/>
X
Why you can trust ZDNet ZDNet independently tests and researches products to bring you our best recommendations and advice. When you buy through our links, we may earn a commission. Our process

'ZDNet Recommends': What exactly does it mean?

ZDNet's recommendations are based on many hours of testing, research, and comparison shopping. We gather data from the best available sources, including vendor and retailer listings as well as other relevant and independent reviews sites. And we pore over customer reviews to find out what matters to real people who already own and use the products and services we’re assessing.

When you click through from our site to a retailer and buy a product or service, we may earn affiliate commissions. This helps support our work, but does not affect what we cover or how, and it does not affect the price you pay. Neither ZDNet nor the author are compensated for these independent reviews. Indeed, we follow strict guidelines that ensure our editorial content is never influenced by advertisers.

ZDNet's editorial team writes on behalf of you, our reader. Our goal is to deliver the most accurate information and the most knowledgeable advice possible in order to help you make smarter buying decisions on tech gear and a wide array of products and services. Our editors thoroughly review and fact-check every article to ensure that our content meets the highest standards. If we have made an error or published misleading information, we will correct or clarify the article. If you see inaccuracies in our content, please report the mistake via this form.

Close

Why do I get so many credit card offers in the mail?

Receiving pre-approved card offers is a good sign, but you can also stop it
john-ulzheimer2.jpg
Written by John Ulzheimer on
Reviewed by Evan Zimmer

It may not feel like it as you stuff a new batch of junk mail into the "to shred" pile, but having a mailbox flooded with preapproved credit card offers can be a good sign.

Credit card issuers routinely send attractive card offers to consumers with good to excellent credit. Therefore, when you receive these types of offers in your mailbox, it usually means credit card issuers believe you to be a good credit risk and want to do business with you.

Why do card issuers mail those pre-approved offers?

If you receive pre-approved offers in the mail, you're certainly not alone. Credit card issuers are always hunting for new customers who meet their qualification criteria. Billions of promotional letters -- a.k.a. pre-approved offers of credit -- are mailed out by credit card issuers every year.

Why do card issuers mail so many pre-approved offers of credit? Because it works. By prescreening applicants, card issuers can, for the most part, avoid advertising to people who are likely to be turned down for their product. The result is a much smarter, more cost-effective, and targeted advertising campaign.

How does prescreening work?

Selling your data is the primary way the three credit bureaus make money. Credit reports are probably the most universally recognized "product" the credit bureaus sell. Yet, there are several other ways the credit bureaus can profit off the sale of your information.

Prescreened lists are another revenue generator for the credit bureaus. So how does prescreening work? When a credit card issuer wishes to purchase a prescreened list of consumers for prospecting purposes, they begin by providing one of the credit bureaus with what's called "selection criteria." 

The card issuer might, for example, want to purchase a list of consumers (names and addresses) who meet requirements like:

  • Residing in a specific state
  • A credit score of 720 or higher
  • No late payments on file in the past 24 months
  • No bankruptcy present on credit reports

If your credit information matches the card issuer's selection criteria, then a pre-approved offer may find its way into your mailbox.

Does prescreening hurt your credit score?

That prescreening process does not harm your credit scores in any way. Yes, a portion of your credit information may be accessed during the prescreening process. And, yes, a promotional inquiry may be posted on your credit reports.

Such inquiries, however, are known as "soft inquiries." They don't have any impact on your credit scores. In fact, only you can see them -- not any lenders or credit scoring systems.

How do you opt out of receiving these offers?

Pre-approved credit card offers might be a good sign that your credit is healthy -- and they can even be a source of juicy signup bonuses. But that doesn't mean they're welcome in your mailbox. Nobody loves junk mail.

Even though prescreening doesn't harm your credit scores, you have the right to prevent your credit information from being accessed for prospecting purposes. Whether you don't like the idea of credit card issuers (or others) being able to access your information without prior consent or you simply hate the ecological waste it creates, you can put a stop to it.

You can opt out of receiving future pre-approved offers by visiting OptOutPrescreen.com. Fill out a simple form online and you can opt-out for five years. You can also print and mail in a request if you wish to opt-out permanently. If you ever change your mind, the same website will allow you to opt back in as well.

There's an additional benefit to opting out if you choose to do so: Fewer credit card offers in your mailbox means fewer credit card offers that can be stolen by fraudsters. And while opting out certainly won't prevent you from being a victim of fraud, it will at least reduce your exposure.

[This article was first published on The Simple Dollar in 2020. It was updated in March, 2022.]

Related

How do I get OneDrive under control? [Ask ZDNet]
People with heads in clouds

How do I get OneDrive under control? [Ask ZDNet]

Productivity
The 5 best credit cards for online shopping in 2022
Best Credit Card for Online Shopping

The 5 best credit cards for online shopping in 2022

Credit Cards
When I reset my Windows PC, I ended up with Home edition. How do I get my Pro upgrade back? [Ask ZDNet]
user's head behind screen

When I reset my Windows PC, I ended up with Home edition. How do I get my Pro upgrade back? [Ask ZDNet]

Productivity