Sure, the American (and so the global) financial market is an absolute mess right now, largely because of dodgy credit and lending practices by major financial institutions. Sure, millions of Americans (and people across the globe) are buried in debt, be it a mortgage or a maxed-out credit card.
Despite these ominous signs of an economic storm on the horizon, credit card companies are more than ready to give you outrageously generous credit and a nice, shiny new plastic card. But wait, it gets better! Just sign up now, financial crisis or not, and you can get a year without interest, a new appliance or electronic gizmo, a trip to Cancun!
OK, maybe not those last two.
This scenario may well sound familiar for any of you who 1) have applied for or opened up a new credit card account at any point in your natural life and 2) receive postal mail in some manner. Despite the environmental crisis facing planet Earth, junk mail is far from being an endangered species of tree-killing pest. Along with catalogues, bills, advertisements, and other snail-mail SPAM you likely do not want, credit card offers contribute significantly to the paper used for junk (unsolicited) mail.
Fortunately for consumers and postal carriers, there is a way to free yourself from the avalanche of credit card offers and so help reduce the number of trees used for paper.
The Consumer Credit Reporting Industry has set up a way for consumers to remove themselves from preapproved and firm offers of credit, thus stopping those mailings before they happen. This can be done over the phone by calling 1-888-8-OPTOUT or on the web at www.OptOutPrescreen.com. It takes just a few minutes to do either way. Basically, you just enter in some of your vital stats, and the system matches your phone number against listed addresses; you may need to add a bit more info if it cannot find a match. You will also need to enter your social security number, again for personal verification. By doing this, you opt out of all companies that use some of the major credit reporting services–Equifax, Experian, Innovis, and TransUnion. It will take a few weeks before you are free and clear of these companies, and you will not be freed from all credit card offers because not all companies use those reporting services covered by this method. Still, you will make significant headway towards avoiding this kind of junk mail.
If this little glimpse of freedom gives you the urge to take more preemptive measures, you can also use a more complicated but also more comprehensive method for opting out of different types of junk mail: the Direct Marketing Association’s Mail Preference Service. This one covers catalogues, institutional mailings, and other promotional mail–and you can choose to opt out or, if you are a glutton for punishment, opt in. If you go to the website www.dmachoice.org, you can do your business online after registering or by mail (for a $1 fee). You will be able to select individual business catalogues and mailings to nix, or you can do a global “leave me alone!” by removing yourself from all DMA member lists. Like the first method, this will take a while (30-90 days) and may not get you off every mailing list under the sun, but it is still an effective way to cut back on the trees cut down for unwanted mail.
Although you may feel like you are making a “major sacrifice” for the Earth by opting out of credit card offers (and other junk mail), take heart: we can certainly use more trees in the forests than in our mailboxes.