When your credit rating is stellar, chances are you’ll get approved for just about any credit card you want assuming everything else checks out. But what if you’ve had a few missteps that caused your finances and credit to suffer? That’s when you have to be a bit more strategic about which credit cards to apply for to minimize worthless dings to your already mangled credit score.
Fortunately, there’s an easy way to begin mending your credit without paying a credit repair company hundreds or thousands of dollars. It’s called the “shopping cart trick” and offers a risk-free alternative for credit repair. And don’t worry if you’re unfamiliar with the term or concept. Read on to learn more about how the “shopping cart trick” works, best practices when trying it out, and how to identify stores that you’ll have the highest approval odds with.
How the Shopping Cart Trick Works
In a nutshell, the shopping cart trick is a way to get approved for a credit card at checkout when shopping online with your favorite retailers. But why not apply before you begin shopping? The idea is to snag the credit card without having to undergo a credit screening that will result in a hard pull.
Soft Credit Pull
To piggyback off the last point, the shopping cart trick allows you to undergo a soft credit pull to render a decision. But what’s the big deal? For starters, most credit card companies conduct hard credit pulls, or comprehensive reviews of your credit history, each time you apply for credit.
Unfortunately, they result in a decrease between 3 and 5 points and remain on your credit report for two years. The impact only lasts for six to 12 months, but your score could take a big hit for a brief period if you apply for several credit cards at once or in a short span of time. But soft credit pulls are limited in scope and do not impact your credit score.
Could Boost Your Credit Score
Assuming the shopping cart trick works and you’re approved, your score could start to improve relatively quickly. How so? Your credit utilization, which factors into amounts owed and accounts for 30 percent of your credit score, will decrease. (Word of caution: if you max the card out right away, you won’t derive this benefit).
To illustrate, assume you have four credit cards with $500 limits. The balances are as follows:
- Card #1: $150
- Card #2: $300
- Card #3 $450
- Card #4: $100
Your current credit utilization is 50 percent ($1,000 in outstanding balances / $2,000 credit limit).
If you use the shopping cart trick and are approved for another $500 card, your utilization will drop to 40 percent if you refrain from using the new card or pay off any purchases you make right away.
Bonus Tip: Keep in mind that you want to keep your credit utilization ratio at 30 percent or lower to have the highest possible credit score.
Unlocks the Door to Special Incentives and Promotional Offers from the Retailer
Most retailers invite online shoppers to sign up for their mailing list to have deals sent directly to their inbox on a consistent basis. But the most lucrative offers are typically reserved for credit cardholders.
An Important Drawback to Consider
Unfortunately, the shopping cart trick could put you at risk for damaging your credit score even more. How so? Well, if you apply with multiple stores and are approved, you’ll have several new credit cards in your arsenal. And unless you’re disciplined enough to pay the cards off each month or not use them altogether, you could find yourself in even more debt than you were before.
This means your credit utilization will increase, which lowers your credit score. And you also run the risk of tarnishing your payment history, which accounts for 35 percent of your credit score, if the monthly minimum payments become unaffordable and the cards fall into default.
How to Use the Shopping Cart Trick
Using the shopping cart trick to get approved for a retail credit card is much easier than you think.
Step 1: Visit OptOutPrescreen.com
If you’ve already opted-in to pre-screened offers, you can skip this step. Otherwise, take a second to visit optoutprescreen.com and answering the necessary questions. Doing so will allow you to be eligible for pre-approved credit card offers.
Prefer to handle this by phone? Simply call 1-888-567-8688 and indicate that you’d like to be opted-in to receive prescreened offers.
Step 2: Enable Pop-Up Ads
While pop-up advertisements are quite annoying, you’ll need to enable them if you want the shopping cart trick to work. All you have to do is disable your pop-up blocker and you’re all set. And as soon as you’re done using the shopping cart trick, you’re free to enable the pop-up blocker once again.
Step 3: Delete Your Browsing History
You’ll also want to delete your browser history, which entails deleting your cache and cookies, for the shopping cart trick to be effective. The easiest way to do so is by using your menu bar to locate “History” or by pressing the “CTRL and H” buttons simultaneously.
Once your browsing history appears on the screen, select “Clear Browsing Data” and be sure to check off the following boxes:
- Browsing history
- Cookies and other site data
- Cached images and files
Prefer not to clear your browser history? Use an incognito tab, which can be opened by selecting the “CTRL, Shift and N” buttons.
Step 4: Narrow Down Your List of Retailers
Since this trick may not work with every retailer on your list, you want to be strategic with where you apply. So be sure to review the list of stores below that give you the best chance of getting approved using the shopping cart trick.
Step 5: Visit the Retailer’s Website to Apply
The final step is to visit the retailer’s website to test the shopping cart trick out. Here’s what you’ll need to do:
- Create an account (if you don’t already have one) or choose to shop as a guest. It’s entirely up to you.
- Select 3 to 10 items that will get you to a total of at least $100. (You won’t be purchasing the items; the goal is to put yourself in the best possible position for the shopping cart trick to work).
- Head to the checkout page and slowly input your billing information. The keyword here is “slowly” as you want to allow an ample amount of time for a credit card offer to appear.
- Apply by completing the short questionnaire, empty out the shopping cart, and exit out of the site as your mission is now complete.
- If an offer does not pop up, return to the drawing board and switch up some of the items in your cart until you have success. But if your efforts still don’t pay off, ditch the retailer for another one or try again some other time.
Word of Caution: Only apply at stores that don’t require you to input your full Social Security number. If they do, that’s a sign that they’ll do a hard pull on your credit, and that’s what you’re trying to avoid.
Best Retailers to Use the Shopping Cart Trick
Comenity Bank Retail Store Credit Cards
Abercrombie & Fitch
Bath & Body Works
King Size Direct
New York & Company
Synchrony Retail Store Credit Card
Wells Fargo Retail Store Credit Cards
Should You Use the Shopping Cart Trick?
The shopping cart trick may be worthwhile if you’re looking for a credit card, but can’t quite get approved because your score is low. This could be a result of negative payment history, bankruptcy, excessive credit inquiries, or little to no credit history. Regardless of the reason for your low credit score, you could still get approved.
By contrast, if your credit score is up to par, you’ll derive more benefits from a credit card that offers incentives, like a promotional APR period, travel rewards, or cashback. Why so? Retail cards tend to have higher interest rates and offer little to no incentives beyond the initial discount on your first purchase. So it’s more sensible to open a credit card that allows you to shop wherever you please while earning rewards or cashback.
Viable Alternatives to the Shopping Cart Trick
Is the shopping cart trick not quite working out? Give a secured credit card a try.
Secured Credit Card
Secured credit cards are designed for credit newbies or those looking to rebuild their credit rating. They work like traditional credit cards, but the key difference is that you’ll need to make a deposit that’s equal to the credit limit for the card to be activated. Those funds will be held in an account by the credit card issuer until you close the account or the card is converted to an unsecured product.
The credit card issuer will report activity to the credit bureaus, which will boost your payment history (assuming you make timely payments each month). And if you keep the balance low, you’ll also boost your credit utilization ratio, which also improves your credit rating.
The Bottom Line
The shopping cart trick is an ideal way to help rebuild your credit without spending a fortune. But be sure to manage your retail card(s) responsibly to avoid digging yourself into a debt hole you can’t get out of. And if all else fails, try out a secured credit card to get back on your feet.