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Will Credit Card Offers Finally Go Away?

Here's what seems like good news: The response rate for those annoying credit card offers we get in the mail has been falling. (Learn how to opt out.)

According to Curtis Arnold of cardratings.com: "In 1998, credit card issuers could count on a response rate of 1.2% to the offers for new cards that they sent out ... The projected response rate this year is only 0.28%, or four times less than what the credit card industry received less than a decade ago ..."

But believe it or not, even a response rate of 0.28% can be well worth it. As Arnold noted, "... 42% of us got our newest card via a piece of mail." So don't expect to see the mailings go away anytime soon -- maybe when the response rate is much closer to zero.

In perspective
The truth is that, in general, response rates to all kinds of advertisements are rather low. In many cases, even a 1% rate is considered a success. Here are some examples I ran across online:

  • According to the Direct Marketing Association, the average response rate for direct mail is 2.61%, suggesting that the credit card industry's mail isn't as treasured by its recipients. It also reported much higher rates for non-profits (5.35%), retailers (3.36%), and travel companies (2.98%), among other industries, than average. Perhaps we enjoy reviewing mailings from stores where we shop more than from accounting services we might use. This is one advantage that investors in companies such as Carnival (NYSE: CCL  ) and Cabela's (NYSE: CAB  ) can add to their lists.
  • The marketing specialists at gaebler.com noted, "One company we've worked with is an office supplies company. They get a 1% response rate when mailing to prospects. When they target current customers, their response rate doubles to 2%." If you're an investor in Staples (Nasdaq: SPLS  ) , Office Depot (NYSE: ODP  ) , or OfficeMax (NYSE: OMX  ) , for example, this can be useful information as you review mailings you receive from the company.
  • The Baseball Hall of Fame, using data from Blackbaud (Nasdaq: BLKB  ) , prepared 3,800 very personalized fundraising mailings for high-end prospects and ended up with a successful 2.6% response rate.

So getting back to our friends at credit card-issuing companies -- their response rates are lousy and getting worse. Still, it's not necessarily likely that they'll scale back their mailings, because in order to get the desired number of responses, they may actually want to increase their mailings. So keep that shredder primed and ready.

Learn much more about the surprisingly interesting credit card industry in our Credit Center.


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Selena Maranjian
TMFSelena

Selena Maranjian has been writing for the Fool since 1996 and covers basic investing and personal finance topics. She also prepares the Fool's syndicated newspaper column and has written or co-written a number of Fool books. For more financial and non-financial fare (as well as silly things), follow her on Twitter...

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