DEAR BRUCE: Like many people, I'm sure, I keep getting in the mail those "you-have been-approved" credit card proposals, so I finally decided to apply. When I filled out the application and returned it to the issuer, I was declined because of some spotty credit issues. I don't understand how they can say you've been approved when, in fact, you haven't. Isn't that false advertising? — Reader, via email

DEAR BRUCE: Like many people, I'm sure, I keep getting in the mail those "you-have been-approved" credit card proposals, so I finally decided to apply. When I filled out the application and returned it to the issuer, I was declined because of some spotty credit issues. I don't understand how they can say you've been approved when, in fact, you haven't. Isn't that false advertising? — Reader, via email

DEAR READER: I think everyone who reads this column will know exactly what you're talking about, as I'm pretty sure that everyone old enough to have a job has received these solicitations. I, too, get a lot of them in the mail, and I just toss them. But if you were to read the fine print very carefully, while it says in the front that "you've been approved," on the back it says "subject to credit approval." Don't take it for granted that if it says preapproved, you will automatically receive credit. This is not the case.

Send your questions to Smart Money, P.O. Box 2095, Elfers, FL 34680. Send email to bruce@brucewilliams.com. Questions of general interest will be answered in future columns. Owing to the volume of mail, personal replies cannot be provided.