So A Guy Walks Into A Bank - and hears “Well hello and welcome to the bank! Would you like to open a credit card with us today?” The customer says yes, submits an application, and is rejected. That’s not a very good joke or customer experience.

However, customers at other banks may hear something like, “Thank you for coming in today. While your deposit is processing, I wanted to tell you that you’ve been approved for our low-interest credit card. Would you like to open this account?” This is called an instant prescreen offer. Instant prescreen offers are presented at the point of contact with a bank; this can be in the branch, online, through a mobile app, or even when a bank customer calls a call center. When these offers are presented, you, the customer, have already been approved for the account.

These offers may sound very similar to the credit card offers that frequently come in the mail. These are called batch prescreen offers and the big difference between the two is the nature of the offer. Instant prescreen offers are made at the point of contact, on an individual basis, and when the customer is made the offer, the terms presented (“you’ve been approved for…”) are the terms you will actually get. With batch prescreen offers, every consumer that fits a minimum set of criteria is made an offer. Even if a customer accepts the offer, the bank or financial services provider has to analyze the consumer information again, and the terms may be changed or the application may not even be approved.

What is the lesson out of all of this? As a consumer, when you are presented with an offer for any financial product, carefully investigate whether the terms presented are what you will actually receive or if they are conditional on another round of analysis. By asking simple questions, you will be informed about what exactly the product is beforehand, rather than being surprised later if changes are made.


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