Warning: Free T-Shirts Will Cost You
If you're heading out to RFK Stadium for the home opener today--or going to any stadium, county fair or other big public event anytime this summer--you're likely to run into those alluring giveaways in which credit card companies offer a free t-shirt, blanket, hat or tote bag if you'll just sign up for a free new card.
It seems like an easy, sweet deal. You hand over your info--extra bonus: sometimes they don't even check to see if your data is real--and you get something free. What could be bad?
Aside from the small risk of identity theft anytime you hand your social security number to a complete stranger, there's a much stronger reason why you'd be better off shelling out the $20 or whatever outrageous price they're charging over at the souvenir stand.
I found this out the hard way. The other day, my annual renewal arrived from Amica Mutual, the company from which we buy homeowners insurance. The renewal notice said it was no longer possible to offer us the lowest premiums because our credit score had dropped. The reason for the drop: "Unfavorable" number of recently opened accounts. The t-shirts.
I had indeed helped myself to several--probably four or five--"free" t-shirts and hats over the past two years. I never used, never even activated the cards that came in the mail. It turns out that having a bunch of credit inquiries on your credit record will lower your score.
Similarly, though I've never done this, it turns out that accepting those annoying offers to transfer your credit card debt will also sabotage your credit score.
As for me, I'm paying for those shirts, big time. Consider yourself warned.
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