What’s The Shopping Cart Trick and How Does It Work?

Online shopping / ecommerce and retail sale concept : Shopping cart, delivery van, credit card, world globe logo on a laptop keyboard, depicts customers order things from retailer sites using internet.
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Suppose your credit history is not so stellar and hard credit inquiries would only make matters worse. Hard credit inquiries may remain on your credit report for about two years and can negatively affect your credit score. Soft credit inquiries usually won’t affect your credit score.

The Difference Between Hard and Soft Credit Inquiries

Hard credit inquiries are also known as hard credit checks or hard pulls and generally happen when financial institutions check your credit to make a lending decision about your creditworthiness. Typically, you have to authorize them.

On the other hand, soft credit inquiries, also called soft credit checks or soft pulls, happen when a person’s credit is pulled — sometimes without their permission — to see if they qualify for certain credit card offers.

Why Should You Try the Shopping Cart Trick?

Stores typically require soft credit inquiries for customers to get approved for their store credit cards when you shop with them online, but it is difficult to know for sure.

To avoid hard credit inquiries, some shoppers have found success using the shopping cart trick online as well as shopping at stores in person. Keep reading to find out what the shopping cart trick is, how to use it and if you could try it out yourself.

Get Credit Card Perks

What Exactly Is the Shopping Cart Trick?

The shopping cart trick is a technique that shoppers use to get pre-approved for credit card offers while checking out on a store’s website. This method could be considered an unconventional way of getting a new credit card, as not all online retailers offer it.

How To Use the Shopping Cart Trick

The shopping cart trick is actually easy to use, but you might want to prepare the following before you begin.

Setting Up

  1. Be sure to opt into pre-approved credit offers by providing your personal information and preferences at OptOutPreScreen.com. This website is the official Consumer Reporting Industry location to accept or reject firm offers of credit or insurance.
  2. Remove pop-up blockers from your web browser. Pop-up blockers prevent annoying, unwanted pop-ups — usually ads — from appearing on your computer screen.

Start Shopping and Use the Shopping Cart Trick

  1. Log on to a website where you like to shop and want to apply for a store credit card.
  2. Search for the items that you want to purchase and add them to your shopping cart. The goal is typically to add at least $100 in merchandise to your order.
  3. Go to checkout, but don’t click to purchase the items.
  4. Instead, type in your billing information, and you should see the store’s credit card offer pop-up.
  5. If the offer doesn’t pop up immediately, continue shopping and adding more items to your cart.
  6. Repeat the checkout process until the offer appears.
  7. If you still don’t get the credit card offer pop-up after trying a few times, clear your browser history and cookies.
  8. Try again using an incognito web browser.
  9. When you see the credit card offer, click on the pop-up and complete the application. Accept the offer only if it does not need your full Social Security number. If they need your full Social Security number, exit out of the application.
  10. Enter the last four digits of your Social Security number, then continue and complete the application.
  11. Once approved, you will be redirected to the checkout page.
  12. Cancel the purchase and wait to receive your new store credit card in the mail.
Get Credit Card Perks

Who Should Use the Shopping Cart Trick?

For those who have less than stellar credit, the shopping cart trick may offer a chance at applying for some of the most lucrative offers or best bank credit cards that are often difficult to get approved for. Some examples are the Citi Double Cash Card, Chase Sapphire Preferred Card and American Express Gold Card, then you might want to try your hand.

If you have an exceptional (800-850), very good (740-799) or even good (670-739) credit score, then applying for a store credit card using the shopping cart trick is probably not for you.

Why the Shopping Cart Trick Could Be a Good Option:

  • You have several credit inquiries on your credit report
  • You have a fair (580-669) or poor (300-579) credit score
  • You have no credit history or a negative credit history
  • You have filed for bankruptcy

Pros and Cons of Using the Shopping Car Trick

See what are some of the benefits and drawbacks from using this trick and how it might affect your particular situation.

Get Credit Card Perks


  • You probably already shop at many of the stores that allow the shopping cart trick, which means that you can also take advantage of loyalty discounts, coupons and other promotional offers.
  • If it works, you can potentially improve your credit score.
  • Approval is more likely because the credit card issuer will not see your complete credit history on your application.
  • You can avoid a hard pull on your credit report.
  • You can add a good standing account to your credit report.


  • The new store card will still appear on your credit report and will temporarily lower your credit score.
  • You may get pre-approved for a store credit card, but the shopping cart trick might not actually work to get you fully approved.
  • Avoiding a hard credit pull is not guaranteed.
  • You could forget to opt yourself back out of pre-approved credit card offers and find your mailbox full of junk mail in the near future.
  • You must also remember to turn your pop-up blocker back on to prevent unwanted pop-ups from taking up real estate on your computer screen.

Does the Shopping Cart Trick Really Work?

If an online shopping trick credit card offer pop-up requires you to enter your full social security number, then it will more than likely be a hard credit inquiry, which you will want to avoid.

What Companies Are Compatible With the Shopping Card Trick?

Three main companies offer credit cards compatible with the shopping card trick: Comenity, Synchrony and Wells Fargo. There are many stores that offer credit cards issued by these entities. Some popular stores include:

Our in-house research team and on-site financial experts work together to create content that’s accurate, impartial, and up to date. We fact-check every single statistic, quote and fact using trusted primary resources to make sure the information we provide is correct. You can learn more about GOBankingRates’ processes and standards in our editorial policy.

About the Author

Kathy Evans is a personal finance freelance writer and entrepreneur with a technical writing and instructional systems design background. She holds an MS in technical writing and informational design and is currently a doctoral student in instructional technology at Towson University. Through work experience in the federal government as well as commercial and nonprofit industries, she has focused her freelance writing on finance, investing and economic content with a specialization in budget coaching.  

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