The Shopping Cart Trick: How to Get Store Credit Cards Without a Hard Inquiry

Nicolas Cesare  | 

What Is the Shopping Cart Trick?

The “shopping cart trick” is a way to trigger pre-approval for store credit cards. Getting pre-approval helps you to avoid a hard inquiry on your credit, which can save you from taking the hit to your credit score that comes with hard inquiries. Your credit will still be checked, but pre-approval offers only use a soft inquiry, which does not impact your credit score. The shopping cart trick can help someone with a lower credit score get a credit card, because many store credit cards have lower pre-approval thresholds than regular credit cards, and won’t look deeper into credit history before making the offer.

What Are Store Credit Cards?

Some credit cards are offered directly through major credit card companies. This includes names like Visa, MasterCard, or American Express. A regular credit card can be used to make purchases at any retailer that works with the credit card company behind your card. However, store credit cards can only be used to make purchases through a particular store. They are almost more like gift cards than credit cards in this sense, except that they are backed by a line of credit rather than pre-loaded with a certain cash value..

Some store credit cards are co-branded, meaning that they are branded with the store and operate through  a major credit card network. These credit cards can be used at any retailer, but they will sometimes be accompanied by unique rewards and benefits when used at their home store.

Why Should I Do the Shopping Cart Trick?

You will want to do this if your credit score is too low to qualify you for other credit cards, or you just want to protect your credit score from a hard inquiry, or both. Not everyone will benefit from the shopping card trick, but those are the two main motivations people have for trying it. Store credit cards are usually easier to get than a regular credit card, and by qualifying for pre-approval, you can get started on the way to getting your own store credit card.

Since store credit cards skip the hard inquiry and often have lower credit score requirements, they’re a better option than secured credit cards for people with bad credit or no credit history at all. By getting a pre-approval for a store credit card, you can start building your credit even if a major credit card company won’t give you a card yet.

The shopping cart trick can also be useful if you do a lot of your shopping at a particular store. Pre-approval offers earned through the shopping cart trick can sometimes come with sign-up incentives, such as $20 off of your current order. Using the shopping cart trick can allow you to take advantage of such offers without hurting your credit score. Store credit cards can also allow you to earn additional credit card rewards for shopping at their home store.

How To Do the Shopping Cart Trick

If you’ve done much online shopping, then you’ve probably already seen plenty of offers for store credit cards. The key to the shopping cart trick is to trigger one of these offers right away, instead of leaving it up to chance whether or not you get one. Here’s what you can to to maximize your chances of getting a store credit card offer:

Make Sure That You Aren’t Opting Out

Too many credit card offers can become annoying. If they’ve bothered you in the past, then you may have opted out from receiving such offers through www.optoutprescreen.com or by calling the number 1-888-5-OPT-OUT. If you’ve opted out in the past, then you’ll need to opt back in through the website, or over the phone, in order to receive credit card offers through the shopping cart trick.

Allow Pop-Ups and Clear Browsing History

Credit card offers can sometimes appear as pop-ups, so if you have an ad blocker that disables pop-up windows, you’re less likely to receive store credit card offers in checkout. Make sure to disable your ad blocker and clear your browser history, cache, and cookies before trying the shopping cart trick. This will give you the best blank slate possible with which to receive an offer.

Create an Account

Go to the site that you want to receive an offer from, and either log in to your existing account, or create a new one. Make sure that the address you have for this website is that same address that the three major credit reporting bureaus have on file for you.

Fill Your Cart

Now you’re ready to try the shopping cart trick. Fill your cart up with some items — don’t worry about what, you don’t have to buy them — and start on your way through the checkout process. If the retailer wants to offer you a credit card, then you should encounter a pop-up or in-browser offer for a store credit card at some point during the checkout process.

If you get to the point where you’re ready to confirm your purchase and you still haven’t received an offer, then it’s time to abort. You can try again later or move on to another retailer.

If you do receive an offer, then it’s time to complete your application. However, make sure that you’ve been pre-approved and you’re not just getting a regular old credit card offer. Only pre-approved offers will skip the hard inquiry.

Shopping Cart Trick Stores

Most store credit card offers go through one of three banks: Comenity Bank, Synchrony Bank, or Wells Fargo. Here are some store credit cards associated with each bank:

Comenity Bank

Synchrony Bank

Wells Fargo

Shopping Card Trick Not Working? Here’s Why

If the shopping card trick is not working for you, here’s a few things to troubleshoot before you try again:

  • Is your address on the retailer’s website the same as the address on your credit report? Retailers will use this address to make a soft inquiry on your credit, so if it’s not correct they probably won’t consider sending you a pre-approved store credit card offer.
  • Does the online retailer that you’re shopping through offer pre-approval for store credit cards? Check the list above to see where the shopping cart trick will work.
  • Is your credit score high enough for a pre-approved store credit card? Store credit cards are more forgiving when it comes to credit score, but if your credit score is very low and you’re trying the shopping cart trick, you may want to repair your credit first.

The shopping cart trick can allow you to trigger pre-approved store credit card offers through your favorite online retailers. Getting one of these offers can be a good thing if you’re having trouble getting approved for regular credit cards, or you’d like to earn the additional credit card rewards from a retailer that you frequent.


Image Source: https://depositphotos.com/

Nick Cesare is a writer from Boise, ID. In his free time he enjoys rock climbing and making avocado toast.

This post was updated June 13, 2018. It was originally published June 14, 2018.