Do you keep your credit card statements in a box somewhere for reference, only to forget where you put the box when you need to look up critical information? Perhaps you should consider another form of organization — or another form of statement.
Credit card issuers are happy to provide you with electronic statements that allow you to review your information on your computer or mobile device, through a website, downloaded files, or e-mail attachments.
E-statements are in the best interests of the card companies, since they save on paper and postage. Are they in your best interests as well? Consider these pros and cons of e-statements and decide for yourself.
Pro: Ease of Access – With an e-statement, your data is readily available at any time. You can download the data and organize it by whatever method you prefer.
Con: Permanence – With paper records, you may not be able to find them but at least you know you have them. Copies of older e-statements are often available for a short time, but generally, you must download e-statements and store them on your computer.
Be sure to back up your e-statements on a separate drive for reference. You could also print them — but in that case, why not just let the card company do the printing for you?
Pro: Monitoring – Given the ability to check your statement online at any time, you can check regularly for any sign of fraudulent activity without finding out in a monthly statement days or weeks later. In some cases, fraud protection and alerts are built into your account.
Con: Security – With electronic records, their safety is only as good as the safety of your computer and all the paths you use to download them or access them. If you choose e-statements, make sure that you do not store them in a way that leaves them open to potential hackers. Never download or access your information on non-secure public systems.
Note that if you are also careless with paper statements the security advantage is negated.
Pro: Environmental Awareness – Going electronic is more environmentally friendly through saving paper. The trees, along with the banks, will thank you for your choice.
Con: Internet Availability – If you happen to have poor or non-existent Internet access, e-statements are probably not for you. You are better off with the certainty of paper statements.
Pro/Con: Clutter – This one could go either way. Are you more likely to create paper clutter with your old statements, or electronic clutter with disorganized e-mails or computer files? Know your habits and which method you are more likely to maintain.
Pro/Con: Reminders – Another one that can go either way depending on your habits. Some prefer paper form as a reminder to pay the bill; others are more comfortable setting up automatic payment from a bank account or setting bill payment reminders through the card issuer.
Credit card issuers can usually provide both e-statements and printed copies, although you will generally have to request the printed copy and you may be charged for it. It may help you get through the transition phase to do both for some time.
Card issuers have a clear preference for e-statements, but that doesn't mean you have to follow suit. Think about how you use your credit card statements and what aspects of it are important to you, and make the switch only when it meets your needs.
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