Tired of spending five minutes every day sorting your real mail from that stack of credit card offers? Fortunately, you do have options for eliminating the wasted time and paper from your life. Here are six great options for stopping credit card junk mail. (For related reading, also take a look at Tips for Keeping Your Financial Data Safe Online.)
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1. Call the Opt-Out Number
According to a Federal Trade Commission's Consumer Report, credit bureaus provide a toll-free number (1-888-5-OPTOUT (567-8688)) which consumers can call to opt out of pre-approved credit offers. Alternately, you can visit the website, www.optoutprescreen.com, and fill out an online form to opt-out of the pre-screened offers. What's important to remember is that both the phone and website options for opting out only last for five years, after which you can (and probably will) start receiving pre-screened credit offers again. If you want a more permanent solution, use the printable "Permanent Opt-Out Form" available on the website; you'll have to print it, fill it out and mail it in.
2. Notify the Major Credit Bureaus
Another option, also according to the FTC, is to send a letter to the three major credit bureaus: Experian, TransUnion and Equifax, Inc. The letter should state that you do not want to have your personal information shared for promotional databases or direct mailing lists. The FTC recommends including your current mailing address, as well as a previous mailing address if you have moved within the last six months, as well as your full name, social security number and date of birth. It's a good idea to keep a copy of the letter you send in your own files (make sure it is dated) so you have a record of the request made and the date on which it was sent. (For relate reading, you may also want to check out How To Dispute Errors On Your Credit Report.)
3. Use the Direct Marketing Association's Mail Preference Service
The Direct Marketing Association provides a Mail Preference Service, which costs only $1.00 and puts your name on a "do not mail" list to be provided to direct-mail marketers. The catch is that not all direct-mail marketers subscribe to the DMA's service; however, according to PrivacyRights.org, many mailing list compilers do subscribe to the DMA's list, so you could see a significant drop not only in the number of credit card offers you receive but also in the amount of junk mail that crowds your mailbox. Your mail preference needs to be updated every three years, which can be done via mail or an online form.
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4. Use the DMA's Email Preference Service
The Direct Marketing Association also provides an email preference service, if you're dealing with a flood of pre-screened credit card offers in your inbox as well as your mail box. Since many of us use email constantly for both personal and work-related communication, sifting through junk email can be even more time-consuming than sorting out the stack of paper credit card offers. You can enter up to three email addresses at a time, and your preference will need to be updated every six years.
5. Contact the FTC if Mail Doesn't Stop
The Federal Trade Commission itself is a consumer ally, so if you find you're still receiving unsolicited credit card offers after contacting credit bureaus and requesting that your name be removed from their lists, you might consider lodging a complaint. Do keep in mind, however, that many companies only update their mailing lists quarterly, according to PrivacyRights.org. Allow at least three months for your junk mail pile to shrink before you contact the FTC.
6. Use a Non-Profit Service
Several non-profit services will, for a small fee, take on the work of getting your name off the mailing lists of various credit card companies and other direct-mail marketers. 41Pounds.org claims to reduce 80 to 95% of unwanted mail, both catalogues and credit card offers, and costs $41 dollars for five years. Private Citizen, another option, offers a similar service for a $10 annual fee.
The Bottom Line
You don't have to live with credit card junk mail, but keep in mind that putting effort into only one option may not eliminate all the credit card offers you receive. However, even a single request could lower the amount of junk offers you have to deal with on a daily basis. Saving yourself time and reducing waste all at the same time? That sounds like an offer that's too good to refuse. (For additional reading, also see 6 Red Flags Of A Financial Scam.)