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Should You Switch To Online Statements For Your Credit Card?

A coworker, Lisa, recently sent an e-mail asking me:

"Should I have all my credit card bills (I don’t even use them, only pay them) sent via email ONLY and stop receiving the mailed paper versions?"

What Lisa meant: should she pay her credit card statements online or not? The credit card issuers never send statements via e-mail because e-mail is not secure. (Consumers should assume that everything you send via e-mail is open to the public.) Credit card issuers will send an e-mail notice that the card-holder's monthly statement is ready for viewing and payment.

Experts advise consumers to switch to online statements. Online statements eliminate the risk of an identity thieves stealing paper credit card statements from your snail-mail mailbox. An unlocked snail-mail mailbox makes it easy for criminals to steal your sensitive snail mail. Similarly, consumers should mail credit card payments by dropping the letter in a secure U.S.P.S. mailbox. Don't attach the payment letter to your snail-mail mailbox with a clothes pin.

Experts say that online statements are somewhat more secure than paper statements. This relies upon the consumer to keep the anti-virus software updated on their home computer. Of course, the company wants you to switch to online statements since it is cheaper for them to administer your account.

And, consumers that do online shopping should use additional safety measures beyond online statements.

Of course, you should opt-out of pre-approved credit offers sent via snail mail. These are tempting letters for identity thieves to steal from unlocked snail-mail mailboxes. (See this prior post for resources to opt-out of telemarketing and junk mail.)

Several months ago, I switched to monthly online statements for my bank. I’m happy with that. Some credit card issuers still print the entire credit card number on consumers’ paper statements. Another reason to switch to online statements is that you'll have fewer documents to shred.

And there are more reasons to switch to online statements. One, you can set up alerts via e-mail or text message to monitor activity on your credit card account. Experts have found that the sooner a consumers notice fraudulent items on their bill, the less money lost or stolen. Some credit card issuers also provide high-yield interest savings accounts. So, that may be another reason to switch to online statements.

What did Lisa think of these suggestions?

"Many thanks. You have answered ALL of the questions that I had about this and it makes total sense. I monitor my accounts online and pay online, so what would I possibly be missing (except having someone steal my statements, hence my number) from losing the paper? Sounds like a win-win. Thank you George!!!"

A word of caution: if your credit card issuer performs outsourcing, they are going to do that regardless of whether you receive paper or online statements. In my opinion, offshore outsourcing presents some data security issues which online statements can't solve.

Want to learn more about how to safeguard your sensitive personal data? See the List Of Lists page, or the Advice / Tips / Solutions section of this blog.

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