How to stop getting credit-card applications. (Insurance ones, too.)Posted by Donna Freedman on Jul 26, 2011 | 16 comments
It’s always fun to go through the mail after you return from a long trip. True, a lot of what’s piled up is junk mail and charitable solicitations, but you always hope for some good stuff.
Two months’ worth of envelopes were waiting when I got back from Alaska in mid-July. I did find a $39 check from Mr. Rebates (yay, cash-back shopping!) and a couple of paychecks from my Get Rich Slowly gig. But the haul was mostly, well, junk mail and charitable solicitations.
And credit card applications. Ten of them.
That startled me. True, I’d been getting one or two a week for quite some time – and for quite some time I’d been thinking, “Isn’t there a way to stop getting these things?” I’d vow to look it up, shred the apps and then instantly forget. They don’t call it mental-pause for nothing.
But 10 in a bunch got my attention. The sight of that stack of wasted paper pushed me to call the opt-out number, 1-888-567-8688. I could also have gone to www.optoutprescreen.com.
Both venues are run by the major credit reporting companies. That’s the least they can do, since they’re the ones responsible for all these prescreened/preapproved letters we keep getting from both credit card and insurance companies.
What, you thought this was random? Nope. According to the Federal Trade Commission, credit and insurance companies contact the credit bureaus to identify people who match their criteria.
All that prescreening/preapproving doesn’t hurt your credit, incidentally. But it can clog up your mailbox.
Can you opt out forever?
You can opt out for five years or for good. If you change your mind about either, it’s easy enough to reverse the process by using the resources noted above.
Perhaps out of superstition, I chose the five-year plan. Although my credit is good and I have all the plastic I need, a part of me still worries that I might some day need a card and be unable to get one.
Chalk that up to having grown up in the 1970s, when women had trouble getting credit and loans in their own names. As a single mom in Philadelphia I somehow managed to get a credit card from the late, great John Wanamaker. The place was pricey but it had a bargain basement – which really was in the basement – that sometimes had super-cheap clothes.
A year or so later I got married. As a dutiful South Jersey wife, I applied for an auxiliary card for my husband. The next bill we got was addressed not to me, or to the both of us, but to him. Grrrr.
Quit asking me!
Opting out through the toll-free number or website above doesn’t guarantee you’ll never again be bothered with unwanted credit or insurance apps. Religious and charitable groups, professional and alumni associations, local merchants and companies with whom you’re already affiliated may continue to contact you. To get rid of those queries, you’ll have to deal with each company directly.
Thus the company that handles my renter’s insurance will probably keep suggesting that I add car insurance, even though I gave away my car two years ago. Although I’d love to say I’ll handle each one as it comes up, time I get unwanted mail, I’m afraid that some may fall through the cracks the way the opt-out idea did.
It will take up to two months for the offers to stop coming, according to the recorded message on that 888 number. That’s frankly a little annoying. Having waited so long to do this, I want it to go away right now.
Too late. I got three more applications in the mail today.