With credit card interest rates on the rise, consumers would do well to be extra cautious about accepting any and every credit card offer they receive in the mail these days.
A Clark Howard Podcast listener recently asked how she could stop the “unsolicited ‘pre-approved’” credit card offers that are inundating her mailbox.
In this article, I’ll go over how to stop these credit card offers and detail Clark’s advice on how to get the most value out of a credit card.
How To Stop Unsolicited Credit Card Offers From Flooding Your Mailbox
Clark says to put an end to credit card offers that show up in your mailbox, you should go to OptOutPrescreen.com and fill out a form to opt out of receiving such mail.
“OptOutPrescreen.com tells the credit issuers and the credit bureaus that you don’t want these solicitations.”
Clark says, if you input your information on the website, “that will eliminate probably about 90% of the solicitations any of us get.”
Note that the OptOutPrescreen does require you to disclose some personal information such as your Social Security number, but Clark says, in this case, it’s OK. The entire credit-reporting system works on Social Security numbers,” he says. “Feel comfortable. It’s safe to put it in at OptOutPrescreen.”
Why You May Be Getting More Credit Card Offers These Days
If you find that you’re getting more credit card offers, or perhaps you were earlier this year, Clark says it could be because mass solicitations are part of a game that credit card companies often play to lure new customers.
“Banks are looking for people who tend to not pay their balances in full,” he says. Their goal is to ”throw as much credit at you as they possibly can and get you hooked on a lot of debt.”
Here are three target markets that Clark says credit card companies are going after:
- People who don’t pay attention to interest rates: “They’re trying to get people hooked on paying those huge interest rates as one slice of the market,” he says.
- Big chargers who like rewards: “They’re trying to lure people who are big charge volume people with reward cards.”
- Those who don’t mind big annual fees: “They’re trying to get what’s known as the ‘mass affluent’ — which, depending on how you define it, is the top 10% or 20% of income owners in the country who like to travel — to sign up for these cards with these hefty annual fees.”
Although the credit card industry would have you deep in debt if you’re not careful, Clark says you can use these solicitations as an opportunity to maximize the value of your credit cards.
How You Can Take Advantage of Credit Card Offers
For people who pay their balances in full, the rewards cards are generally the most, well, rewarding they’ve ever been, Clark says.
He points to the card_name as an example. Although the card comes with a $395 annual fee, there are several perks available that can offset that cost and then some, including:
- 75,000 bonus miles when you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening, equal to $750 in travel
- $300 annual credit for bookings through Capital One Travel
- 10,000 bonus miles (equal to $100 towards travel) every year, starting on your first anniversary
Just to reiterate, the key to taking advantage of a credit card is to pay the balance in full.
“A lot of times we’re creatures of habit and we keep doing whatever we’re doing,” says Clark. “But if you pay the balance in full on your credit cards — using it as just a payment system — this is a time for you to look at those offers coming in or go seek the best offers out there and improve the rewards you’re getting in cash or other kinds of rewards, like points.”
How To Pick a Credit Card
Choosing which credit card(s) to put in your wallet is a highly personal decision, but Team Clark typically recommends that you start with a simple cash-back card like the Citi Double Cash.
It may help to write down the things you want to accomplish with a credit card so that you are clear about your goals.
For instance, I’m currently looking for a cash back card to take advantage of purchases I make regularly. I’m thinking about the Costco Anywhere Visa Card, but the nearest warehouse is quite a ways away from my house.
Here are some questions I came up with for myself:
- What types of purchases do I want to make with this credit card?
- Where will I be making these purchases? And could I maximize my rewards if I shopped at one store?
- What does a reward for using this card look like for me? Is it a discount, is it free items, or is it some travel benefit?
These are just some questions I’m considering to help me make a decision on a new credit card.
Here’s a decision tree to help you decide on the right credit card for you.
No matter how many credit card solicitations you get, it’s important to stay vigilant about keeping yourself out of debt.
“Know the game they’re playing,” Clark says about the credit card companies. “Know the three target markets. And the one you definitely don’t want to be is the one where they’re feeding you more credit so that you won’t pay your balances in full and you’ll pay those extremely high interest rates.”
Shopping for a card with some great perks? Read our guide on the best credit card welcome bonuses.