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When applying for a credit card, there are so many options available. Not only are there many banks to choose from, but each bank seems to have more credit cards than Baskin Robbins has flavors of ice cream. Luckily, there’s a tool called CardMatch. This tool helps narrow down the available options based on algorithms designed to predict which cards you have the best chances of getting approved. Is the CardMatch Tool the first place you should look before applying for a credit card?
Hard Inquiry vs. Soft Inquiry
A credit inquiry is what happens when a bank or lender takes a look at your credit score to determine whether or not they should approve your application. In the credit world, there are two types of credit inquiries – hard and soft.
A hard inquiry happens when you apply for new credit (such as a loan or credit card) or a credit increase. That inquiry appears on your credit report. Hard inquiries generally will reduce your credit score by 3 to 5 points. They will stay on your credit report for up to 2 years. Although hard inquiries will stay on your credit report, their impact on your credit score is concentrated during the first 6 months after the inquiry.
A soft credit inquiry occurs when a company takes a look at your credit but doesn’t perform a hard inquiry. Soft inquiries happen all of the time, most without your knowledge. This is because banks you have a relationship with want to make sure that you are maintaining your credit responsibly.
Banks know that even if you’re performing fine with them, you could be having trouble elsewhere. They don’t want to be the last one to find out you just lost your job, are getting divorced, or any other reason why you may be having financial issues. It would leave them with a debt they cannot collect.
When you speak with your bank and request a credit limit increase, some banks will perform a soft inquiry as a courtesy to review your request. Before asking for the increase, confirm with the company representative whether it will be a hard inquiry or a soft inquiry. If they don’t know or seem unsure of the answer, ask them to verify with their supervisor.
Is CardMatch the first place you should look?
What makes the CardMatch tool the first place you should look before applying for a credit card is that it is a soft inquiry. This means that your credit score won’t be affected when you use the CardMatch Tool.
To start, go to the CardMatch Tool. Enter basic information like your name, address, and last 4 digits of your Social Security number. Within a few seconds, a list of the best credit card options that you are most likely to get approved will be presented to you.
Don’t worry. If you don’t like any of those options, you are under no obligation to apply. Plus, there was no effect on your credit score for taking a peek.
Because your credit score isn’t affected by looking at the CardMatch tool, you can look every day. I wouldn’t recommend it though. Nothing will change that quickly. If you’re in the hunt for a card and you know that your score is adequate for the credit card you want, log in to CardMatch every few weeks until you find the right offer.
Does the CardMatch Tool share all of my options?
The CardMatch Tool is great in its simplicity. It focuses on the best credit cards that you are most likely to get approved for. But it does not share all of the credit cards that you qualify for.
When I checked the offers that were available to me, only 3 credit cards came back:
- The Chase Sapphire Preferred
- Chase Freedom
- Chase Freedom Unlimited
Surely, there are more than 3 credit cards that I can get approved for. Many banks besides Chase would love to have my business.
Let’s face it. If you have good (or great) credit, there are easily 30, 40, 50 or even more credit cards that you could get approved for. The average person would be overwhelmed with that many options. The creators of the CardMatch Tool designed it to filter out the best credit cards available that you have the best chances of approval for.
Should I apply for a credit card with CardMatch?
If you find an offer that interests you, consider it. However, before you do, keep these questions in mind.
- Will you be applying for a mortgage, business loan, or auto note in the next 6 months? Travel rewards are great, but they aren’t worth losing out on a loan you really need. Or, you may have to accept less than the best interest rates and terms because of recent inquiries.
- Where will you use the points and miles? Travel rewards have a habit of devaluing over time. You don’t want to earn a bunch of rewards that you won’t be using for years. There’s a reason why “earn and burn” is the motto of experienced travel hackers.
- Are you OK with the annual fee? A majority of travel credit cards have an annual fee, although some are waived in the first year. Aside from the welcome bonus, do the benefits you receive outweigh the annual fee?
- Can you meet the minimum spend? It would be great to earn all of those bonus points when you sign up for a new credit card. But if you cannot meet the minimum spend in the time required (usually 3 months), all of that effort was for nothing. A lot of people time their applications 1 to 2 months ahead of major bills. By doing that, they can more easily meet the minimum spend.
What happens next?
If the card you covet isn’t listed by the CardMatch tool, take steps to increase your credit score before trying again. A quick way to increase your credit score is to pay down your balances. You can also consolidate your credit card debt into a loan. Additionally, you can increase your credit limit to reduce utilization.
Once you find the card you want with the CardMatch tool, you can apply.
Conclusion of the CardMatch Tool
When applying for credit cards, you don’t want to risk lowering your credit score with a credit inquiry that gets declined. By narrowing down the options to those that have the highest likelihood of success, you can focus your time (and precious credit score) applying for cards that will get approved. Once you have a good idea of which credit cards you have the greatest chance with, you can search for the best offers and apply for them to get the available.
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