You can always fill out applications when you want new credit cards, but you run the risk of getting turned down. You also generate a "hard inquiry" on your credit reports, which can reduce your credit score by as much as five points. Pre-approved offers let you pick and choose good terms and interest rates. You can do several things to improve the odds of getting these offers.
Review your records with the credit bureaus and eliminate as much bad information as possible. Most card issuers restrict pre-approved offers to people who demonstrate responsible financial management. Experian, TransUnion and Equifax all sell pre-screened data, so you must eliminate negative mistakes from all three bureaus. Annualcreditreport.com lets you order free reports once per year, according to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) website. Get your reports and find potentially harmful errors and send dispute letters to the bureaus asking that mistakes be fixed or erased within 30 days, as required by the Fair Credit Reporting Act.
Pay your current credit cards, loans and other accounts by the due dates and maintain a low debt load. The MyFICO credit reporting company cites these two actions as ways to keep your credit score high, making you attractive to credit card companies as a potential customer. This boosts your chance of fitting their pre-screening criteria.
Opt-in to pre-screened offers through the optoutprescreen.com website. The credit bureaus maintain this site to let consumers manage how their financial information is used for marketing. Visit the website, click the "Opt-In or Opt-Out" button at the bottom of the page, and choose the radio button by the "Opt-In" selection. You are free to opt-out in the future if you decide you no longer want pre-approved credit card offers.