The Checkout

Opting Out of Unsolicited Credit Card Offers

Stuck at home in the snow on Sunday, I decided to follow my own advice and check out one of my credit reports. I followed the normal process, visiting the Web site where people can get a free report from each of the three major credit bureaus annually. All went smoothly and, fortunately, there were no unpleasant surprises.

However, I have to admit that each time I download one of my credit reports, I'm always stunned by how many companies have contacted a credit bureau seeking information about me--"prescreening" my credit history to see if I qualify for a new credit card account or insurance policy. You don't have to have a good credit history to get a prescreened offer; companies often ask for people who fit a certain criteria, and that could be for creditworthy people as well as those with lots of debt or late payments.

There is an easy way to eliminate a lot of these prescreened or prequalified offers. I haven't taken advantage of this route because, as consumer reporter, I like to know what kinds of promotions are out there. But if you don't want those offers coming in your mail, then you should consider "opting out." You can do so by calling the toll-free number: 1-888-5-OPTOUT (1-888-567-8688) or visit the opt-out Web site. Both the telephone number and the Web site are operated by the major credit bureaus. You'll be asked to provide certain personal information, including your home telephone number, Social Security number and date of birth. It's all confidential. You'll also be given a choice to opt out for five years or permanently.

Should you opt out? The Federal Trade Commission answers that and some other questions in a fact sheet, noting that you may want to continue receiving solicitations if you're in the market for a new credit card or insurance. Prescreened offers can help you learn what's available and sometimes the prescreened offers are more favorable than those made to the general public.

If you decide you want to opt out, it may take 60 days before the solicitations stop flooding your mailbox. But be forewarned: The only ones to be stopped are those that use your credit history. There will probably still be plenty of others--from charities, local merchants, professional and alumni groups, etc. In other words, your mailbox will probably never be empty.

By  |  February 14, 2006; 5:48 AM ET Consumer Tips
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Comments

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Thank you so much for that link. I must get 2-3 credit card offers a day.

Posted by: Ed | February 14, 2006 9:56 AM

Thanks for the link. I checked my credit report recently and I also received my FICO score. The score wasn't bad but it could of been great. One of the negative comments was that I had too many inquiries into my credit history. Most were not initiated by me. Does that affect the interest rate I might be offered on a mortgage?

Posted by: Mindy | February 14, 2006 10:12 AM

Excellent, thanks for the tip. I tear up a dozen or so offers every month - the Capital One offers are most persistent, and annoying, because they actually offer, as an inducement to take the card, that they'll stop sending me mailings... Flip that around and it's a threat - either take the card, or you'll never see an empty mailbox again.

Posted by: Robert | February 14, 2006 10:24 AM

I question how good this opt-out website actually works. Two years ago my wife and I utilized this website to permanently opt out of all pre-screened offers. Two years later we still get loads of prescreened offers, beyond even the alumni association credit careds, etc. I would say that doing this temporarily reduced our load of preapproved offers, but two years later, its right back where it was. It makes me wonder if the "opt out" is really just just a load of B.S.

Posted by: Josh | February 14, 2006 11:32 AM

I loved this article. This morning I looked at my 3 credit reports (still looking peachy :-),"permanently" removed my name from lists, and even signed up for DMA list removal. Thanks for this information!!!

Posted by: Queen A | February 14, 2006 12:04 PM

I have three adult children who still have the home address as their address of record. Often, I get the same credit offer, adressed to each of us, from the same company, arriving at the same time. While I wait for OPT OUT to take effect, here is an annoying way to GET SOME REVENGE. Open each offer, take out the postage prepaid envelope inside, stuff all of the contents into that envelope (including the original envelope) seal it, and mail it back to them! They get to pay 39 cents to get their junk back !!!

Posted by: Gary | February 14, 2006 12:31 PM

Thanks for the link to remove unsolicited credit card offers. My husband and I receive at least 10 offers a week. Apart from taking care of our problems, this link will also reduce paper wastage.

Another link for reducing junk mail is
www.stopjunkmail.org . We have just signed up, so I can't vouch for how well it works, but its worth a try.

Posted by: Shilpi | February 14, 2006 2:20 PM

I did this several years ago, and it seems to "wear off" if you move. I need to do it again now that I have settled into a house, but as soon as my address would change, the offers would start showing again.

Posted by: Colette | February 14, 2006 3:37 PM

One gripe I have about the credit report site is that by the time you actually read the disclaimer for one of the reporting bureaus, your session has "timed out" and you aren't able to continue with the request. But aren't you supposed to read the disclaimer BEFORE checking the box that says you have read the disclaimer?

And they really should have the disclaimer in a bigger pop-up box or readable area. There are three lines of about 40 characters each. For a two-page disclaimer, that is a lot of scrolling.

My suggestion, now that I have had some experience, is to copy the disclaimer to a word processor for printing and immediately leave the site so that you can come back later and actually request the report.

Posted by: Robert | February 15, 2006 9:34 AM

I just got a new phone number and have not yet given it to anyone. I am getting telemarketing calls, but I just received a horrible one that was deceptive. The recording made it sound like this call was about an existing credit card, when I know it wasn't. I could push 1 to talk to them or 3 to "end these notifications." I pushed 3 and was immediately cut off. My point is that this phone call is like the "phishing" emails that might convince some people that this phone call is legit. Horrible practice.

Posted by: Melissa | February 15, 2006 3:21 PM

Thanks for the article. A few points about it would make a good start at an educational/informative piece for our credit union members.

Posted by: Natasha | March 2, 2006 1:05 PM

Last week's issue of 'Time' magazine (3/20/06) included an article in which they published the OptOutPrescreen.com URL. The site's server has been out of action since. Must be millions of 'Time' readers who decided en masse to Opt Out.

Such is the power of the pen!

Posted by: Dan | March 22, 2006 8:06 PM

You are right on the money with this one. Well said!

Oscar DeMaria

http://www.creditbureauslists.com

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