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Going Paperless with Credit Card Statements

by Barbara Marquand

Your credit card companies and other financial institutions want you to go paperless, and the pressure to switch to electronic bill statements is only going to grow stronger as the financial industry, reeling from the tough economy and new regulatory pressures, looks for ways to cut costs.

If you're like most consumers, you probably still get paper credit card statements in the mail. One in four consumers now receives online statements for their primary credit card, up from 15 percent in 2008, according to a recent report on green billing practices by Javelin Strategy & Research, a San Francisco-based financial industry and consulting firm.

'Double-Dipping' on Credit Card Statements

But some of those customers receiving online statements also still get paper statements. In fact, Javelin found that a third of households are receiving at least one statement in both electronic and paper format, a practice it calls "double-dipping."

Snail-mailed statements cost financial institutions billions of dollars every year in postage and paper alone, Javelin says.

If you're one of those double-dippers, expect your bank to urge you to go completely paperless with credit cards and other accounts. Javelin senior analyst Mark Schwanhausser says in a press statement that financial institutions' top priority should be to persuade consumers who are experimenting with electronic statements to give up their paper statements. "That will be a significant win for the bottom line, and a spring cleaning for personal finances and the environment," he says.

But will it be a win for you?

Paperless Credit Card Statements: Pros and Cons

It depends. Some consumers say they have a harder time keeping track of e-statements because there's no physical reminder. The e-mail alerting them to the statement can get lost in a clogged in-box.

But electronic statements are better for the environment, saving trees as well as gas used for transporting statements, and they cut down on clutter. Banks argue that electronic statements protect consumers from fraud because there's no paper statement lying around for prying eyes. With online credit card statements, you can track your credit card use throughout the month, which helps with budgeting as well as catching any fraudulent activity quickly.

If you go paperless, devise a system to make sure you stay on top of your account, and set up automated bill pay to cover more than the monthly minimum due.

Published 05/26/11


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