Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Should I Opt Back In? I Already Know the Answer

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!


Bob Wang said...

Platinum upgrade ;-)

Credit Matters said...

Bob, you think?

And how do you find my column so fast? You're often first out of the blocks.

Josh said...

You should try to do a balance transfer of zero or $1 and see what happens.

In all seriousness, great article as usual. I wonder how long after you flick the switch will you actually start receiving pre-approvals. Do keep us apprised!

Josh said...

Platinum upgrade should still come through even with opt-out as it would be from an existing relationship ;)

Credit Matters said...

Josh, I will absolutely keep my readers apprised. I plan on doing some follow-up stories on the situation. Should be interesting.

And, yup, about the Amex upgrade. I imagine that I'll get the offer by the end of the year. I won't accept it until next summer.

Michelle said...

The big bummer when I was opted in was all the "preapproved" crap I got that was, once I applied, denied. My credit was subprime, but why the hack pre-screen me, see that I'm subprime, then mail me an offer they plan to decline? I know that's not your position right now, but it's a waste of an inquiry for those of use still repairing/rebuilding.

Bob Wang said...

This is about my standard bedtime.
You make for good bedtime reading.
And I DON'T mean to imply that you put me to sleep ;-)
Great site.
I may have to get your webmaster's name!

Credit Matters said...

Michelle, I appreciate the anecdotal information. Seriously. Good stuff to know. My sister is subprime right now. I'll be monitoring her mail. Telling her which ones to rip up ASAP.


Credit Matters said...

Bob, ahh, you're the best, pal. I appreciate the support.

My Webmaster is pretty good, Bob. Very diligent. He built this out pretty dang fast.

If you're interested, shoot me an email. I'll give you his contact information. He said he'd be happy to help a brother out. You guys can talk $$.

Michelle said...

Yeah, back then I had no idea - getting offers from Amex and I'm like, "Wow - preapproved? Cool!" Then hit with a big decline notice (Duh, I was 21 and maxed out on just about everything, lates here and there - I have no idea of my score back then, but it wasn't Amex quality, that's for sure, LOL). The credit environment has changed since then, but I can bet she'll still get at least some offers she has no chance of actually being approved for.

Credit Matters said...

Michelle, you're absolutely right. I imagine she's gonna get some offers that she has no business getting. And I'll be there every step of the way killing her dreams! LOL.

In future stories, when I get some of these offers, I'll be sure to relay your sentiments. I think they're extremely valid points.

Michelle, I haven't seen your name around here before. You're welcome here any time.

Thanks for posting.

The Lion said...

I am so sad. I stay opted in just so I get mail :) It is nice to see something other than bills, even though I never apply anymore since I got REAL sick of those "haha yea right" letters. No fun :(

But I suppose that is why I am here, and on Creditboards.

Credit Matters said...

We'll see what kind of mail I get. We'll see if there really is a difference in my mail. Wouldn't it be funny if nothing changed? Only time will tell.

Midnite said...

Hey CM,

Great read! Can't wait to see how it goes...

Credit Matters said...

Thanks, Midnite. We'll see how it goes. I have to admit that I'm curious. But it wouldn't surprise me if nothing happened at all. All of this anticipation and then I end up with no new offers. Haha. That's would be a hoot.

We'll see how it turns out. I'm looking forward to writing about my first offer.

Jake said...

If you get a 100% cashback on all purchases offer.... call Jake first!!

Credit Matters said...

Jake, I'll give you a buzz if I get a 100% cash back offer! LOL. Mo' Money, mo' money, mo' money. I can hear Damon Wayans saying that right now.

Thanks for the comment.

SpaghettiBender said...

I opted out a few months ago. I had bought a shredder just to shred the zillions of offers I kept getting, ever fearful the neighbors might accidentally get my mail and commit fraud.

I have been in the mortgage hunting mode for about 4 months now. It's imperative that I don't suddenly go on an app spree!

I guarantee, once I am in a house, the opt out screen will see me opt back in!

Credit Matters said...

SB, thanks for the comment. I love seeing your screen name around here.

Anyhow, we'll see how my experiment turns out.

aceken said...

Perfect time for the article. I actually just finally opted-out last week. Im sure I wont miss any of those new credit offers.

BTW, love the layout.

Credit Matters said...

Ace, your mail will now just be diverted to my mailbox. Nice!

Thanks for the compliment on the new look.

aceken said...

lol, I bet it will haha. Our scores are comparable so im sure the offers I saw will be in your mailbox instead of my shredder.

Also, I still have my eye on that penfed card... I want it, but i dont know if i need it.

Credit Matters said...

Hey, you know what I think about credit cards. If it doesn't fit in your plan, you don't need it.

Jazzyburrell said...

An additional albeit small benefit is the extra Soft INQ's that might help with Girlfriends!!!

Credit Matters said...

JB, I don't have a lot of girlfriends/inquiries left, so it won't matter much.

But good point for those who may have a lot of inquiries remaining on their credit report.

Anonymous said...

Should I opt-in? My BK7 was d/c 10/05. I'm in the 700 club. However, I BK'd all the major players.

Credit Matters said...

Anon, only you can make that decision. I only write the stories. You have to figure out what to do.

I wish I could be of more help.

Anonymous said...

I think I'll wait, I feel that my BK is too fresh. AMEX won't give me a card, I did try, for an airline sponsored card, no dice. I even asked for underwriting, still nothing.
Chase and Citi were in my BK.

I'll lay low for now.

Credit Matters said...

HM, sounds like a smart idea -- laying low.

Chase and Citi are not good about BKs -- especially if you IIB'd them. Longer term, Citi is worse than Chase. Citi holds a grudge. Chase, not as much (though it will take some time).

Amex hates BKs.

Lynn said...

I Made up my mind to stay out. I can do enough damage myself, I do not need pre-approved offers to help me out. Plan to buy a house within the next 18-24 months. Right now I am in the repair mode.

Credit Matters said...

Lynn, sounds like you know exactly what you're doing. In the meantime, I will be the stunt dummy for all of us.

We'll see how it shakes out.

Thanks for posting.

Lynn said...

CM, Dummy you are not! Not by any means!
I know what I know so far by reading here and CB. I owe you and them. Six months ago I knew nothing.


Credit Matters said...

Lynn, thanks. I'll have to think of another term. Call me the explorer.

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