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The lure of credit card mailings

By Janna Herron ·
Wednesday, January 8, 2014
Posted: 1 pm ET

This week I received a credit card offer in the mail and the sign-up bonus was twice what is advertised on the card issuer's website for double the spending requirement.

I could get 50,000 rewards points after spending $1,000 in the first three months of the card's opening. On the website, the sign-up incentive is 25,000 rewards points after spending $2,000 in the first three months. What gives?

It turns out that credit card issuers never have just one offer out there, says Bill McCracken, president of Synergistics Research Corp. in Atlanta, a market research firm for financial institutions. The website offer is the general offer, but they personalize mail offers to consumers who they want to sign up for their card.

Typically, the card companies already have pre-screened consumers who receive these personalized offers in the mail and they probably have higher credit scores, says McCracken. The website offer is for people with an average credit score, he says.

He advises consumers with good credit scores to never accept offers on an issuer's website or in a general advertisement. Instead, they should contact the issuer directly and see if they can get a better deal based on their credit score.

"It never hurts to ask," says McCracken. "All it takes is a few minutes of your time."

McCracken also cautions consumers against jumping at personalized credit card offers without researching the card first. Make sure the rewards program takes advantage of your spending habits and more than compensates for any annual fee. Otherwise, the card may not worth it, despite the personalized offer and sign-up bonus.

Have you compared your credit card offers to what's on the issuer's website? What have you found?

Follow me on Twitter: @JannaHerron.

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January 12, 2014 at 5:26 pm

I have only one credit card that I use for just about every- thing, then at the end of each month I pay it off. If it happen that I run short I make sure it is paid off before the next billing date, no balance is carried over.

January 12, 2014 at 10:25 am

I use the Capitol One card for 1.5% cash back on everything, and I
charge AS MUCH AS POSSIBLE each month to maximize the savings. This includes car insurance, utilities, groceries, gasoline, clothing, cell phone bill, vehicle maintenance, etc...etc. I pay the bill in full each month, and reap the cash back savings without paying any interest or annual fee. Each year, I use the cash rewards for holiday spending or car rentals during vacations.

While this works for me, I admit it's not for everyone. This requires A LOT of discipline, as the balance must be paid in full each month, or the interest will negate the cash back rewards.

January 12, 2014 at 9:45 am

I'm 81 years old and I have learned quite a few things about credit and spending. Allways pay your bills on time,don't live beyond your means/income and pay your self first (then take care of your bills). you may not be able to have that expensive material item but you'll sleep better knowing that you own what you have.

January 12, 2014 at 9:26 am

I received a credit line of $1500.00 credit line from Case Freedom with a zero % interest rate until April 20014.After spending $500.00 I would receive a 5% back to use as I wish or toward my credit card bill.
recently,I asked for them to give me a $2000.00 increase and the offer of o% still stand as well as the 5%.I'm very pleased with Chase Freedom and the only thing I can add that no one should do and that is " DO NOT " use the ATM for cash as they will charge you $10.00 for every withdraw, also will charge you 29.9 % interest. A lesson I learned and know better now, but I'm still happy with them. If they continue to keep this offer with me I will continue to use Chase Freedom , other wise I will have to be sure to pay it off by April.

mary berry
January 09, 2014 at 5:36 pm

I have a credit card that charges $69.00 fee every year to my surprise, what is the the smart way to be rid of them,before those charges incur again this year.

January 09, 2014 at 11:16 am

Credit cards are a good thing, everybody should have one. EXACTLY ONE. I shred all the offers that arrive in the mail. Including those addressed to my father, who died in 1987. He still gets mailings for the business that he never had. Demonstrates how carefully they "pre-screened" him.

January 09, 2014 at 6:46 am

Always call. USBank sent me an offer for a credit card with 0% interest for up to 2 years for a 3% fee for the total amount borrowed. I needed a short term loan and called them. To my surprise, I ended up with a promotion that wasn't advertised. I borrowed 23 grand at 0% for 14 months with zero fee. What a great deal. I have use of their money for 14 months and it didn't cost me anything. I just have to make sure I pay it off in the 14 months.