The Ultimate Guide to Credit Cards
Friday, September 25, 2020

15 Best Soft-Pull Credit Cards in 2020

Soft Pull Credit Cards

credit card advice

Adam West
By: Adam West
Updated: April 13, 2020
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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.

+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
★★★★★
4.9
OVERALL RATING
4.9/5.0
  • Earn 100,000 bonus miles when you spend $20,000 on purchases in the first 12 months from account opening, or still earn 50,000 miles if you spend $3000 on purchases in the first 3 months
  • 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 $100 application fee credit for Global Entry or TSA Pre✔®
  • Redeem on travel—from vacation rentals to car rentals and more. Plus transfer your miles to over 10+ travel loyalty programs
  • No foreign transaction fees
Intro (Purchases)
Intro (Transfers)
Regular APR
Annual Fee
Credit Needed
N/A
N/A
17.24% - 24.49% (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 $1,000 on purchases within 3 months from account opening, equal to $200 in travel
  • Earn unlimited 1.25X miles on every purchase, every day
  • Travel when you want with no blackout dates and fly any airline, stay at any hotel, anytime
  • Miles won't expire for the life of the account and there's no limit to how many you can earn
  • Transfer your miles to over 10+ travel loyalty programs
Intro (Purchases)
Intro (Transfers)
Regular APR
Annual Fee
Credit Needed
0% for 12 months
N/A
15.49% - 25.49% (Variable)
$0
Excellent, Good
EXPERT'S RATING
★★★★★
4.8
OVERALL RATING
4.8/5.0
  • One-time $150 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 for 15 months; 15.49%-25.49% variable APR after that
  • Pay no annual fee or foreign transaction fees
Intro (Purchases)
Intro (Transfers)
Regular APR
Annual Fee
Credit Needed
0% for 15 months
N/A
15.49% - 25.49% (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
4.8/5.0
  • Earn cash back twice. 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 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.
  • 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 a balance transfer fee of either $5 or 3% of the amount of each transfer, whichever is greater.
Intro (Purchases)
Intro (Transfers)
Regular APR
Annual Fee
Credit Needed
N/A
0% for 18 months
13.99% - 23.99% (variable)
$0
Excellent/Good
Citi Premier® Card Review

at the issuer'ssecure website

CITI® RATING
★★★★★
4.8
OVERALL RATING
4.6/5.0
  • Earn 3X Points at restaurants, supermarkets, gas stations, and on air travel and hotel purchases — all other purchases earn 1X Points
  • Earn 60,000 Bonus Points after making $4,000 in purchases with your card within the first 3 months of account opening
  • Enjoy $100 off a single hotel stay of $500 or more, excluding taxes and fees, through thankyou.com, once per calendar year
  • Transfer ThankYou® Points to participating airline loyalty programs including TrueBlue®, Virgin Atlantic Flying Club, and Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer, to get flights faster. There is no fee, and the minimum transfer is only 1,000 points.
  • $95 annual fee
Intro (Purchases)
Intro (Transfers)
Regular APR
Annual Fee
Credit Needed
N/A
N/A
15.99% - 23.99%
$95
Good/Excellent
Citi Prestige® Credit Card Review

at the issuer'ssecure website

CITI® RATING
★★★★★
4.8
OVERALL RATING
4.8/5.0
  • Earn 5X Points at restaurants and on air travel
  • Earn 3X Points on hotels and cruise lines, all other purchases earn 1X Points
  • Earn 50,000 bonus points ($500 value) after spending $4,000 within 3 months of account opening
  • Complimentary 4thfourth Night at a hotel of your choice after a minimum 4 consecutive night booking through ThankYou.com (benefit can be used 2X per calendar year)
  • Up to a $250 travel credit every calendar year, no need to enroll
  • Enjoy complimentary access to hundreds of VIP lounges through Priority Pass™ Select
Intro (Purchases)
Intro (Transfers)
Regular APR
Annual Fee
Credit Needed
N/A
N/A
16.99% - 23.99%
$495
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.

Bank of America® Cash Rewards Credit Card Review

at Bank Of America'ssecure website

EXPERT'S RATING
★★★★★
4.9
OVERALL RATING
4.7/5.0
  • 3% cash back in the category of your choice: gas, online shopping, dining, travel, drug stores, or home improvement/furnishings
  • 2% cash back at grocery stores and wholesale clubs
  • 1% cash back on all other purchases
  • Enjoy a $200 cash rewards bonus after spending at least $1,000 in purchases in the first 90 days of account opening
  • Introductory 0% APR for your first 12 billing cycles for purchases and balance transfers made within 60 days of account opening (balance transfer fee applies)
  • $0 annual fee
Intro (Purchases)
Intro (Transfers)
Regular APR
Annual Fee
Credit Needed
0% for 12 months
0% for 12 months
13.99% - 23.99%
$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 unlimited 2 points for every $1 spent on travel and dining purchases and 1.5 points for every $1 spent on all other purchases
  • Enjoy the 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 Edge® and Merrill Lynch® 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
  • 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
  • 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
  • $95 annual fee
Intro (Purchases)
Intro (Transfers)
Regular APR
Annual Fee
Credit Needed
N/A
N/A
15.99% - 22.99%
$95
Good/Excellent
Business Advantage Cash Rewards Credit Card Review

at the issuer'ssecure website

EXPERT'S RATING
★★★★★
4.7
OVERALL RATING
4.6/5.0
  • Earn 3% cash back on your choice of one of the following six categories: gas stations (default), office supply stores, travel, TV/telecom & wireless, computer services, or business consulting services
  • Earn 2% cash back on dining, earn unlimited 1% cash back on all other purchases
  • Get a $300 statement credit when you make at least $3,000 in net purchases within 90 days of your account opening
  • Get 75% more cash back on every purchase when you're a Preferred Rewards for Business Platinum Honors tier member. That means you'll earn 5.25% on your selected choice category, 3.5% on dining, and unlimited 1.75% cash back on all other purchases.
  • $0 annual fee
Intro (Purchases)
Intro (Transfers)
Regular APR
Annual Fee
Credit Needed
0% for 9 months
N/A
12.24% to 22.24%
$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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