The shopping cart trick is merely a way to get pre-approved for store credit cards. Basically, you can trick a retailer’s website into thinking you’re going to buy something by adding items to your shopping cart and beginning to check out. But you’re doing so only to trigger a pop-up offer to see if you’re pre-approved for that retailer’s store credit card. You’ll know you’re on the right track if you see phrases like “See if you pre-qualify,” or “won’t affect your credit score.” If not, the pop-up will probably take you to the card’s actual application page.
Seeing if you’re pre-approved for a credit card will tell you whether applying is a good idea, perhaps saving you from getting rejected if you have no chance. Pre-approval results in a soft credit check, which does not impact your credit score, unlike the hard credit inquiry that lenders use when you formally apply for credit. A hard inquiry temporarily dings your score.
Pre-approved applicants actually do get approved for an account around 90% of the time. So if you’re pre-approved, you can feel confident in your odds of actually qualifying for the card. If not, you should probably consider other credit card options.
You can try this pre-approval trick with any retailer that has a store credit card. Just bear in mind that it won’t always work. You might not see an offer for credit card pre-approval. Or you simply might not get pre-approved, especially if you have bad credit. Most store credit cards require at least fair credit for approval.
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. The confusion, it seems, derives from the fact that credit card issuers usually check your credit report from just one of the three major credit bureaus when reviewing an application. So while you might see a new store credit card account listed on your TransUnion credit report without a corresponding hard inquiry, for example, that doesn’t mean a hard inquiry wasn’t actually made. Rather, it’s probably on your Experian or Equifax credit report.
Besides, hard pulls don’t matter much unless you apply for multiple new credit accounts within a short period of time. Actually opening a new card does more damage to your credit score than a hard inquiry. And even then, it’s only a small, temporary dip, which won’t matter much unless you’re planning to apply for a mortgage or auto loan in the near future.
So yes, the shopping cart trick does exist. No, despite claims to the contrary, it does not help you get a new credit card account without a hard credit inquiry. Rather, you can use it to see if you’re pre-approved for a certain store card, which can be quite helpful. Below, we’ll give you instructions on how to do the shopping cart trick (the WalletHub way) and break down the top offers to target.
How to Do WalletHub’s Pre-Approval Shopping Cart Trick
The shopping cart trick is pretty easy to do. Just follow the steps and see if an invitation to check for pre-approval pops up. It might not. You might only see an offer to apply for the store’s credit card. Or you might see nothing at all. But it’s worth a shot. Just be extra careful that the language in the popup is actually advertising pre-approval, not a regular card application. You should look for phrases like “See if you’re pre-approved before you apply,” and “There’s no impact to your credit score.”
Here’s how the shopping cart trick works:
- Opt in for prescreened credit card offers. This step only applies if you’ve ever opted out, meaning you asked the credit bureaus not to let creditors send you offers for a certain period of time. If that’s the case, you’ll have to opt back in.
- Disable ad blockers, and clear your browsing history. Credit card pre-approval offers from store websites usually appear as pop-ups. Ad blockers don’t allow pop-ups, so make sure to temporarily turn yours off. Then delete your browser’s search history, cookies and cache.
- Visit a store’s website, and join its loyalty program. This will increase your chances of getting a pop-up pre-approval offer, as will using “incognito” or “private” mode on your browser.
- Add items to your cart, and start checking out. Before you complete your purchase, a pop-up for store card pre-approval should appear. If it doesn’t, you’ll have to close your browser and try again.
- See if you’re pre-approved. Click the pop-up offer and complete the pre-approval form. You should receive a pre-approval decision immediately.
If all goes according to plan, you’ll be pre-approved for the store card and be able to fill out an application with confidence. Neither pre-approval nor approval is guaranteed, but if you have fair credit or better, your odds are good.
Where to Use the Shopping Cart Trick
Everything you’ll read about the shopping cart trick elsewhere will claim it only works with store credit cards from Comenity Bank, Synchrony Bank and Wells Fargo. But when other sites say that, they’re referring to the false notion that you can escape hard credit pulls. And while that trio of issuers does put out a huge chunk of the store-branded credit card market, you can try the shopping cart trick with any store that has a branded credit card you can apply for online. It won’t work 100% of the time, because each store’s website is structured differently, but it certainly doesn’t hurt to try. After all, the worst that can happen is you don’t get a pre-approval pop-up and you lose about five minutes of your time.
That said, you might be wondering which store credit cards are even worth applying for in the first place. WalletHub’s editors have put together a list to point you in the right direction.
Here are the top store credit cards:
|Store Credit Card||Issuer||Min. Credit Required||Editor’s Rating|
|Amazon.com Store Card||Synchrony Bank||Fair||5/5|
|Lowe's Store Card||Synchrony Bank||Fair||3/5|
|Saks Fifth Avenue Store Card||Capital One||Fair||3.5/5|
|Staples® Credit Card||Citibank||Fair||5/5|
|Target Credit Card||TD Bank||Fair||5/5|
|TJX Store Card||Synchrony Bank||Fair||4.5/5|
|Toys R Us Store Card||Synchrony Bank||Fair||4.1/5|
|Victoria's Secret Credit Card||Comenity Bank||Fair||5/5|
|Walmart® Store Card||Synchrony Bank||Fair||2.9/5|
If you’re not sure what kind of shape your credit is in right now, you can check your latest credit score for free on WalletHub. WalletHub’s free daily updates and personalized credit analysis will also help you track your improvement and ultimately reach top WalletFitness®.