Switching to Paperless Billing May End Up Costing You

People who receive e-statements are far less likely to review them — and catch errors.

Paper bills
Paper bills could be key to saving you from fraud. (Getty Images)
Getty Images/EyeEm

While the in-your-face convenience of paper bills adds to the likelihood that they’ll be paid on time, a document you can hold in your hand is also much more likely to be carefully read than one on a screen.

A recent Consumer Action survey shows that the way you receive a billing statement can significantly impact your behavior — as in, how likely you are to review that bill, NBC News reported.

Nearly 80% of those who get paper bills by mail told the survey they review their transactions on that statement. But, only 43% of those who use electronic delivery said they go online to review transaction details.

Those who don’t take the time to look over their monthly credit card statement are “less likely to identify any erroneous or fraudulent transactions,” the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau noted in a 2015 report, NBC noted. They also tend to miss notices of new policies, like changes to minimum payments.

“To combat fraud, it’s very important for consumers to review their bills on a regular basis to look for suspicious charges and take action should you find something,” said John Breyault, who runs the National Consumers League’s Fraud.org website. “It’s a lot easier to miss bogus fees or charges if they’re in tiny print on a little smartphone screen than it is when you have a piece of paper right in front of you.”

And while the push to paperless might make you feel better about your environmental impact, remember that if your financial livelihood is likely to suffer, the transition may not be a good idea. You’re also entitled to a paper bill, according to NBC, regardless of how many times your bank or credit card company may ask you to make the switch.

“If the law requires information to be provided in writing, which basically means in paper, then an electronic version can substitute for that only with the consumer’s consent,” said NCLC Associate Director Lauren Saunders. “And you have the right to revoke that consent — and go back to paper — at any time.”

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