Regarding “Pre-approved” Credit Card Offers…
There are a variety of sources which creditors use to obtain personal information on a consumer so they can mail credit card offers. The most common sources are existing credit accounts the consumer has, past credit accounts the consumer has had and the credit bureaus. Typically with an account it will say in the fine print when you open an account whether the creditor shares information with other sources or keeps it strictly internally. There is no way to prevent the sharing of information with other sources from a creditor if the original terms allowed for them to share such information, however, it never hurts to mail a letter out to each of your creditors requesting that they not share such information.
There is a way to prevent new creditors from obtaining your information via the credit bureaus for solicitation purposes. There is an official website OptOutPrescreen.com which allows consumers to “opt out” or to “opt back in”. The consumer’s personal information is still a part of their credit file, but will not appear on a list generated by the credit bureaus to potential creditors or insurance agencies. This will greatly lessen the amount of “you’re pre-approved!” offers that you receive as well as lessen the amount of junk mail you receive. If you change your mind you can always “opt back in” later on.
As far as “pre-approved” goes. That does not actually mean that the consumer is guaranteed approval should they take the time to go through the application process. Although a “pre-approved” offer usually does mean the creditor or insurance agency has done an initial credit check (causing a soft inquiry which does not impact the credit score as opposed to a hard inquiry which would), it does not mean the consumer meets all the criteria for approval. If a consumer does follow up with a “pre-approved” offer then an actual credit check will be done and a hard inquiry will be added to the credit files which can lower scores somewhat, and again, doesn’t guarantee an approval.
We’ve found if someone really is interested in opening a new credit account or insurance that shopping around and selecting one is much wiser than picking from randomly received offers. For new credit, two good sources to browse just to see what is available are credit.com and creditkarma.com which each offer a wide range of credit card types, rewards, and various eligibility requirements. Again though, if looking for new credit feel free to shop around before submitting your information to anyone for a credit check. It helps the credit scores to be approved the first and only time you apply rather than have multiple credit checks.