Last week I received the following question from a Minter regarding the possibility of reducing credit card offers.
“John, is there any truth to the rumor that I can stop getting credit card offers in the mail by going through a process called opting out? I’ve also heard it can improve my credit scores if I am opted out.”
The answer to the first question is yes. The Fair Credit Reporting Act confers upon us a variety of credit report-related rights including free copies, the right to challenge errors, and yes, the right to have our names removed from credit card mailing lists.
The credit reporting industry is required to provide a centralized source where consumers could opt out of receiving preapproved credit card offers.
That central source is the website www.optoutprescreen.com. This site is legitimate and there is no fee to use its services, so you can leave your credit card in your wallet.
The opt out process allows you to have your name excluded from any list created by a credit reporting agency, which is to be used by a credit card issuer for the purposes of making what’s referred to as a “firm offer of credit.”
These lists are the result of the credit card issuer asking the credit bureaus to weed out certain names that are too risky.
As such, a credit report and credit score review is performed and the names that end up on these lists are called “pre-approved” because they’ve already passed the credit card issuers lending criteria.
If you receive offers from credit card issuers with language promising interest rates “as low as” 0% or credit limits “as high as” $25,000, it’s likely that the reason you received those types of offers is because your name ended up on one of those lists.
By opting out you ensure that your name will no longer be included. You can opt out for five years or you can opt out permanently, it’s up to you.
And, if you ever change your mind, you can opt back in.
Credit Score Improvement Myth
There is a common myth floating around the world of credit scoring that by opting out you will increase your credit scores. This is absolutely not true. There is no credit score benefit to opting out.
Now that you’ve heard it from me…let’s see what the two prominent credit score development companies say about the subject…
I posed the same question to both FICO, inventors of the FICO credit scoring system, and VantageScore Solutions, inventor of the VantageScore credit score.
The question was, “Does your scoring model consider whether or not the consumer has opted out from receiving pre-approved credit card offers when calculating the consumer’s credit score?
According to Anthony Sprauve, FICO’s Director of Public Relations, the answer is, “No.”
According to Sarah Davies, VantageScore Solutions’ Senior Vice President of Product Management, Analytics and Research, the answer is, “Opting out of pre-approved credit card offers will have no bearing on a VantageScore credit score. The model simply doesn’t factor that information.”
The only change opting out will have on your credit reports is a reduction in the number of soft inquiries.
When your name is included on a risk-screened list sold by a credit bureau to a credit card issuer, a soft inquiry must be posted on your credit report by that credit card issuer.
They will show up in a section normally called “Inquiries only shared with you” or “Promotional inquiries.”
Soft inquiries have no impact on your credit scores whatsoever. You could have 50 of them or 500 of them and it’s immaterial.
And, lenders don’t see soft inquiries if they were to pull your credit reports. Only you, the consumer, sees those inquiries.
John Ulzheimer is the President of Consumer Education at SmartCredit.com, the credit blogger for Mint.com, and a contributor for the National Foundation for Credit Counseling. He is an expert on credit reporting, credit scoring and identity theft. Formerly of FICO, Equifax and Credit.com, John is the only recognized credit expert who actually comes from the credit industry. The opinions expressed in his articles are his and not of Mint.com or Intuit. Follow John on Twitter.