An Easy Way to Stop Junk Mail That Marketers Don’t Want You to Know

Like most people concerned about identity theft, I occasionally gather up any documents with sensitive personal information I’ve accumulated over time and run them through the paper shredder. It’s one of those fun little household rituals that goes a long way toward ensuring our household credit and personal accounts remain out of the hands of nefarious people tempted to dig through the trash.

The reason I bring this up is during our most recent “shredding party,” the Honeybee presented me with a plastic grocery store bag loaded up with an astounding number of nothing but credit card courtesy checks and pre-approved credit card promotions — all junk mail, of course, courtesy of the United States Post Office.

Now I know what your thinking: What is the numerical equivalent of “astounding?” Um, that would be 44. In four months.

I’m not kidding. Here’s a detailed breakdown of all the mail offers we’ve received over that time:

  • 2 MasterCard applications affiliated with my college fraternity.
  • 2 Discover applications.
  • 10 VISA applications affiliated with Southwest airlines.
  • 4 American Express gold card applications.
  • 13 VISA applications affiliated with Marriott.
  • 2 American Express applications.
  • 2 VISA applications from Disney.
  • 1 VISA application affiliated with the American Auto Association.
  • 1 VISA application from Chase.
  • 7 credit card courtesy check offers (16 checks in all).

As a visual aid, here’s a photo of all those applications and courtesy checks spread out on my loft floor.

You know, I really wanted to include in the photo all the envelopes, brochures and supporting paperwork that came with a lot of the offers, but I don’t have a wide-angle camera lens. Or a big enough loft for that matter.

Anyway, upon looking at all those credit card offers and promotions I immediately came to two conclusions:

  1. While shredding pre-approved credit card applications and courtesy checks into confetti before putting them into the trash can virtually eliminate the risk of theft, it can’t prevent a thief from stealing them while they sit in an unguarded mailbox.
  2. Forget plastic grocery bags. If I don’t get this junk mail issue under control now I’m going to have to start investing in potato sacks, because the day won’t be far off when I’m going to need them to store all these unsolicited credit card offers.

With that in mind I figured it’s better to be safe than sorry, and just stop their delivery altogether. So I did.

Regaining Control of My Mailbox

Thankfully, the entire credit card offer opt-out process turned out to be, well, small potatoes. It was no trouble at all and, if I can do it, you can do it too.

To stop receiving credit card courtesy checks:

  • Simply call your credit card company — I used the number on the back of my card — and ask them to stop mailing them to you. It’s as simple as that! In my case, the credit card company said it may take up to 30 days before the request becomes fully effective.

To keep those pre-approved credit card applications from clogging your mailbox:

  • Go to and make your request online. You can choose to opt out for five years — or even permanently. If you choose the latter, however, you will need to print and mail an additional permanent opt-out election form. I went with the five-year option. In this case, though, I was advised that it could take “several months” before I finally see the last of the credit card mail offers. Still, that’s fine with me!

Finally, for those of you interested in stopping all of your junk mail, good luck! However, a good place to start might be a website called Catalog Choice. Folks who sign up for a free account there can opt-out of selected junk mailings including catalogs, phone books, coupon books and other unwanted postal flotsam and jetsam.

Does it really work? To be honest, I’m not sure, but Catalog Choice claims to have helped 1.3 million people avoid over 20 million pieces of junk mail.

I bet the potato sack industry isn’t too happy about that.

Photo Credit: erix!


  1. 1

    Chupacabras says

    I did the permanent opt-out and it worked like a charm. Bear in mind that it won’t stop banks you already do business with from sending this nonsense, but it’s a lot better than it was! As you noted though, just calling them will stop the rest.

    Generally, those catalogs don’t bother me. All the nonsense catalogs are chaff for my real catalogs. Sometimes getting nothing is the best policy, other times, obfuscation.

    • 2

      Len Penzo says

      I would have done the permanent too, but I hate to admit, I was just too lazy to fill out the paperwork! Oh well, it was such an easy process doing it online, I’ll just opt out again in five years.

    • 5

      Len Penzo says

      That’s why I hate them too. The good news is most credit card companies have policies that protect victims from any liability (not even the $50 liability typical for CC losses) should those courtesy checks get stolen.

  2. 6

    Jeannine says

    We did the opt out too, but we still get several per week in the mail. I started keeping the envelopes that come in the offers and send lunch money, etc to school in them. It makes me feel better about them and I never have to search for an envelope. I just use a Sharpie to write over the pre-written address.

  3. 8

    j smith says

    one thing i found out about keeping junk mail at bay is 1) go paperless & receive bills online 2) whenever you move never fill out the usps forms 3)contact only those companies or organizations you receive mail from you wish to continue and the junk mail just seems to magically disappear 4)never fill out surveys 5) be careful with loyalty cards, use only your email address. most companies are okay with that. i now only receive snail mail letters from elderly relatives without computers. hope this helps your dilemma len.

  4. 10

    Dave says

    I write “no thanks” and send it back in their pre-paid envelopes. The post office needs money and I did not ask for your junk mail so I send it back.

  5. 11

    Elaine says

    I can tell you how to get off a mailing list, anyones in fact, real quick….Cost them money.

    All that mail has some sort of Business Reply Envelope where they pay the postage for its return. Contracts with the post office, they HAVE to pay for any return mail using those prepaid envelopes. And the amount is higher than regular postage.

    The max amount the postal service will take is 70 lbs with a combined width, height and gurth of 108 inches..

    So simply take one of their business reply envelopes, use some shipping tape and apply it to a cinder block, which are still fairly cheap. That will run them $30.00 or so in return postage.

    Do that a couple of times, and they will get the message.

    You can write them all the letters you want to get off of a mailing list, and that never works.. this does…

    If the keep sending you stuff, switch to using an old bald tire..
    a Pickup truck sized one..they get the message fairly quick.

    Not only does it work, it gives one a feeling of satisfaction.

    Also considering that these places all sell mailing lists back and forth, believe me.. it will get you off of a lot of other people’s mailing list real fast..

    a bald 31 x 10.50 truck tire costs them about $75 or $80.. and by postal contract, they have to pay for it..whether they like it or not.

    I’ll guarantee this works real well..

    I learned this off of a lady who was a customer of mine about 10 years ago. She was trying to get off of some company’s mailing list, and after a zillion letters to them, nothing worked.. her son who worked for the Post Office told her about this.

    So she tried it several times.. Not only did she get off that mailing list, but a whole bunch of she was rewarded with a scathing letter from that company’s president.

    Which she promptly framed and put on the wall in her office.
    gotta love happy endings like that one.

    • 12

      USPSguy says

      You’re an idiot. REPLY mail is meant just that, a reply.
      Only a dumb blonde chick would think someone would see a cinder block with an envelope taped to it and actually think it was anything but a cinder block with an envelope taped to it.

      Business reply mail is limited to envelopes weighing less than one ounce. So your cinder block scam won’t work. No letter carrier will accept it as postage, and you can’t put it in a street side mail box.

  6. 13

    Karen Kinnane says

    Dear Elaine, Thank you! I’m going to try this with AARP. I would never in a million years have thought of this, but will give it a try. Will post what happens. Thanks also for a huge laugh, am picturing the brick, cement block, bald tire reaching the sender of the junk mail and the idea makes me chuckle. I hope it works!

  7. 14

    Karen Kinnane says

    Mr. Penzo, Thank you for your useful ideas also. They don’t make me laugh like Elaine’s idea, but will try them also.

  8. 18


    I always recommend to people to opt-out of credit card offerings online using the link you provided. This is a good actionable step to lessen temptations to get or use credit.

  9. 19

    Kate says

    Does anyone tear off the name and address label on their junk mail, and then shred that, too? My brother does this. FWIW, the catalogs are a welcome addition to the BLC (Bathroom Literature Center).


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