Your mailbox is stuffed with them, and they’re probably some of the only real mail you get. Mailed credit card offers have become more common in the years since the 2008 financial crisis and recession. It seems like banks are some of the few businesses that still market by postal mail, but why do they do this? And if you’ve noticed you’re seeing a lot more of these offers in your mailbox recently, what’s the reason?
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Explaining Mail Offers
Mailed credit card offers are really just advertisements for credit cards.
Marketing through the mail used to be much more popular than it is today. As better, more engaging marketing techniques have become preferred with the rise of technology, this method of advertising products to potential customers has lost some of its appeal.
However, this shift has given banks and lenders an advantage in the mail-marketing channel: exclusivity. Since you don’t receive many offers in the mail, the ones you do receive are likely to get more of your attention.
The kind of messages you receive from lenders depends on your credit score. Lenders purchase names from credit reporting agencies, which don’t always give away information about your exact score but do give lenders an estimate of what your score looks like.
Two Types of Offers
Lenders use two different ways of advertising credit cards in mailed offers, depending on whether you have good or bad credit. Each method focuses on a unique benefit to the customer to whom the ad is tailored.
If you have poor credit, sometimes the offer might seem less like an ad and more like an exclusive benefit or service the lender is offering you. These offers usually use the term “pre-approved,” which may seem enticing if you’re struggling to build credit. However, even if you’re “prescreened” or have been “pre-approved,” there’s no guarantee that you’ll really get the offer you received.
If you have good credit, you’ll receive pre-approved offers for cards with some kind of bonus attached to them. This might be something like a rewards card, an extra $100 bonus for signing on, or a rewards bonus, such as airline miles. Lenders are less focused on selling to you based on the fact that you have a chance at getting the card — you know you can probably get most cards you apply for — and are more focused on getting you to sign up to secure the perks, since you can be a little choosier with your cards when your credit is good.
What Do I Do With Credit Card Offers?
Always shred your credit card offers. Mailed offers open you up to fraud and identity theft. It’s easy for someone to take one of these offers out of your trash and fraudulently sign up for cards under your name if they have the right information about you.
Whether or not you apply for the card you’ve been offered is something you decide. Check the APR, any associated fees, the credit limit, penalty fees, and check for any perks associated with the card, such as cash-back bonuses. It’s also a good idea to learn a little about the different credit card companies.
Do Pre-Approved Offers Hurt My Credit?
Don’t stress — these offers can’t hurt your credit unless you apply for one. The pre-approval process for these cards is a soft inquiry. Mail offers don’t mean the bank has actually checked your credit score, so although you won’t be penalized for “pre-approval,” this also means that it’s not certain you’ll be eligible for the offer you received.
What Happens If I Apply for an Offer?
The result of your credit card application depends on your credit score. Whether your credit is good or bad, your chances of being approved for a prescreened offer are still better than if you were applying for cards at random.
If you’re someone who has poor credit, the chances of getting the offer advertised is lower than you might expect. A lot of the time lenders will still extend an offer, but it will be for a less-preferred card, maybe with a lower limit or higher APR. If the lender can’t offer you anything, the inquiry could ding your credit.
What If I Don’t Want to Receive These Offers Anymore?
If you no longer want to receive credit card offers in your mail, you can reduce the number of offers by opting out. You may opt-out for a period of five years, or you may opt-out permanently. You can do this by visiting OptOutPrescreen.com or by calling 1-888-567-8688. You will be prompted to fill out a form that includes your name, Social Security number, date of birth, and address.
Mailed, pre-approved credit card offers are the marketing trend for this product, but stay savvy to the methods used. Now that you understand a little more about how and why you end up on the mailing lists, it should be easier to make informed decisions about the products you’re being offered. Always choose and use your credit cards wisely.
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