Pros and Cons of Paperless Billing Statements
Switching from paper bills to paperless billing might save time, but is it worth it?
Paperless billing allows you to access your monthly credit card statement online rather than receiving a mailed copy. Each month, your credit card issuer will send an email when your statement is ready. For your convenience, some credit card issuers also include your minimum payment due and the due date in the body of the email. If you're thinking about ditching traditional paper statements, consider the pros and cons before you make the change.
Pro: Saving the Trees
Paperless statements are helpful for the environment by reducing the amount of paper we use. According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the average American uses about one 100-foot-tall Douglas fir tree's equivalent in paper each year. Fewer billing statements means less demand for paper and less air pollution from paper production. Some credit card issuers incentivize paperless billing by making their own contributions to environmental causes when you sign up for paperless billing.
Con: Easier to Miss Payments
Without receiving a mailed statement, you could forget to send your payment. As an alternative to a mailed physical statement as a due date reminder, you could print the statement from your online account and keep it where you normally put your bills.
Make sure you add your credit card issuer's email address to your "safe list" to prevent the emails from being filter into your spam or promotions folder.
Pro: Less Mail and Paper in Your Home
The elimination of billing statements means less loose paper and clutter in your home. You’ll save time sorting through bills and figuring how what you should keep, what can be thrown in the trash, and what must be shredded.
If you download your billing statements, you can save them to your computer or external drive and access later when you need them. Most credit card issuers make several months of billing statements available online, so it may not be necessary to save your most recent statements.
Con: More Passwords to Remember
Signing up for online billing means you’ll have yet another username and password to remember. Even if you try to use the same ones for all your sites—which generally isn’t a good idea—there are always a few sites with slightly different restrictions that will require you to come up with something different from what you normally use, something that you’re more likely to forget. And if you can't remember your password, you’ll have to use the password recovery process to check your statement every time you forget your password.
Pro: Perks for Online Billing Statements
Some credit card issuers offer incentives to cardholders who sign up for paperless statements. For example, you may be entered into sweepstakes when you switch to paperless billing statements. Some card issuers charge a fee to send a paper statement and waive this fee when you sign up to receive your billing statement online.
Con: Less Access to Previous Statements
Credit card issuers typically only make a certain number of statements available online. If you need more than that, e.g., for tax purposes, you may have to go through a few extra steps (and could even have to pay a fee) to access older statements. You could get around this by printing your billing statement each month and filing it away so you can access it if you need to.
Pro: Identity Theft Prevention
Switching to paperless statements could help prevent identity theft resulting from stolen mail. Since statements aren’t mailed to your home, mail thieves won’t get access to your credit card number if they intercept your mail. Thankfully, emails from your credit card issuer should never contain your full account number which gives you extra protection if your email account is compromised.
Con: Delay in Catching Credit Card Fraud and Credit Card Changes
If you’ve set up an automatic payment for your account, you could easily forget to review your statements each month, a step that’s critical to catching credit card fraud. You have 60 days to report billing errors, beyond that the credit card issuer could make you pay for purchases you never made.
There’s another downside to paying without reading your statement – you won't receive an alert to changes in your minimum payment. If your minimum payment increases beyond the payment you’ve set, you’ll be hit with a late fee even if the payment is made on time. After 60 days, your interest rate will increase, and the late payment status will hit your credit report.
Con: Email Address Change Notification
Just like you have to notify your credit card issuer when you change your mailing address, you should also update them with a new email address. Otherwise, you’ll miss the monthly notification that your billing statement is ready. You could also miss an email letting you know about suspected fraud on your account (but beware of phishing scams) or to alerting you to other changes to your account, e.g., a credit limit increase.
Pay Online Without Paperless Billing
Even if you choose not to sign up for paperless billing, you can pay your account online either through your bank if they offer online bill payment services or directly to the credit card issuer through their website.