Shopping for a Credit Card? Shred Those Mail-In Offers and Compare Online

online credit cardImage License : Flickr

Few things bum me out more than opening a mailbox full of junk mail. It’s wasteful, it clogs my mailbox and makes it difficult to decipher what’s important and what isn’t, and 99 times out of 100 it’s essentially worthless to me.

When it comes to the worst forms of junk mail, nothing beats mail-in credit credit card offers.

Why? Well for starters they heighten your risk of identity fraud. Don’t just recycle these mail-in offers – throw them in the shredder and make sure that none of your personal information is visible for strangers to access.

Next, they can be harmful to your credit score, too. That’s because snail mail credit card offers aren’t just for you – they’re for the masses. For example, millions of us have flown on Southwest Airlines. But that doesn’t mean we’re all qualified to carry a Southwest Airlines credit card since it’s reserved for good-to-excellent credit consumers. And yet, a good many of us will receive a Southwest Airlines credit card offer in the mail at one time or another if we’ve ever flown through them – even those consumers violently under-qualified for such an offer.

Odds are a fair number of consumers have been disheartened to receive a rejection letter from the Southwest Airlines card, and even more bummed to realize that the hard pull that was taken of their credit profile hurt their score that much more without anything to show for it. (More on this below.)

I don’t mean to pick on Southwest Airlines; this is common practice for the mail-in credit card offers industry. The audience is technically correct, but there’s a lot more taken into account by credit card issuers when determining whether or not to approve you for a card other than the airline you fly with most.

The Pros of Comparing Credit Cards Online

Imagine a credit card offer tailored specifically for your wants and needs: your credit score, your desire for cash back or miles, and your wish to limit fees, be it annual or otherwise. Then imagine waiting minutes – not days, or even weeks – for an approval  decision. Sounds a lot better, right?

Well, credit card comparison sites like www.creditnet.com and Credit Karma, among others, have developed online tools that make the credit card shopping experience as custom and personal as ever before. These sites allow you to narrow your search down beginning with your credit score (from none established to excellent), how you plan on using the card (maybe a zero-interest balance transfer?) and even how much you spend each month on select purchases, be it gas, groceries or otherwise.

These sites then take the information you’ve input into their website and whittle your available offers to just a small handful of cards for you to select from. No more guessing or compromising – online credit card search tools improve your chances for approval while making sure you’re applying for the card that’s perfect for your intended use.

Online credit card comparison tools keep the number of hard pulls on your credit report to a minimum. This is important since every hard pull has a small but negative effect on your score. These inquires stay on your report for two full years, and while they can easily be made up for over time with responsible use of a new credit card account, a hard pull without a new card to build credit with is ultimately a waste of a hard pull. (Note that “soft pulls” occur when a user pulls their own credit score and has no effect – positive or negative – on their score.)

With online credit card search tools, not only are you matching your spending habits and desire to earn miles, points or transfer a balance with the right card for you, you’re also ensuring that you’re applying for a card that’s more likely to approve you on the first shot.

So the next time you’re ready to apply for a credit card, throw any snail mail offers you have left over into the shredder and jump online for a truly personal credit card comparison experience.

This post was written by Jason Bushey. Jason is a personal finance expert and you can find his work daily on Creditnet.com.