No matter how many times you move, you probably find your mailbox stuffed with credit card or loan offers nearly every single day. Sometimes they’re easy to spot based on the company name listed on the envelope, while other times you get tricked into opening one because of some official-looking text. Either way, it can be both stressful and annoying to constantly have to go through the piles of offers, decide which ones you actually need, and then figure out how to dispose of everything else.
The good news is that you don’t have to go through this cumbersome process anymore. You can actually opt out of receiving the majority of credit marketing offers so you can eliminate the burden of analyzing stacks of mail each day. Read on to find out where all of this junk mail comes from and what you can do to stop it from arriving.
Why do you receive so many credit marketing offers?
Creditors buy information about consumers from the major credit bureaus, including Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion. In addition to collecting your financial information to help lenders and credit card companies make decisions when evaluating your application, the bureaus also sell that same information to lenders and other creditors who want to send targeted offers to consumers.
They can tailor their offers based on specific credit criteria they know about you, including your credit score and anything else that appears on your credit report. Insurance companies can do the same thing to send you a new offer to try and tempt you to switch policies with them. The process might sound like a conflict of interest, but it’s perfectly legal according to the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA).
You might be pleasantly surprised to find out that the offers you receive are legitimately based off of your credit profile, especially if the terms look good and you’re in need of a new credit card or loan. Alternatively, you might not appreciate the fact that your personal financial information is being used to make other people money, especially when it comes from you taking out new lines of credit. There are both pros and cons that come along with these types of credit marketing offers, so keep reading and think about which ones hold a higher priority for you in your life.
Can opting out help prevent identity theft?
One of the most significant perks of opting out of credit marketing materials is preventing identity theft. It won’t be a cure-all situation, but it will help a lot. That’s because the safest way to dispose of unwanted and unused credit offers is to shred all of the corresponding paperwork. But most people don’t do that. Instead, you might just chuck the whole thing in the trash or rip it up a few times, at best. This makes it extraordinarily easy for an unscrupulous person to dig in the trash for credit card offers and fill out the information as if they were you. From there, they can open up a credit card account and enjoy spending without worrying about the bills. Why? Because they’re attached to your credit report! And if you don’t monitor your credit regularly, you could go months or even years without realizing that you have a fraudulent account open under your name.
It can take months and months of bureaucratic paperwork and hassle to track down the origins of the credit card and get all the negative information removed from your report. That’s why we always recommend a minimum of two simple steps for preventing identity theft: 1) opt out of credit offers and 2) check your credit report at least once a year. Remember, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.
What are the other advantages of opting out?
In addition to preventing identity theft and all of the damage that comes along with it, there are other benefits to opting out of credit marketing offers. To put it plainly, junk mail is annoying and it wastes your time. Imagine if you added up how many minutes a day you spent flipping through mail you don’t even want. Over a lifetime, it would end up being a huge amount of time. Plus, it creates unnecessary clutter in your house if you don’t have the chance to attend to those piles of envelopes right away. And think of all that paper and how many trees were cut down, money wasted on the supplies and postage and gas to deliver each of those envelopes. The amount of environmental and economical waste is huge. By opting out, you can save both natural and human resources while spending more of your own time doing the things you actually enjoy.
Another major advantage of opting out? You limit the amount of temptation to take out credit you don’t actually need. You might think that new rewards card looks amazing, but do you really need to be charging additional expenses? Probably not. Opting out helps keep your credit score in check because you’re not constantly peppered with credit requests, loan offers, refinancing options, and other nuisances.
What are the disadvantages of opting out?
At the same time, receiving credit offers in the mail can be helpful if you’re actively looking for a new credit card, loan, or insurance policy. This is especially true if you like to stay on top of the best offers. You’ll be provided with product choices and may even be given unique offers that aren’t available to the general public. According to those who send you these offers, you’ll enjoy the benefits of being able to better comparison shop, and you’ll potentially receive more buying power.
It’s also helpful because you should be able to get a better idea of valid offers for your credit profile. Since the creditors purchased your personal information, they have a general idea of what kind of terms and conditions you might qualify for. There’s no guarantee with a pre-approval until you go through the formal application process, but you can at least get a good idea of what to expect from creditors in general.
What’s the best way to find loan and credit card offers?
Since you can’t rely on getting approved for offers in the mail, or simply don’t want to deal with a mailbox full of them, you still need a way to get the best credit deals when it comes time to get a new card, loan, or insurance policy. The best way to get started is to find out your credit history. It’s easy to do by just visiting AnnualCreditReport.com. There you can either fill out an online form, mail in a request, or call to get your free credit reports. You won’t be able to see your actual credit score, but you can find out what pieces of information are influencing it.
You can get a free educational score from various websites like Credit Karma, just know that these types of scores use a different method than the more popular FICO score and VantageScore, so it might not be entirely correct. If you want the most accurate representation, you can order a single credit score directly from FICO or VantageScore for less than $20.
Knowing your credit score helps you understand what type of credit range you’re in. If you have good or excellent credit, you can shop around for prime offers from creditors. If you have average or poor credit, you may need to look for lenders and credit card companies that specialize in working with consumers who have less than perfect credit. We make it easy by providing reviews of the best lenders for each type of credit. You can then request a pre-approval from each one to compare loan terms. You can find similar reviews for credit cards on any of the top comparison sites. Pre-approvals typically only entail a soft inquiry on your credit report so you don’t have to worry about hurting your credit score until you actually submit an application.
How can you opt out of receiving credit card and loan offers?
If you decide that opting out of credit bureau information sharing is the best decision for you, it’s a very easy process. Whether you want to opt out of lists for pre-approved offers or direct marketing campaigns, you can remove your name from any marketing list compiled by a credit bureau by either visiting a website or making a phone call. In fact, a single phone number and website are endorsed by the Federal Trade Commission and have been created specifically for this purpose so you don’t have to contact each credit bureau separately. Here is the information you need:
Call 1-888-5-OPTOUT or 1-888-567-8688 to opt out by phone or visit www.optoutprescreen.com to opt out online.
If you prefer, you can also opt out directly through each of the credit bureaus. You can find their contact information here.
You’ll need to provide your current name, address, date of birth, and social security number. Since this information is so sensitive, make sure you’re on the right website or have called the right phone number before proceeding. If you opt out electronically, your request is only valid for five years. However, you can opt out permanently by sending a form in through the mail, which you can find online. You can always change your mind and opt back in through the website or phone number — it takes just a few moments.
Does opting out get rid of all junk mail and credit offers?
Unfortunately, opting out won’t solve all of your junk mail problems. You’ll still probably receive new offers from creditors you already do business with. For example, your credit card company might send you an offer for an upgraded card or your bank might try to get you to take out a personal loan. You can try to contact the creditor directly to get off their internal solicitation list, but there’s no guarantee it will work.
Other companies can also send blanket credit offers even without buying your information from a credit bureau. The opt-out request simply gets you off the bureaus’ lists, not anyone with access to the White Pages. All the same, you’ll see a noticeable reduction in the amount of junk mail you receive each day when you opt out, which can still be a huge relief.
How can you opt out of other types of junk mail and telemarketing phone calls?
The opt-out contact information listed above only works for offers that originate with the credit bureaus. But you still probably receive tons of other junk mail as well. Don’t worry, it’s possible to help lighten the load from those advertisements as well. You can do a five-year opt-out of mail ads by filling out the form at Direct Marketing Association. Again, this only applies to companies who work with DMA, so it won’t be the absolute end to junk mail. But it’s a great start to emptying your mailbox, especially when combined with the credit opt out.
If you receive lots of calls from telemarketers, you can also get taken off those lists as well. To do so, simply call 1-888-382-1222 or visit www.donotcall.gov. You can register one or more phone numbers to be placed on the Do Not Call list. Just remember that organizations like non-profits, political campaigns, and polling firms are still allowed to call you even if you’ve filled out these forms.
It might take a few minutes to contact each of these organizations to opt out of various offers. But that time is meager compared to how long you’ll save when you eliminate the hassle of overwhelming stacks of junk mail you bring inside every single day.