Editorial Policy

Stop deluge of card offers in one easy step

Erica Sandberg

July 7, 2015

QDear Erica,

I have a Citibank credit card and keep getting mail from them asking if I want a credit card from them! It is so weird; don't they know I have one? Are there wires crossed somewhere? I write on the envelope “already have a credit card with you!” and mail it back, but I keep getting them. I'm tired of it and the fact that it is hurting my credit scores. Is this some kind of scam? Daniel

ADear Daniel,

I assure you that Citibank is more than aware that you are one of their current cardholders. Try to take the correspondence as a compliment. The reason you're getting these letters is because the bank considers you to be a valued customer and a good credit risk! However you're managing that account and any others you might have, you're doing it right. For this reason, you may be eligible for additional cards, some of which might be better that the one you have now.

While these offers are legit, they are not guaranteed. You've been prescreened, which means that the issuer — Citibank, in this case — has checked your credit history and determined that you're the kind of person they want to do more business with. If you were to apply for the card, the chance that you'd be approved is high. However, based on the information you provide in the actual application, which includes your household income, you could be offered a lower charging limit or a higher APR than what was advertised in the promotional letter. It's even possible to be denied altogether.Ask Erica

It is also important to know that these unsolicited offers are never factored into your credit scores. They are, in fact, “soft pulls,” meaning they're inquiries not made by you seeking credit, but by the bank checking you out on its own terms. The only time an inquiry is factored into a credit score is when you actively complete an application. Even then it would take quite a few of these inquiries in a short period of time to damage a score. Pursuit of new credit comprises only 10 percent of a FICO score, the most commonly used credit score used today. Far more crucial is your payment history, debt-to-credit-limit ratio and the length of time you've had and used credit. The types of credit in use is also a factor, but at 10 percent, that is as minor as inquiries.

If you don't want any more card offers to jam up your mailbox, no problem. You can end all prescreened offers via the “opt out” system set up by the credit reporting agencies. Just call the toll-free number (888-567-8688) or log onto optoutprescreen.com and choose whether you want the suspension to be temporary or permanent.

Before you do, though, decide if you really want to go to such lengths. The problem with opting out this way is that you might not hear about some great deals that you would be interested in, not just from Citibank but from other lenders and insurance companies.

If you would like to keep those flowing, give Citibank a call. Ask to speak with a supervisor and explain that you're happy with the card you have and would like them to stop sending future offers. They should abide by your request, but if they don't, go up the chain of command.

If the card offers still come, reconsider the opt-out process. While such offers are not scams, you do open yourself up to identity theft if a crook takes one, applies in your name, and has the card sent to them to use. You wouldn't be liable for the charges, but it is a pain nonetheless. Make that known to the issuer and it could go a long way toward ending the unwanted mail.

Got a question for Erica? Send her an email.