Paper statements may not be necessary

Dear Liz: I’m wondering how long we really need to keep bank statements, since banks now offer paperless options. My son doesn’t even open the statements anymore; he just views his account information online.

Answer: There’s nothing magical about paper bank statements. If your son doesn’t open them, he probably shouldn’t even get them. He can ask his bank to switch him to its paperless option and save some trees.

The IRS accepts electronic documents, and banks keep account records at least six years. Your highest risk for an audit is the three years after a tax return is filed, so you should be able to download statements if you need them in an audit. There might be fees involved to get these statements, however, so you’ll have to weigh the potential cost against the hassle of storing all that paper. Some people get the paper statements, scan them and shred the originals; others download the statements as they go and store them electronically.

If you don’t need bank records for tax purposes, there’s even less reason for getting paper statements. Eschewing them can reduce bank fees and will certainly save a few trees.

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  1. Liz in Boston says

    If the son is not even opening them, and if he’s throwing them out un-shredded, he’s not only wasting trees, he’s also opening himself up to identity theft. There’s enough on most bank statements to be worried about. I haven’t gotten a paper statement in years, but one thing I CAN’T figure out how to get my CC holders to stop sending is “convenience checks,” which are anything but. Do you have any suggestions on how to get them to stop? I have to ensure these are all shredded and since I would never use one (given the usurious rates), I want them to just go away!

    • lizweston says

      Ugh, I share your pain! Banks have told me that those convenience checks are prepared months in advance, so even after you request they stop, they keep coming. I’ve been able to get all but one bank to stop sending them (eventually) by calling the toll-free number included in the mailings.

  2. Liz in Boston says

    Thanks, Liz. Last time I tried (several years ago) I was told they were for my convenience and since they said I MIGHT at some point decide to use them, I wouldn’t be able to stop them. I tried pointing out the security risk, but to no avail. I’ll have to try again, hopefully, I’ll have more success in this enlightened age!

    • lizweston says

      How lovely that the card issuer would decide you don’t know your own mind. Gah.