How to Cut Your Junk Mail in Half

Strategies to help you cut down on unwanted mail.

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How much junk mail do you get each day? One piece? Two? Sometimes three or four? Several years ago, when I was playing balance-transfer arbitrage (where you take out 0% balance transfers and put the money in high-yield savings accounts), I would get at least five credit card offers a day. Back then credit was cheap, credit card companies gave cards to anyone with a pulse, and my mail box was full of them. I was getting tired of sifting through the junk mail to get at my real mail, so I sought to find a way to cut down the volume. Here are the strategies I uncovered.

[See 50 Ways to Improve Your Finances in 2012.]

Use OptOutPrescreen.com. It's the official website used by the credit reporting industry to opt out of insurance and credit card offers. By signing up, you can opt out of mailings for the next five years or permanently. if you want to opt out for five years, you can do it online. To opt out permanently, you have to mail in a paper form that you print out from the website. This tells every insurance company and credit card company that you do not want mail and they will stop mailing you.

This will not stop companies from mailing you if they have an existing relationship. In other words, if you have a credit card from Citi, then Citi can still send you mailings. If you have a Bank of America credit card, they can still send you credit card offers.

Opt out of marketing mail from companies you already have a relationship with. Call up each of your credit card companies and ask them how you can get off of their "internal marketing lists." OptOutPrescreen won't protect you from those types of offers, and the only way to get off that list is to ask. It can be a pain to call up each of your credit card companies, so I recommend calling up the ones that send you the most. If you aren't sure where to call, you can try the standard customer service number or you can look up the privacy policy of your card, that will list a number for you to call.

[See 7 Costly Credit Card Mistakes.]

Opt out of everything else. Lastly, to catch all the "other" junk mail that you may get, you can utilize the services of Catalog Choice. When they started, they simply kept a listing of everyone who wanted to opt out of store catalogs. They've since expanded to more than 4,000 companies, but their core offering is still stopping catalogs and other unwanted mail. After you sign up, you'll be able to search for lists that might be sending you junk mail and, through their form, send a request to be removed. If that option isn't available, they will send you to the company's website where you can paste in a request. This is good for when you get pieces of junk mail and aren't sure how to get your name off.

By using these three strategies, I was able to reduce my junk mailing considerably. It also felt good to reduce the amount of paper being used on my behalf and be less concerned about identity theft because an enterprising thief decided to pilfer my mail box. In the end, while those two points were well worth the effort, I was happy to have to shred fewer pieces of mail!

Jim Wang writes about personal finance at Bargaineering.com. When he's not tackling money issues, he's usually looking forward to his next vacation and writing about it at Wanderlust Journey.