Credit card offers no longer flooding your mailbox? Here's why
As issuers move to cheaper, smarter alternatives, you still have options to get access to the best offers
Specializes in mortgages, credit and credit scores
The days when pre-approval letters from credit card providers flooded your mailbox have been reduced to a trickle, but that doesn't necessarily mean you're no longer worthy of attention – just that issuers are trying new and different ways to reach you.
However, there are several reasons why issuers may be ignoring you, due to financial missteps.
- If your credit score has fallen, credit card companies might stop sending you offers.
- But maybe you’re not receiving as many offers because you’ve moved to a ZIP code that banks aren’t targeting.
- Maybe you don’t use the cards already in your wallet often enough to generate a flood of offers.
Banks rely on plenty of numbers to determine who gets the most credit card offers, whether in your mailbox or email inbox. And those offers are still out there, ready for taking.
- If you want a new credit card, you can find the best fit on your own, without relying on direct-mail solicitations.
- And if you’re sick of the offers, you can simply ignore them or go online to put a permanent stop to them.
See related: Best credit card offers
Fewer card offers in the mail? Here's what you should know
Direct mail has slowed down overall
If not as many offers or advertisements for credit cards are filling your mailbox, you've got plenty of company.
The most recent issue of the Statistical Fact Book from the Data & Marketing Association said companies sent more than 5 million pieces of credit card-related direct mail to U.S. consumers in 2017.
That sounds like a lot. However:
- In 2016, consumers received more than 6.5 million pieces of direct mail relating to credit cards.
- In 2014, credit card offers and promos accounted for more than 6.1 million pieces of direct mail.
Neil O’Keefe, senior vice president with the Direct Mail Association division of the Association of National Advertisers, said the dip in direct mail is not a new event.
He said the heyday of direct mail was 2005 through 2007.
- In 2007, companies sent more than 113 billion pieces of direct mail to U.S. consumers.
- In 2017, though, companies only sent about 83 million pieces of direct mail, O’Keefe said.
O’Keefe pointed to two reasons for this trend: the cost of direct mail and cheaper alternatives.
The amount of direct mail you receive from credit card companies can also vary by month. One month, a credit card provider might be promoting a special offer, so you're more likely to get direct mail.
Mintel Comperemedia, which monitors the credit card industry, provides evidence of this fluctuation.
- In the third quarter of 2016, for instance, the amount of direct mail solicitations from credit card companies fell by 5.71 percent when compared to the previous quarter.
- In the first quarter of 2017, direct mail solicitations from credit card companies fell by 16.94 percent when compared to the previous quarter.
- In the fourth quarter of last year, solicitations dropped 9.96 percent when compared to the third quarter.
- However, solicitations rose 3.99 percent in the first quarter of 2018 when compared to the fourth quarter of 2017.
- They also jumped 1.86 percent in the second quarter of this year when compared to the first quarter of 2018.
Increased costs have driven a shift in direct-mail card offers
The cost of sending out credit card ads and offers has steadily risen since 2007, O’Keefe said. Most credit card providers no longer send out blanket direct mail promos to as wide a swath of customers. Instead, they rely on targeted direct mail campaigns.
And if you’re not part of the targeted group, you might not receive as many credit card solicitations in the mail.
“The cost of postage is up. The cost of paper is up,” O’Keefe said. “That has forced marketers to make wiser decisions.”
- Credit card companies also have cheaper alternatives to direct mail.
- They can rely on email campaigns, ads that play before YouTube videos, social media and other alternatives that aren’t impacted by the cost of paper or postage.
Jerry Nemorin, chief executive officer of Oakland-based LendStreet, a debt-restructuring company, said credit card companies will never completely stop sending offers to consumer mailboxes, however.
New customers simply make them too much money, Nemorin said. That extra income outweighs the increased cost of mailing out offers.
American Express, Citigroup and Capital One did not reply to email requests for comment.
Chase's strategy for direct mail is always evolving, according to the company. What offers Chase sends depends on what particular marketing campaign it is running.
Your credit, income determine what offers you get
Leslie Tayne, founder and head attorney at Tayne Law Group in New York City, said the offers you do receive depend largely on the strength of your credit.
Tayne said banks purchase consumer credit reports from the national credit bureaus of Experian, Equifax and TransUnion. They then rely on their internal algorithms to target specific customers.
- Banks, for instance, might want to target consumers with strong credit living in a certain ZIP code.
- Maybe they’ll target consumers who already use their cards to book frequent flights or hotel stays.
"Banks can run a very specific request for certain data," Tayne said. "They know they will be successful in getting responses from those people. They know which consumers tend to apply for which cards. They know who is a better risk."
Income is a factor, too, Nemorin said. If you have a lower income, you won't receive as many offers.
How you use your credit also matters.
- If you have five credit cards and you've maxed them all out, you are less likely to receive offers because banks will see you as being a higher risk for missing payments.
- If you have five cards but they all have low balances, you might still receive a steady stream of applications in your mailbox.
You might receive different offers depending on the strength of your credit.
- If you have a high credit score, you’ll receive offers for cards with low interest rates.
- If you recently declared bankruptcy or lost a home to foreclosure, you might receive offers for secured credit cards designed for consumers who need to repair damaged credit.
Tip: Not sure which card you should apply for? Our CardMatch tool will match you with offers from our participating partners with no impact to your credit score. You may even receive a pre-qualified match or a special targeted offer including a bigger sign-up bonus.
You don't need an offer to apply for a credit card
If you are one of those consumers who does receive credit card direct mail, Tayne recommends that you "rip them up and throw them away."
Why? You don't need these offers to get a credit card. If you do want a new card, research them online and call those that interest you. Doing this shopping, while more time-consuming, is the most effective way to get the best credit card with the lowest rates, Tayne said.
And don’t be tempted when offers say you are preapproved for a credit card. Getting such an offer doesn’t mean you’ll automatically qualify for the card being advertised. You still have to apply for the card, and the company behind the offer can still reject your application.
"The offers they are sending you in the mail might not be the best offer for you," Tayne said. "It's just the offer they want to promote at that time."
You can reduce the amount of offers you receive
If you want to stop the credit card offers from coming, you can visit OptOutPrescreen.com, the official site for consumers to opt out of offers of credit or insurance. Through the site, you can opt out of credit card offers for five years.
- If you want to opt out from offers permanently, you'll have to visit the site and fill out its opt-out election form.
- You then have to print out the completed form and mail a physical copy. If you change your mind and do want to receive credit card offers in the mail, you can visit the same site to opt back in.
Tip: Going paperless is a good way to help the environment, save money and reduce the amount of promotions you receive in the mail – but don’t forget to stay on top of your finances. See “Go paperless without neglecting your card bills” to learn more.
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