UK credit card marketing

If you live in the UK you’re probably quite used to receiving junk mail. For me, and I know that I’m not alone here, a lot of the junk mail I get emanates from credit card providers. It seems that everybody else’s credit card is better than the one I have currently. There’s the usual carrot and stick, offers of 0% interest for 12 months (longer with some of the more desperate providers), cashback or famous-name High Street store vouchers, etc.

I don’t like naming names, but Capital One would appear to be the worst culprits. I think it was one of their envelopes that has a return address on the back of it – it has a disclaimer stating that a fee will be charged if the item is returned. I find that astounding, albeit I won’t be paying the fee, whoever attempts to deliver it will probably have to, and even then it’ll be very much subject to a response of “two fingers“, “up yours” or “not on your nelly” from the person attempting the return delivery. This weekend, I spent many hours in my study clearing out old magazines, old mail, etc. I lost count of the number of Capital One envelopes that I had to process. I say “process” because I had to open each one – there’s a plastic replica of the “credit card you could have” inside most of the envelopes. My shredder doesn’t like plastic, nor does my paper recycling facility.

Now this presents another problem: a large proportion of the general public will probably just throw the whole envelope in to the general trash. This then opens them up to possible identity theft. This has negative effects for both the individual concerned and the credit card company. Granted, in order to successfully apply for a credit card you do need more information than is present on those forms the credit card company pre-print for you, but it’s a start. The prospective credit card company have essentially established a relationship with you by pre-printing some information on the forms. By making it as easy as possible for you complete the form, they are of course hoping to get you to sign on the dotted line and join their debt mountain.

What’s the solution? Well, I believe that the credit card companies should pull together and rationalise their junk mailings. They should offer their own Mailing Preference Service – and we should be able to register with our current credit card provider. This would mean a huge reduction in the amount of pure junk mail that is sent around the UK and as a side-effect, will see a very small reduction in indentity theft and case of credit card fraud. This approach does have a downside: our current credit card providers will have to wise up and offer existing customers better deals. Existing customers get it in the neck: rarely do they get preferential APRs or 0% offers. But at least they would get to keep their customers, and that has to be a good thing, surely?

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