Every year credit card companies spend millions to mail out preapproved credit card offers. And even though the number of mailings has dropped during the past few years, the most recently reported numbers show that credit card issuers mailed out 260 million offers — that’s for one month. The reason? They want your business, especially consumers who have good credit.
With 0% interest for 12-18 months and 0% balance transfer incentives, the preapproved credit card offers are often quite tempting. That’s because credit card companies know that once they get your business there’s a really good chance that you’ll keep the card for a long time. And with any luck, you’ll become a lifelong card member.
Prescreened Junk Mail
These preapproved offers are also known in the industry as “prescreened” offers and they’re not limited to credit card companies. Insurance companies, mortgage lenders, real estate agencies or any company that identifies you as an ideal fit for their product can send you a prescreened offer. In most cases, these companies purchase a prescreen list directly from the credit reporting agencies to reach their target customers. Depending on the product they’re offering, they’ll ask the credit reporting agency to give them a list of consumers that meet their marketing criteria — things like a minimum credit score or whether or not you have a mortgage, for example. The reporting agencies will then compile a “prescreen” list with consumers that meet their requirements and if your name is on the list, chances are you’ll end up with a piece of unsolicited marketing mail — some might call it “junk mail” — in your mailbox.
If you’re in the market for a credit card, or a mortgage, or a new gym membership — or, you get the idea — these mailings are timely and convenient. If you’re not, they become unwanted clutter in your mailbox. And let’s face it, with the advancement of technology, most of us would just as soon hop online to compare credit card offers, mortgage rates or gym memberships. If you want to drastically cut down on these mailings — and save a tree in the process — the Fair Credit Reporting Act gives you the right to “opt out” and have your name removed from these prescreened lists.
[Related Article: The Pocket Guide to Your Credit Rights]
To “opt out” of prescreen offers and remove yourself from unsolicited marketing mailings, visit www.optoutprescreen.com or call 1-888-5OPTOUT (1-888-567-8688). You’ll have two options — you can opt out for five years, or you can opt out permanently. To opt out for five years, simply follow the instructions online or call the toll-free number. To opt out permanently, you’ll need to sign and return a Permanent Opt-Out Election form as part of the online request process.
Opt out requests are processed within five days but it may take a month or two before you see a difference in prescreen marketing offers in your mailbox.
Opting out won’t necessarily eliminate all marketing offers, but it will significantly reduce the amount of marketing offers that do end up in your mailbox. You may continue to receive offers from companies or businesses you already have relationships with — if you’re a current or previous customer, for example. This also includes any professional organizations, charity groups or alumni associations that you may be a part of. In these cases, you’ll remain on their lists unless you contact each entity directly to be removed.
[Credit Cards: Research and compare credit cards at Credit.com]
If You Change Your Mind
Rest assured, if you change your mind about receiving prescreened offers, opting back in is just as easy. To have your name added back to the prescreen lists, simply visit the same optoutprescreen.com website — or call the toll-free number at 1-888-567-8688, to get back on the lists.
Image: <rs> snaps, via Flickr