Update for January 2020: This trick doesn’t work anymore for avoiding a hard inquiry.
Comenity Bank, Synchrony Bank, and Wells Fargo store credit cards all require a hard inquiry now to get approved. However, you can still use this trick to see if you’re pre-approved. Knowing that you’re more likely to get approved will help you avoid using an unnecessary hard inquiry.
Having bad credit comes with more than a few downsides. But two of the biggest concerns are how to qualify for new credit accounts and how to fix your existing credit.
There’s actually a simple strategy that, in many instances, can help you do both. It’s known as the “shopping cart trick,” or sometimes the “soft pull trick.”
Avoiding a Hard Inquiry
With a few steps, you can apply for a retail store credit card and avoid getting a hard pull on your credit report. You’ll be more likely to get approved because the credit card issuer won’t see your full credit history with your application.
Another benefit is that this trick can help you add an account in good standing to your credit report. Plus, you can get deals from stores you shop at frequently, such as a certain percentage off your purchase, gift certificates throughout the year, or free merchandise.
Find out how you can implement the shopping cart trick, plus whether it’s actually right for your situation.
In many cases, it can be a positive tool to help rebuild your overall finances. Ready to find out how to avoid a credit pull on your next credit card application? Let’s get started.
Why is it good to avoid hard pulls on your credit report?
First things first, it’s important to understand why you would want to use the shopping cart trick. For many people, a hard inquiry on their credit report results in automatic denial from a creditor because of their poor credit history.
Normally, negative items like these would completely prevent you from qualifying for a credit card. But if your full credit report is not accessed as part of the application, you greatly improve your approval chances.
Preserve Credit Inquiries
Another reason you might want to avoid a hard pull by using the shopping cart trick is to preserve your existing credit during the application process.
Every time you apply for any type of credit, it’s listed on your credit report as an inquiry. And every single hard inquiry causes your credit score to dip for a year and will be listed there for two years.
Why is this a big deal? Well, if you randomly apply to 15 credit cards hoping for one to approve you, you could lower your credit between 5 and 10 points for each entry.
On top of damaging your credit score with tons of credit card applications, all of those inquiries start to raise a red flag when creditors or lenders review your report. They’ll wonder why you need so many credit cards.
They will assume that you’re struggling financially which means you will probably get denied. Even if that’s not true, a creditor has no way of knowing that. So the shopping cart trick can help keep your credit from getting worse while still giving you access to the credit you need or want.
How does the shopping cart trick work?
Now that you know how the shopping cart trick can help you, particularly if you have bad credit, let’s talk about how to actually do it. But first, a big fat disclaimer: there’s no guarantee that these steps work every single time.
Readers have had better luck with some store credit cards than others, and it may take a few tries to get the right offer to pop up while you’re online. Use your own best judgment and don’t be afraid to try more than once if it doesn’t work the first time. Now let’s get to it.
1. Don’t Opt Out of Credit Card Offers
Before you do anything at all, make sure you haven’t opted out of receiving prescreened offers from credit card companies. This would have been done either through 1-888-5-OPT-OUT (1-888-567-8688) or www.optoutprescreen.com.
The opt-out service allows you to stop receiving pre-approval credit card offers in the mail and over the phone. While it can be annoying to get all of that junk mail, being able to receive those prescreened offers is an integral part of the shopping cart trick.
If you haven’t manually opted out, then you’re good to go in pursuing the shopping cart trick. If you have opted out, it’s easy to opt back in by visiting the website or calling the phone number.
You can always opt back out once you’ve been approved for one or more credit cards so that your mailbox isn’t cluttered with unwanted offers.
2. Disable Pop-up Blockers
The next step to successfully use the shopping cart trick is to disable any pop-up blocker or ad blocker you have on your Internet browser. The shopping cart trick relies on the retail website sending you a pre-approval credit card offer while you’re attempting to check out online.
If you have any type of blocker activated, then you won’t receive a credit card offer at the appropriate stage — even if you qualify for one! So go ahead and disable it. You can simply turn it back on when you’re done using the shopping cart trick.
Join Their Loyalty Program
Clear Your Browser History
Right before you visit your chosen store’s website (we’ll give you a list of eligible stores in a little bit), be sure to clear your browser history. This includes wiping your cache and cookies.
To do this, simply find your browser settings in your menu bar, then select “History.” Alternatively, you can simply hit the CTRL button and H to reach the same page.
Next, click on “Clear Browsing Data” and select the following options: Browsing History, Download History, Cached Images and Files, and Cookies and Other Site Data.
If you want to skip all of those steps and you use Google Chrome as your web browser, you can also use an Incognito Window.
You can find this option in your browser settings as well, or just click CTRL + Shift + N. Then you don’t have to worry about any browsing history interrupting your shopping cart trick.
Apply for Credit Card Through Store Website
Use the list below to find a store from which you’d like a retail credit card. You can create an account if you don’t already have one or you can choose to go through the steps as a guest. It’s up to you.
Next, add a few items to your shopping cart — don’t worry, you’re not actually going to buy them. Pick a few items rather than one large item, and shoot for about $100 worth of merchandise. Once you’ve window shopped, head to the checkout page.
During the checkout process, you’ll actually start to fill out your billing information as if you were going to buy the items. Don’t click the purchase or submit button. The whole point here is to wait for a credit card offer to pop up while you’re filling out the page.
For the best chance of receiving an offer, fill in your data slowly and don’t use any autofill text. If you don’t get an offer to pop up, change things up in your shopping cart and try a few more times. It might just take the winning combination for your efforts to pay off.
Look for Offers that Don’t Use Full SSN
Once you receive your credit card offer, the pop-up will likely offer you a percentage discount on your purchase when you sign up for the card. Click on the button that allows you to accept the offer.
You’ll then be taken to a separate page to apply for the credit card. This is the final test to see if the shopping cart trick has worked. If the page just asks for the last 4 digits of your social security number, then it probably won’t result in a hard pull on your credit report.
If, however, you are required to enter your full social security number, the application will likely result in a hard pull on your credit report. At that point, it’s best to abort mission so you don’t rack up several inquiries. You can always try again on another website to see if you get different results.
What credit cards are eligible for the shopping cart trick?
Once you know how the shopping cart trick works, it’s time to decide which online stores you want to try out. Most retail cards that come through Comenity Bank work, plus some cards from Synchrony and Wells Fargo.
Keep in mind, there’s no absolute guarantee that the trick will work every time, but it only takes a few minutes to get to where you know if it does or not. Here’s a comprehensive listing of retail store credit cards from each bank that may not require a credit check with your application.
Comenity Bank Retail Store Cards
- Abercrombie & Fitch
- Ann Taylor
- Bath & Body Works
- Brylane Home
- Coldwater Creek
- Full Beauty
- J. Crew
- Jessica London
- King Size Direct
- New York & Company
- Sportsman Guide
- Victoria’s Secret
- Woman Within
Synchrony Retail Store Cards
Wells Fargo Retail Store Cards
How do retails store cards affect your credit?
Before you start opening multiple credit cards from your favorite stores, take a few minutes to think about how these new accounts can affect your credit score — for better and for worse. Like any new credit card, a new store card lowers the average age of your credit accounts.
The older your accounts are, the better your credit score fares in the “length of credit history” category, which accounts for 15% of your overall credit score. You also now know that if you don’t avoid a hard pull, those inquiries can eat away at your credit score as well.
Additionally, it’s important to think about why you have bad credit in the first place. If it’s from overspending and burdensome debt, then you might want to rethink opening even more credit cards. But if you’re committed to rebuilding your credit scores over the long term, a fresh account does have some benefits.
If you pay off your balance in full each month, it can lower your credit utilization ratio. Additionally, those on-time monthly payments can help your credit score, since your payment history accounts for 35% of that important number.
Is the shopping cart trick right for you?
Only you can answer that question. But as long as you can resist the temptation to overcharge items that you can’t afford, you can realize financial benefits by qualifying for cards with the shopping cart trick.
Start off by only getting cards from stores you already shop at on a regular basis. Then, you can make your normal purchases and pay off the balance in full each month to maximize your positive payment history — without spending any extra money.
It’s also smart to refrain from continuing to open new accounts since that’ll keep your age of accounts low.
Be strategic straight from the get-go so you can truly take advantage of every single benefit that comes with no-credit-check store cards. If you’re unsure of the best route to take, start off with one single new credit card. Then you can test out your behavior and quickly close the account if you’re uncomfortable.
By having a game plan for every possible outcome of the shopping cart trick, you’ll make sure that you not only prevent credit damage but help improve your credit over score time.