transfers made within the first 60 days of opening your account. After that, a Variable APR that's currently 13.99% to 23.99% will apply. A 3% fee (min $10) applies to all balance transfers.
  • Preferred Rewards members earn 25%-75% more cash back on every purchase. That means you could earn up to 2.62% cash back on every purchase. Learn More About Preferred Rewards.
  • $0 annual fee
Intro (Purchases)
Intro (Transfers)
Regular APR
Annual Fee
Credit Needed
0% for 15 billing cycles
0% for 15 billing cycles
13.99% - 23.99% (variable)
$0
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. — WalletHub.com

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 we sign up for new credit cards.

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.

So, while it’s best to only apply for new credit in moderation, don’t let a hard credit inquiry stop you from applying for a new card you may actually need.

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