Do This One Thing to Stop Pre-Approved Credit Cards Sent in the Mail
America loves credit cards. According to data from the Federal Reserve and U.S. Census Bureau, approximately 72% of American consumers – or 167 million Americans – have at least one credit card. However, even with all of these millions of cards already in people’s wallets, credit card issuers are constantly trying to get us to apply for more credit cards. You might feel like your mailbox is clogged with thick envelopes full of offers to apply for pre-screened credit cards. But what do these offers really mean? Can they hurt your credit? And what can you do to stop pre-approved credit cards sent in the mail?
Pre-screened Does Not Really Mean Pre-approved
Many of the pre-approved credit cards sent in the mail come with flattering language on the envelopes saying that you’re already “pre-approved” or “pre-screened” or “pre-selected” for a new credit card account. Like a lot of marketing language, this is not entirely true! Credit card companies typically create a mailing list of prospective customers for these offers based on a basic background check – they look at your credit score, borrowing history, and other relevant personal details. Usually the credit card companies get their mailing lists by purchasing customer data from credit bureaus – and then they use this information to decide which customers are a good fit to receive new offers of credit.
But even though you might fit the initial “screening,” that doesn’t mean you’ll actually get “approved” for a new credit card. These offers are not a guarantee of credit – they’re an invitation to apply.
Pre-approved Credit Cards Sent in the Mail Don’t Affect Your Credit Score
“But wait,” you’re thinking – “if the credit card companies have looked at my credit history, does that mean that they’ve pulled my credit? Doesn’t that hurt my credit score?”
According to this article from CreditCards.com, in general, credit card companies only check your credit on a “limited use” basis when they are deciding whether to send you a prescreened offer. This is known as a “soft inquiry” – it means that during that early stage of the process, the credit card company does not actually obtain your credit score or pull a credit report – instead, they get a list of customers from the credit bureau who meet certain criteria. But this is more of a preliminary research step, and it does not affect your credit score.
However, if you decide to actually respond to a pre-approved credit cards sent in the mail by applying for credit, this will affect your credit score, as you will have go through the process of applying for credit and getting your credit report accessed and reviewed. This is called a “hard inquiry,” and it does reduce your credit score by a few points, but only for a year.
How to Stop Pre-approved Credit Cards Sent in the Mail
Pre-screened credit card offers don’t affect your credit score, but they can still be annoying. Maybe you’re tired of being bombarded with credit card offers every time you open the mailbox, or maybe you’re specifically trying to cut back on credit card spending and you need to remove the source of temptation to apply for new cards. Or maybe you want to reduce the risk of identity theft – thieves could steal your mail and apply for credit under your name, without you knowing about it until it’s causing problems for your financial reputation.
With that in mind, there is a quick and easy way to opt out of pre-screened credit card offers: Sign up for OptOutPrescreen.com
This website is the official tool – used by Equifax, Experian, Innovis, and TransUnion – for consumers to opt-in or opt-out of “firm offers” of credit or insurance (the types of “pre-screened” credit offers you see in the mail). By signing up to opt-out on this site, you can stop receiving firm offers for five years (via the website) or permanently (by printing and mailing a form that is available through the website).
The site is easy to use and is the official, legitimate source for the consumer credit reporting industry to process these applications. So if you’re tired of getting pre-screened credit card offers in the mail, “opt out” today!