We wrote yesterday about the pros and cons of going paperless, and switching from mailed bank & billing statements to electronic ones.
If you do decide to make the switch, we’ve got some advice for how to do it:
- Save a permanent copy. Paper statements are permanent, but some creditors and banks won’t keep your online statement available for long enough—if your online statement disappears in six months, you won’t be able to access it when preparing next year’s taxes. So be sure to save a permanent copy—don’t just save the email or a link, create a .pdf file of your monthly statement and save it to your computer’s hard drive.
- Keep your passwords secure. Let’s face it—we have too many online accounts now to keep track of them all in our heads. We need some kind of password management system. However you keep track of your passwords, keep them secure and accessible. Don’t lose access to your online statements the next time you have a password mix-up.
- Never ignore your emailed statements. Always review statements when they are ready. In fact, check in on your bank and credit card web sites throughout the month to make sure there are no unfamiliar charges. The sooner you spot a problem, the easier it will be to solve.
- Back up your hard drive. Computer hard drives fail; that’s inevitable. Get an inexpensive external backup drive so all of your electronic documents are safe from hard drive failure. An online backup can be even better in case of fire or loss of your computer. Keep your computer secure from malware to protect this data.
- Create a master document that lists all of your accounts. If you move or get a new email address, this document can help you update all of your contact information and make sure you don’t miss anyone. This document can also help you with your spending plan; every payment you make should be recorded as part of your regular monthly budgeting.