The "Shopping Cart Trick": Get a Credit Card Without a Hard Credit Pull

Getting a new credit card, even with bad credit, is easier if you use a simple technique at certain websites. This article explains how even people with below-average credit can improve their chances of getting a new credit card.

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Did you know that if you've got bad or average credit, applying for a new credit card can make things even worse?

In most cases, when a credit card company checks you out to see if they want to give you a card, they pull one of your three credit reports.

Three reporting agencies, Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion, keep records on you known as credit reports.

They share this information with potential lenders.

Each time a potential lender like a credit card company, mortgage lender, or car dealership checks one of your reports it is called a "hard pull."

A hard pull usually decreases your credit score by several points.

If you apply for several credit cards at around the same time to see which one gives you the best deal, you might lower your credit score enough to get denied for a credit card you really want.

However, using the "shopping cart" or "soft pull" trick lets you apply for a store credit card without your score experiencing a hard pull.

Meaning that even if you get rejected for the card, your score won't be affected.

Read on to learn how to use this helpful hack.

What Score Do You Need?

Almost everyone who's ever used credit has a credit score

When you make charges on one or more of your credit cards or take out a loan, lenders share your information with the three credit bureaus, which keep files on you going back many years.

Credit scoring companies FICO and VantageScore use this credit history to generate credit scores for you.

Credit scores can be anywhere between 300 and 990, based on which service is generating the score.

In many cases, there's a minimum required credit score number needed to get certain exclusive credit cards.

Your score affects several things when you're applying for credit.

Average Credit Score by Income 2017

The higher your credit score, the more likely you are to get:

  • Approved for a card
  • A higher credit limit
  • A lower interest rate
  • More rewards
  • A no-fee card

That's why it's important to keep your score as high as possible.

Lowering your score by just a few points can get you denied for a card.

Even if you get accepted, a lower score might get you a card that ends up costing you thousands in extra interest payments and fees.

Many consumers believe that 600 score is enough to get you a card—that's a fair score, but not enough to get you most cards.

Using the shopping cart trick to get a card can help you build credit if you're just starting out, or rebuild creditworthiness if you have damaged yours.

Why Use the Trick?

The less that lenders review your credit reports, the better chance you have to get credit

It avoids hard pulls.Not only do potential lenders look at your credit score, they also look at your credit history.

That tells them if you've ever had late payments, defaults, consolidations, garnished wages, a bankruptcy, or other problems.

If lenders don't know about these things when they check you out for a new card, your chances of being approved greatly improve.

Another problem with hard pulls is that they are listed in your credit report.

When other lenders see that multiple lenders have been pulling your credit reports, that's a red flag to new potential lenders.

Credit inquiries can lower your score for up to a year, and they remain in your reports for two years.

This is true whether the pull was for a car loan, credit card application or mortgage.

Why should it hurt your creditworthiness if a bank looks at your credit report?

Because when you ask companies to look at your credit reports, it means you're probably taking on new credit.

Lenders are more gun-shy about giving you credit if they know other companies might be giving you credit, too.

"How much more credit can John handle and manage to pay back, based on his credit score and current outstanding balances?"

That's one question potential lenders have to ask themselves.

Using the shopping cart trick to apply for soft-inquiry credit cards, you avoid these red flags and lender questions.

It can earn you bonuses.The shopping card trick is usually associated with a retailer credit card.

Let's say you're placing an order at Lowe's.

As you check out, you might be asked, "Would you like to open a Lowe's charge account?"

If you do, you might receive $50 or 40% off your order.

You can also get spending bonuses when you use the card at the store.

The card might also come with other special offers during the year, such as discounts.

So, instead of whipping out your generic Visa when you're at Lowe's the next time, you'll use your Lowe's card to get those store-related bonuses.

What You Should Know

It's important to do some research before you apply for cards using the shopping cart trick

1. Decide how much credit you need. Retail charge cards often start you out with low credit limits, often $500 or less.

If that's not helpful, don't add the new card.

Opening new credit card accounts can lower your score for up to two years.

If you open a card, then decide the balance is too low, and you don't want to use the card, closing the card still dings your score.

As a tip, if you ever decide to close a credit card, close the card you opened most recently.

The longer you have a credit card, the more it increases your credit score.

2. Make sure you are legally eligible to receive credit card offers.

If you've ever used a service to opt out of junk mail, you won't receive automatic credit card offers.

Lenders are prohibited from making these offers if you've opted out of them.

3. Don't give your full Social Security number when trying to trigger the shopping cart trick.

Lenders that don't do hard pulls don't need your Social Security number.

If an application asks for your full number, it means the company is going to do a hard pull.

If an application only requests the last four digits of your Social Security number, you're fine.

They'll use these four digits after you're approved to verify your account later when you call in or request help online.

4. Update your browser. If your browser is set to block popups, you might not get the automated message that announces you're eligible for a card.

That's because the store doesn't want you leaving the checkout page of the website.

Instead, they send a pop-up notification that covers part of the page you're viewing.

If you click on the link in the pop-up, a new tab will open in your browser.

This helps companies avoid losing sales.

Your store credit card offer might also be blocked if you have other anti-spam or ad-blocking extensions turned on.

Make sure that you check to see if you have any other blockers active on your browser.

How to Do It

Follow these steps to boost your chances to get a no-pull credit card

1. Check your credit reports.Before you apply for any credit product, it's a good idea to check your credit reports first.

You'll spot errors and be able to fix them, which can increase your score.

Even though the shopping cart trick doesn't result in a pull on your credit report, you want to see how you're listed on the report.

That includes your name and address.

You want to see how you're listed so you can fill out your online card application using the same information.

You are entitled to a free copy of each of your three reports each year.

You can visitwww.AnnualCreditReport.com to get all three reports at once.

You can also get your reports free each year by requesting them directly from Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion.

Just follow the directions at their respective websites.

You will be able to download your reports and view them on your computer or smartphone.

2. Clear your browser history. After you've done some research on the card you want, go into your browser tools and clear your cookies, history, and cache.

Websites can "see" the previous sites you've visited, and this might lower your chance to get more credit.

Another option you can use is to open a private or incognito browser window.

These have no saved history.

3. Create an account.Once you're ready to apply for a new card, visit the website of the retailer you most want to get a charge card with and create an account at the site.

Opt-in for emails if you're asked.

This will help if you don't get approved for a card the first time you apply.

If you're rejected during checkout, you might get an offer for pre-approval store cards, or "guaranteed" card offers in the future.

You can always update your preferences later to opt-out of certain emails, such as promotional notices, to reduce spam.

4. Use the same information that's in your credit reports to fill out the application.

If the retailer can't verify your identity, it won't give you a card.

That's why you shouldn't use a nickname (such as "Bill") when filling out your application if your credit reports have you listed as "William."

If your home address ends in "Lane" or "NE" in your credit reports, use that when you fill out the application.

5. Start shopping.Put one or more items from the retailer's website into your shopping cart.

Global Online Retail Website Visits & Orders 2017

You won't have to purchase the items, but this gets the process of getting a credit card offer started.

My advice is to add $100 to $200 worth of items to your cart.

6. Go through the checkout process.Make sure you use your full name and address as they appear in your credit reports.

Avoid letting your browser's autofill option fill out the form for you.

It might contain different information than what's in your report.

When you get to the final payment page, you will get a popup message that you are pre-approved for a store credit card if you are eligible for this offer.

If you are only asked for the last four digits of your Social Security number, you should be good to go.

7. Be prepared to try again. If you don't get a credit card offer, go back and try again, checking out as a guest instead of a registered user.

Log out of the website and start the process over.

8. Fill out the application.If you get an offer, fill out the application, once again using the exact same information that's in your credit reports.

If the shopping cart trick doesn't work the first time you try it, wait a few days to see if you get a pre-approval offer from the retailer.

If that doesn't happen, try the same shopping cart process again later in the week.

In some cases, it takes multiple tries for the shopping cart trick to work.

Remember, this application process doesn't result in a hard pull of one of your credit reports, so there's no harm in trying it multiple times.

Does It Work Everywhere?

The shopping cart trick only works at most retailers

It's mostly available at stores that use Comenity Bank to provide their in-store credit card.

Some retailers that work with Wells Fargo and Synchrony Bank might offer cards as well.

Using a search engine, you can find a list of current shopping cart checkout credit card offerings.

Be aware that the list will change as companies add or end this promotion.

Currently, the shopping card trick works at the following retailer websites:

  • Abercrombie & Fitch
  • American Home Furnishings
  • Ann Taylor
  • Bath & Body Works
  • Bed Bath and Beyond
  • Big Lots
  • Boscov's
  • Brylane Home
  • Buckle
  • Coldwater Creek
  • Dillard's
  • Eddie Bauer
  • Express
  • Forever 21
  • GameStop
  • HSN
  • J.Crew
  • J.Jill
  • Jared
  • Jessica London
  • King Size Direct
  • Kirkland's
  • Lowe's
  • Motorola
  • MyPoints
  • New York & Company
  • One Stop Plus
  • Overstock
  • PC Richard & Son
  • QVC
  • Romans
  • Sportsman Guide
  • The Children's Place
  • The Loft
  • Toys "R" Us
  • Ulta Beauty
  • Venus
  • Victoria's Secret
  • Walmart
  • Wayfair
  • Williams-Sonoma
  • Woman Within
  • Zales

Will It Hurt Your Credit?

The shopping cart trick has different impacts in your credit reports and stores

If you apply for a store card using the shopping cart trick, you won't ding your score because you're trying to get credit cards without the hard pull.

However, most of the other rules associated with credit cards and scores apply.

Any time you add a new credit product, including a soft-inquiry credit card, to your credit report, it has an effect.

Opening any new account slightly lowers your score.

If you use more than 25% to 30% of your available credit, you can lower your credit score, depending on how much debt you've racked up on other cards.

This means that while your new card has a zero balance, it can improve your overall debt-used-to-available-credit ratio, raising your credit score.

It's crucial to take note that if you miss a payment or are late with a payment with a store card, your score could take a sudden nosedive.

Also, these cards might come with high fees and interest rates.

So you definitely don't want to carry any balances on them.

No matter what type of card you apply for, it's always a good idea to keep track of your credit reports each year and to consider using a credit monitoring service.

This is especially important if you don't have great credit.

One year, I checked my credit reports and found four pieces of incorrect information that required correction.

I followed the steps at the credit bureau websites to correct the incorrect information, and my score went up dramatically as soon as the corrections were made.

Just taking a few minutes to pull and read my credit reports helped me quickly improve my financial situation.

I was able to get more credit products with lower interest rates and with fewer fees.

Some services are free, like the free monthly credit scores you get from some of your credit card providers.

You can also use a paid credit score monitoring service.

Checking your credit score won't hurt your credit score, a myth that keeps many consumers from checking theirs on a regular basis.

Moreover, getting a new credit card can actually increase your creditworthiness if you know how to use it correctly.

The following video shows how you can improve your credit score in a few simple steps.

As you can see, the longer you have a card, the higher your score goes.

If you never miss any payments on the card, that improves your score a whole lot too.

The same is true the more unused credit you have compared to the debt you owe.

This can help you get other credit products, like a vehicle loan or mortgage.

And have I mentioned that taking out a small personal loan might also help?

Because it's a different type of loan, having it included in your credit report can add a boost to your score.

CreditLoan has been around since 1998 and we've helped more than 2 million customers manage their financial woes and realize their dreams, and we know we can help you too.

Visit our personal loans page in case you need access to funds in a hurry.

The Hack That Works

If you don't have a high enough credit score to get most credit cards, the shopping cart trick can help you get a new card

The shopping cart trick doesn't result in a hard pull that goes in your credit report or lower your score.

U.S. Shopping Cart Abandonment Rates 2018

If you prepare before you apply and follow the steps outlined here, you can greatly increase your chances of getting signed up for a new card.

And if at first, you don't succeed, try and try again.

Actually getting a card using the shopping card trick can take several attempts over the course of several weeks.

If you can't get a store card at the first store you apply to, try other stores.

Even if you're already accepted by your first retailer, try other stores if you want credit there and if you can handle the increased credit line and debt.

Do you need to build or repair your credit?

Have you tried this shopping cart trick before?

Do you know of other tips to get a new credit card for those with poor credit?

Feel free to share them in the comments below.

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