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It’s hard to believe that in 2014 credit card companies are still able to sneak offers into our mailboxes. In fact, they’ve been showing up in mine for so long I hardly even notice them anymore. As I sift through my mail every day, I toss everything that isn’t a bill or personal right in the trash. I almost don’t even notice anything else.
Its people like me, who don’t even notice the offers anymore, that make snail mail marketing for credit card companies a challenge. They have to work harder to get the consumer’s attention. I recently started paying attention to how the individual companies use different techniques to get me to stop throwing out their offers immediately, and aim to at least get me to open the envelope.
Here’s what I noticed...
One of the most obvious differences between the offers is the envelopes. The sizes, colors and weight, all play a role and have a purpose.
Smaller banks, the ones that no one has ever heard of and that typically offer the highest APR’s and fees, come in the plain white envelope with the simple disclaimer “Pre-Approved” somewhere on the front. These credit card offers don’t include much more information than a letter from the bank, how to access the offer online, and some terms and conditions. My assessment? Not interested.
Banks that are more well-known step up their game a bit more than the lesser-known banks. These envelopes are slightly dressier than the previous offers I mentioned. The envelopes are usually in full color such as the Discover offer that used a holiday themed envelope for the season, and usually highlight something about the offer inside like an offer I received from Capital One for 1.5% cash back with their Capital One® Quicksilver® Cash Rewards Credit Card.
One of these, from Bank of America, had a teaser that got my attention; “An exciting opportunity…” followed by the 0% intro APR and $100 cash reward being promoted. These envelopes are more likely to grab my attention because they are selling me on the offer before I opened the envelope. I was slightly more interested in finding out what that “exciting opportunity” was inside.
That leads me to the fancy credit cards. I’m talking about the offers that you don’t only refrain from throwing out, but the ones that make you pull from the back of the stack because the corner of the envelope looks more interesting than anything else in your pile of mail. The Platinum Card® from American Express credit card offer, for example, was a slate grey with a bordered trim, had a shiny and reflective silver printed font displaying, “100,000 membership rewards points as welcome offer.” The envelope also advertised a list of the newest Centurion Lounges, and the language was inviting and enticing with the back flap stating, “An invitation to apply.” *This offer and/or promotion may have since changed, expired, or is no longer available.
The Citi® Double Cash – 18 month BT offer offer also came in a shiny white envelope, displaying the card art, and an appealing slogan that read, “Why settle for anything less?” The outside of the envelope sold me on the offer inside. Citi used creative ways to show me the highlights of the credit card offer without me even having to open it. Just from reading the envelope I knew the offer included earning 2% cash back, no annual fee, and 0% intro APR for 18 months. Their method worked. Not only did I not immediately throw it out with the rest of the junk mail, but I opened it to find out how I could apply.
The Credit Card Offers
The differences between the credit card offers were also part of my observations.
The previous “exciting opportunity” I mentioned from Bank of America turned out to be the BankAmericard Cash Rewards™ Credit Card, which I wouldn’t have known if I hadn’t opened the envelope. It actually turned out to be a really decent offer. The contents of the letter highlighted their rewards program, such as automatic cash rewards, bonus cash back on certain categories of spending, and rewards that don’t expire. The offer inside was more interesting to me than the simple 0% intro APR and $100 cash back reward that was stated on the outside of the envelope.
The American Express Platinum credit card offer included much more information inside than what was stated on the envelope. There was an entire booklet of information about the offer that included pictures of extravagant places, beautiful buildings, expensive fashion and cars, and even a picture of what a wallet looks like with the American Express Platinum card in it. The offer mentioned access to Centurion Lounges, no foreign transaction fees, no preset spending limit, and exceptional amenities and exclusive access through their By Invitation Only program. All were intriguing offers, but I wouldn’t have known about any of it if I hadn’t opened the piece of mail.
I already mentioned that I really liked how appealing Citi Double Cash offer was even before I opened it. The offer inside didn’t give me any new information. It elaborated on what I already knew, such as how I could receive 1% cash back on purchases, and 1% back on payments. I was actually more impressed that they were able to list all the relevant material that appealed to me on the outside of the offer. To be quite frank, I didn’t need any more than that. Just because credit card offers come with pictures of fancy cars and extravagant places doesn’t mean that holding that credit card is going to buy me those things. Citi’s offer was simple and direct to the point. They told me what I wanted to know, why I would care, and how to apply. Simplicity, I can respect that.
It’s important to remember to never judge a book by its cover. Up until this point, that was precisely what I was doing with these credit card offers I was getting. I would immediately throw out the offers from banks I had never heard of, possibly keep and open the ones that somewhat grabbed my attention, and zone in on the shiny, decorative offers from the bigger banks.
Don't let your decisions be swayed by the designs of the offers that show up in your mailbox. You should treat all credit card offers the same, always read the fine print, make sure the credit card fits your needs, and only apply for the cards that you’ll get approved for.
What You Can Do
Lastly, do your research. Websites like CompareCards.com will display all the information for you, rather than try to sell you on specific offers like banks do through their snail mail marketing efforts. At times it can be really nice to be able to compare offers side by side to clearly see how credit card offers can differ. The best way to choose a credit card is to have a clear understanding of how you can make it work for you.
It’s also very important to know what your credit score is, and to regularly monitor your credit to watch for fraudulent activity. Credit Concierge is a 100% free service that will give you access to your TransUnion credit score and credit report. The tool is available 24/7 for complete access and monitoring for whenever it’s convenient for you. When you know what your credit score is, you can easily determine which offers are available to you and know which credit cards you can choose from that will work the best for you.
* Editorial Note: This content is not provided or commissioned by the credit card issuer. Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of the credit card issuer, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the credit card issuer. This site may be compensated through the credit card issuer Affiliate Program.
*The content in this article is accurate at the publishing date, and may be subject to changes per the card issuer.