You get home from a long day of work, take a walk to the mailbox, and open it to discover a stack of unsolicited credit card offers. Sound familiar? Unless you’ve “opted out” from receiving “preapproved” offers, you likely see stacks of these credit card offers filling up your mailbox every week.
And like many other consumers, you may find yourself wondering:
- Why am I receiving these unsolicited offers?
- Are these offers bad for my credit?
- How did they get my name and address?
- Is there a way to stop receiving them?
Let’s take a quick look at the answers to these common questions, beginning with how you can opt out of these offers quickly and easily.
How Do I Opt Out of Prequalified Credit Card Offers?
First, a word of caution.
The credit card offers you get in the mail may be better than those you can get by simply applying on the issuer’s website. Opting out of these offers could cause you to miss out on valuable signup bonuses or favorable terms (like lower interest rates) that may not be available to the general public.
But if you’re not interested in adding any more credit cards to your wallet, then these offers of credit mean little more than the junk mail that might fill your digital inbox.
Here’s how you can stop direct-mail credit card offers in a matter of minutes.
If you have internet access, visit OptOutPrescreen.com and follow the instructions to find the opt-in/opt-out form (if you’d rather not use the web, you can make a toll-free phone call to 1-888-5-OPT-OUT [1-888-567-8688]).
You’ll be taken to an introductory screen that outlines the information you’ll need to opt in or out, and you’ll have three options to choose from:
- Opt in: Opting in enables you to receive pre-approved credit or insurance offers (if you’ve previously opted out).
- Electronic opt out for 5 years: If you choose only to opt out through the internet, you’ll receive no pre-approved offers for five years.
- Permanent opt out by Mail: If you’d like to opt out indefinitely, you have to print and mail the Permanent Opt Out Election form (you can opt back in later if you’d like).
Once you’ve selected the option you want, you’ll be taken to a form where you have to provide some basic personal information. This includes your name, Social Security number, date of birth, and address.
Then, confirm and submit your request, and that’s that. Here’s to a cleaner mailbox.
Why Do I Receive So Many Credit Card Offers in the Mail?
Now that we’ve worked through exactly how to keep the horde of credit card offers at bay, let’s discuss why you’re getting them in the first place.
The national credit bureaus — Equifax®, Experian™, and TransUnion® — collect a huge amount of information about millions upon millions of individuals. This kind of data is valuable, so they sell it to interested parties in many forms, from standard credit reports to prescreened lists of people that satisfy certain requirements.
Credit card companies (as well as all sorts of other lenders and merchants) get very excited about this type of in-depth personal data, because it helps them identify the consumers that will best benefit their businesses.
So they turn to the nation’s consumer credit bureaus to find it.
Often, credit card issuers will provide a selection of criteria that describes the consumers they’d like to target. The credit bureau will then whip up a list of people who meet the outlined criteria, and those are the folks who receive pre-approved credit card offers.
Are Preapproved Credit Card Offers Worth My Time?
Preapproved card credit offers can actually be very useful. While the flood of envelopes flaunting promises of exclusive offers may be annoying, you could very well luck out and score a great deal on a new credit card that complements your spending habits.
So, once again, take a moment to think before you simply toss your offers in the trash and zip over to the opt-out website.
However, if a preapproved offer does catch your eye, don’t be too quick to apply.
Be sure to consider whether you’re truly ready for another credit card.
- Have you developed strong debt management habits?
- Are you already carrying debt you can’t immediately pay off?
- Are you an impulsive spender?
These are all things to consider before you take up an issuer’s generously personalized offer.
Plus, getting a preapproved credit card offer doesn’t mean you’re guaranteed approval when you apply. If your credit has changed significantly since the issuer got your information, for example, you may no longer be eligible.
Other possible reasons for denial could include inadequate income (your income isn’t shown on credit reports) or an inability to verify your personal information.
Finally, remember that eligibility for preapproved offers is determined through soft credit inquiries.
If you respond to an offer and apply for a card, the issuer will still have to conduct a hard inquiry to make sure you’re a dependable borrower. This can cause a very slight drop in your credit scores, but the impact should be minimal, and it’s a small price to pay for a credit card that suits your lifestyle just right.