My paper shredder is bored. Bored, bored, bored. Indeed, were it not for Washington Mutual, and its incessant need to paper me with some of the most ridiculous balance-transfer offers this side of the western hemisphere (the balance-transfer terms suck), I'd have very little need for a shredder. I'm now in possession of a dedicated Wamu-offer shredder. Lovely. A quick aside: Wamu, why do you keep sending so many balance transfer offers? Take a look at my credit report some time. I have goose eggs ($0) across the board. Get a clue. I don't need to transfer balances. I haven't taken advantage of the 14,358 offers so far; what makes you think I'll bite on offer 14,359? Answer: I won't. Your offers don't appeal to me. Stop sending them. Thanks.
Anyhow, let's get back on track. My shredder is mostly bored because I opted out of receiving credit card offers many years ago. These days, the only offers that I receive are from the credit-card companies that I already do business with. But I wonder: what kinds of offers am I missing? Maybe I should opt back in so that I can find out. I could make it a project -- with me being the guinea pig for GlobCredit.com readers. We could have some fun with the stuff I get in the mail.
I'm not even sure why I originally opted out. Someone probably scared me into thinking that I'd be the victim of identity theft if I continued to receive unsolicited credit offers in the mail. I'm surprised I didn't buy into one of those expensive credit monitoring packages too (the ones that cost more than $100 per year). First they put the fear in you and then they sell you the package that will protect you. It's nice work if you can get it, eh? Anyhow, I probably have a higher likelihood of getting my identity stolen by store clerks who insist on asking me for identification when I use my credit card to buy stuff.
With my good credit, I bet I'd be offered some pretty sweet deals, too. I can just see it now. Mr. GlobCredit.com, you qualify for 0% on purchases and balances for the rest of your life. Heaven. Or maybe I'd get $300,000 credit limits. Joy. Or, maybe none of that would happen. Maybe the offers wouldn't be very special at all. But I won't know unless I opt back in. I'm seriously thinking about it. Of course, I have a very serious credit plan, so the offers would have to be juicier than juicy. Given the credit environment right now, though, I figure that prescreened offers may not be as good or as plentiful as they've been in the past. We'll see.
Speaking of prescreened offers, I've learned that Bank of America, one of the largest credit-card companies in the world, has cut back on its credit-card marketing efforts. According to James Pierpoint, a Bank of America spokesman, the bank has "pulled back slightly on overall marketing given the current environment." In an email, Pierpoint told me that, even though it has pulled back slightly, Bank of America is "still doing pre-approved mailings as part of our ongoing marketing." I wouldn't be surprised if other card companies are doing the same. Given the current credit environment, maybe I shouldn't expect to see a ton of offers deluging my mailbox. We'll see.
In the meantime, I have a sister who is in the rebuilding stage of her credit life. She's opted out. I encouraged her to opt out many years ago (when I opted out). Now, however, I am telling her that she should opt back in. Here's why: an important part of the rebuilding/repairing process is, well, rebuilding your credit. It's not enough to wait out the seven years so that all of the bad marks fall off the credit report. You also have to start adding credit cards and other credit accounts to your history. If you don't, you'll eventually be left with a credit history that doesn't show much history at all. If she's opted in, she'll start to receive offers that will help her rebuild her history. Clearly, some of the offers will be pathetic. But that's not the point. The point is, creditors will be able to prescreen/preapprove her for offers that may very well fit into her credit plan.
Still, opting out has its advantages. It's true, I won't have a bunch of credit card offers swirling around the neighborhood if my mail person misdirects the mail. What's more, criminals who crawl through mailboxes won't hit the mother lode when they get to mine. Additionally, In a nutshell, my identification is probably relatively safer if I stay opted out.
But how much safer would I be? I think it's certainly an issue of degree. If I am now 95% safe because I don't receive unsolicited offers, will I be 92% safe because I do get those offers? Would I be 94% safe? My guess is that I'd be opening myself up to more insecurity, but I doubt it's enough to worry about. In the grand scheme of things it's probably negligible. Besides, don't I already receive a ton of credit card information in the mail already? I do. Between Washington Mutual (the biggest offender), Chase, and Citibank, I'm already getting a ton of stuff in the mail that could set me up for identity theft. A little bit more, I figure, won't raise the odds substantially.
So here's what we're going to do. I'm going to opt back in. I'll share my offers (which ones I receive) -- and I'll share my mail trends with you as well (just how much additional mail I'm actually receiving). If I don't like what's happening with my offers and mailbox, I'll simply opt back out. The opt-in and opt-out process is extremely easy.
Through optoutprescreen.com, I can:
- Electronically opt-out from receiving firm offers of credit and insurance for five years (which is what I did years ago).
- Opt-out from receiving firm offers of credit and insurance permanently (a permanent opt-out election form will be sent to me via U.S. mail).
- Opt-in so that I am eligible to receive firm offers of credit and insurance.
I'll let you know how things work out. According to the site, my opt-in status will take effect within five business days.
In the meantime, wish me well!