Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Opting out of credit offers

Today, a quickie while I catch up on a workpile: Dislike having your mailbox cluttered with credit-card offers? Opt out.

That site, OptOutPrescreen.com, is the official opt-out registry used by the credit-reporting agencies. Adding your name to the registry means the agencies will no longer put your name on the prospecting lists they sell to people hawking credit cards, auto loans, and other such products. You can use an online form to opt out for five years; opting out permanently requires you to sign and snail-mail a firm.

While I was quick to sign up for the Do Not Call registry in an attempt to shoo away telemarketers, I'm not adding my name to this one. Why? Because those snail-mailed "you're preapproved!" credit offers are often the most competitive deals lenders offer. I've always found better rates and terms in those mailers than I have by looking online at the lenders' websites. Right now, I'm not in the market for any new credit cards, so I toss those offers out. But you never know what the future will bring ... if there's any chance you might be looking for a balance transfer deal, a new card with a low APR, or any other such offers, it can be worth keeping your name on the mailing lists. When I needed to transfer a balance off my Providian card last year, I took up a mailed Chase offer and opened a new card. (Of course, Chase then immediately annoyed the hell out of me. Caveat emptor.)

By the way, there's no impact one way or the other on your credit report from opting out of prescreened offers. While one of the factors in FICO scoring is "number of credit-report inquiries," it only counts inquiries you initiate, generally by applying for new credit lines. Inquires from marketers trolling for targets are listed on your report, but have no effect whatsoever on your FICO score or other evaluations of your creditworthiness.

Thanks to Mark for the opt-out tipoff!