The Genius Hack People With Bad Credit Use to Get Credit Cards

Missy Crystal

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“After reviewing your credit history, we regret to inform you…”

If you have fair or poor credit, you probably recognize these words. They’re basically a polite way of saying, “Sorry, your credit stinks. We don’t give people like you credit cards.”

Rejections can be frustrating, but don't give up hope just yet. Almost everyone gets approved using the shopping cart trick for Comenity bank credit cards. Yes, even if your FICO is below average or you have bad credit due to student loans or collections.

The shopping cart trick helped me rebuild my credit after a bankruptcy, but you can also use it to establish credit. I raised my FICO from 434 to 590 in less than a year, and it’s partly because of the shopping cart trick.

So, what exactly is the shopping cart trick?

The shopping cart trick is basically what it sounds like. You add merchandise to a digital cart, then head to the checkout and wait for a preapproval popup. With this trick, you can typically apply for a credit card using a soft credit pull rather than a hard credit check. A soft pull doesn’t ding your credit, but a hard pull does.

Preapproved applicants can get a credit card from popular stores like Victoria’s Secret, Pottery Barn, The Children’s Place, and Overstock using the shopping cart trick. Tons of others, too — I just listed the ones that are the easiest to get.

You generally can’t get a Visa or MasterCard using the shopping cart trick, but some people have lucked out and gotten them from Sportsman Guide and Total Rewards. Be careful with Total Rewards, though, as reports indicate the site may do a hard pull.

The shopping cart trick requires some practice. Make sure you follow the steps below if you’re hoping for a preapproval popup.

Here’s how the shopping cart trick works:

1) Open a private browser

Once your browser is open, visit a site that runs its credit card apps through Comenity Bank. You can find an updated list on the official Comenity site or read the fine print on credit card applications from your favorite stores.

Here are some retailers that offer Comenity credit cards, AKA shopping cart trick credit cards:

  • Victoria’s Secret (you can use this card at Bath and Bodyworks too — but only at brick-and-mortar B&B stores)
  • Overstock.com
  • Abercrombie and Fitch
  • Boscovs
  • Pottery Barn
  • Wayfair
  • HSN
  • The Children’s Place
  • Gamestop
  • Express

I’ve also seen reports of people getting cards from American Eagle using the shopping cart trick, but it's a bit trickier than some of Comenity's other cards.

2) Make sure you are using a private browser

I know I mentioned this already, but please double check. I like to use Incognito Mode on Chrome. The iPhone has private browsing options too, but I think it’s easier to do the shopping cart trick on a laptop or desktop PC. Clear your cookies or cache if you can’t figure out how to use a private browser.

The shopping cart trick works best if you’ve got your popup blocker and antispam settings deactivated. This temporarily puts your computer at risk, so proceed with caution if you go this route.

3) Add some stuff to your digital shopping cart

Take your time and browse for a bit if you want, but it doesn’t seem to make much of a difference as far as credit card approvals go. Make sure you add between $30 to $200 of stuff depending on your credit score and how big you want your line of credit to be.

When I had a 434 FICO, I figured I’d end up with credit lines around $250 to $350. I was right (with the exception of Pottery Barn — they gave me a whopping $750 credit line), so I didn’t add too much stuff. After all, Comenity Bank is hoping you’ll use your card right away, and they don’t want you to go crazy with it.

4) Visit the Checkout Screen

Hit “checkout”, “done,” “finished shopping,” or whatever button takes you to the payment section of the retailer’s website. Enter your information as if you’re planning to buy the stuff in your cart, but make sure it matches your credit report. If you don’t know what’s on your credit report, you can get a free copy from each of the 3 main bureaus once a year.

Your first and last name, address, telephone number, and even your email address should match your credit report. Here’s are some reasons why this gets tricky, though:

  • Each credit bureau might have different info for you, so you have to figure out which agency the card usually uses for a soft pull.
  • Your credit report might contain inaccurate information, such as an outdated address or phone number. You have to enter the old info to get a preapproval and then update your credit report when you get a chance.
  • Your credit report might contain a middle initial or middle name, but the retailer’s checkout might only have space for a first and last name.
  • You might have opted out for preapproved offers. If that’s the case, you need to opt back in before you can get the shopping trick to work for you.

Let’s pretend my name is Missy The Blogger on my credit reports. Sometimes I’d enter Missy T. Blogger to get the shopping cart trick to work. Other times, I’d have to type MissyT Blogger (no space between “Missy” and “T”) to get it to go through. I’ve heard some people have to type Missy TBlogger to get it work, but I haven’t personally tried that method.

Keep in mind you don’t have to enter your full Social Security Number when you get a preapproval notice. Soft pulls often work with just the last 4 digits of your Social Security Number, so there’s no need to give out your whole number. Some people enter 5 zeros followed by the last 4 digits of their Social Security numbers. Entering your entire number can result in a hard pull, and you don’t want that.

Also, applying for a card without receiving a preapproval popup is NOT what you want to do if you’re hoping for an approval using the shopping cart trick. I often get questions from people who want to know if they can just head straight to the credit card application and fill in their info. Nope, not if you want a preapproval!

Help — the shopping cart trick isn’t working for me!

Ugh. I know it’s frustrating when that happens, but you have to keep trying!

Sometimes it takes a few tries to figure out the right name, address, and phone number. You may also need to add or delete a few items from your shopping cart. Don’t forget to use a private browser and/or clear your cookies and cache.

What else do I need to know about the shopping cart trick?

You’re applying for credit cards, not gift cards — so don’t go crazy and apply for too many. One or two cards should be enough to get you started. After all, you have to make regular monthly payments on your cards if you want to improve your credit score. If you miss a payment, you’ll mess up your FICO even more. Please don’t do that to yourself.

My monthly payments for the Comenity Bank cards I got using the shopping cart trick range from $25 to $35 per month. Make sure you keep your utilization below 30% on each card or your FICO may suffer. My current credit utilization rate is somewhere around 5%. You may also find it helpful to pay off your cards in full each month, but some experts say it's best to keep a small balance on them.

About 6 months after I got my Comenity credit cards, I was able to get approved for cards from Capital One and Credit One. Keep in mind that I had a recently discharged bankruptcy that was less than a year old on my credit report, plus $30,000 in student loan debt that didn’t get discharged in the bankruptcy.

The shopping cart trick can help you repair your credit, but only if you use your cards responsibly. Don’t go on a spending spree, and pay your bills on time. Your financial future depends on the choices you make today.

Note: Credit card guidelines and credit repair hacks change frequently. The information above is accurate as of December 2020.

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Full-time mom, student, and writer. I cover everything from parenting and personal finance to relationships and health.

O Fallon, MO
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