It’s hard enough for adults to resist the steady stream of tempting junk mail solicitations offering easy credit.
So imagine what it must be like for a 21-year-old to fend off the mailbox pitches for plastic, especially if he’s not mature enough yet to handle credit and is already prone to making unwise choices with money. Nothing like an invitation for a credit card buying binge.
In such situations, wouldn’t you like to stop companies from sending unsolicited financial offers for credit cards and even insurance?
That’s the idea behind OptOutPrescreen.com, a website operated by four of the major credit reporting agencies — Equifax, TransUnion, Experian and Innovis.
Supported by the federal Fair Credit Reporting Act and the Federal Trade Commission, the service can be accessed by going online towww.optoutprescreen.com or by calling 888-567-8688
Either way, the process takes about five minutes to complete. OptOutPrescreen requires some personal data: your first and last name, your mailing address and your Social Security number (which it encrypts for security).
Consumers have two choices — free — if they want to have their name removed from marketing lists sold by the credit reporting agencies to credit card companies. You can choose to opt out for five years or permanently.
If you decide to opt out permanently, you’re required to sign and return an opt-out form.
Keep in mind that at any time you can also opt in to receive offers again.
Will opting out affect your credit score or other aspects of your finances? The answer is no, according to the credit rating agencies. Nor will removing your name from solicitations affect your future ability to apply for and receive plastic.
While OptOutPrescreen is the best way to limit credit card solicitations, it doesn’t stop them all, said Jody Farmer, a vice president at CreditCards.com, a consumer-oriented website.
For example, your 20-something student could still get solicitations from his bank trying to promote a new card or because he is enrolled in an airline frequent flier program or a retailer’s rewards program.
Other resources could stem the tide of credit card solicitations. The Direct Marketing Association’s Mail Preference Service allows consumers to opt out of receiving unsolicited commercial mail from members of the association for five years.
The association also allows parents to register as caretakers to stop junk mail from going to a dependent. Some banks and marketers will honor this request even though they aren’t DMA members and are under no legal obligation to do so, the association said. Go towww.dmachoice.org
In serious situations, perhaps where a young adult’s spending on his credit card is out of control, a credit freeze is the answer, Farmer said.
There’s one more step to take before pulling the plug on credit card offers — a tough-love discussion with your son or daughter about the potential risks and rewards of using plastic.
Talk about the impact of late fees and interest charges on their bank account weighed against the convenience of paying with plastic and accumulating rewards points for travel and merchandise. The opt-out system is certainly an easy way out, but it’s not the only way to address poor credit card habits.