The Pros and Cons of Paperless Billing

This is a special guest post from David Bakke, who writes about small business, careers, and money management skills on Money Crashers Personal Finance.

If your email inbox is anything like mine, it is probably chock-full of offers to go paperless from a lot of the companies that you do business with. Some of them may appeal to you out of concern for the environment, while others are appealing from a financial standpoint. While it may seem like a no-brainer to go paperless, there are some things to keep in mind before making that leap. Here are the pros and cons of paperless billing.

 

 

Pros:

  1. You Can Save Money. I have received bill credits, gift cards, and other discounts by switching to paperless billing. Plus, some companies now charge you to receive your statements via postal mail.
     
  2. Environmental Impact. If your bill is sent to you electronically, you will save trees and lessen your carbon footprint.
     
  3. Faster Access. Your bills will get sent to you in a more timely fashion than if they were sent through postal mail.
     
  4. Searchability. After I got over the “growing pains” of going paperless, I found that researching charges online is actually much easier. Instead of fishing through a filing cabinet to follow up on a questionable charge or billing amount, I can now simply point and click on a billing period.
     
  5. Identity Protection. One of the most common methods of identity theft is through stealing postal mail. By transitioning to paperless billing, you will no longer need to worry about this issue. 

 

Cons:

  1. Organization Is a Must. If home office organization is not one of your strong points, you may want to re-think switching to paperless billing. You will no longer be receiving paper bills, so you will have to keep a closer eye on your email inbox. A while back, I switched to paperless billing for a utility bill, and then I completely forgot about it. The result? I nearly had my lights turned off! If you still decide to make the switch, make sure you add your billers to your contact list, so your billing statements don’t accidentally end up in your Spam folder.
     
  2. Identity Theft Is Still a Potential Threat. By switching to paperless billing, you eliminate the possibility of someone getting your sensitive information through the postal mail. However, your online accounts are still at risk for these thieves. Should someone breach your online account though hacking or phishing scams, having a paper statement available to show what funds were originally there is nice to have.
     
  3. Reliance on Email. How often do you check your email right now? If you check your email at least once daily, then you should be fine. But if checking emails is just not a priority for you, you may want to hold off on changing to paperless. If you don’t frequently check your email, you run the risk of missing a time-sensitive payment.
     
  4. Additional Passwords to Remember. I now have so many passwords to remember that I have them saved in a document on my desktop. That is about what you can expect if you switch to paperless billing. You will need separate accounts for each biller, and it is recommended that you have a unique password for each account – not to mention that your username will likely vary depending on the requirements of the website.

 

Final Thoughts

Going paperless is not as simple as it seems. It has its advantages, but only when done under the right set of circumstances and protections. Be sure that you take the steps necessary to make an easy transition to going paperless. For example, you should set up some sort of organizational system on your computer where you store all your data, and I would seriously consider installing a second hard drive on your computer. This will protect your information against an unexpected computer crash. If you don’t want to spend the money on that, at least invest in an external hard drive or backup service so you can transfer all of your statements off your computer completely.

Also, make sure you continue to review all e-bills in the same way (hopefully) that you review your paper statements. Especially keep track of due dates, as credit card companies will change these on you from time to time. By putting these steps into place and going paperless, you should be able to save trees, time, and money!

 

What are your thought on going paperless?

 

Photo credit: © All rights reserved by Prozac74

  • http://investorzblog.com/ Andy Hough – Investorz Blog

    I think the pros easily outweigh the cons.  I use paperless billing for any bill that has the option.  I don’t find it a problem to keep track of them.

    • http://www.dollarversity.com Eric J. Nisall – DollarVersity

      I find that all of my statements and bills are able to be received electronically.  The problem I have is that not all of my bills can be charged to my credit card automatically which means having to set up automatic bill payments through the bank which I don’t care for very much.

  • http://www.modestmoney.com/ Modest Money

    In my case I find that I get a lot lazier with checking bills.  Most of mine are set to automatically withdraw the money from my credit card or bank account.  So it’s far too tempting to just ignore the statements.  I’d have no idea if rates increase or if I get charged for something that I didn’t.

    • http://www.dollarversity.com Eric J. Nisall – DollarVersity

      I don’t find that correlation when it comes to paperless systems.  If anything iI find that I’m more diligent since I can perform those tasks from anywhere since everything is online.  To me it takes away the excuse of not having the time to do those tasks, since it can be done at any time from any place.  And the kicker is that there are no more piles of bills and statements to get lost, nor is there any need for filing cabinets or folders that both take up room and make backing up everything more tedious/difficult

  • http://twitter.com/prairieecothrif Miss T

    We have as many paperless bills as we can have. I love it. We get email notifications and we can just pay online. Plus we can download right into Quicken which is what we use for tracking our personal finances. It is a great system.

    • http://www.dollarversity.com Eric J. Nisall – DollarVersity

      That’s exactly what I do.  Quicken is great, and I would love to try incorporating the attachment feature so I can essentially tie statements, bills and receipt to transactions.  Right now, I just create a PDF file which I break down by creating bookmarks for months, then categories (bank, brokerage, pay stubs) and then the documents.  It’s good for keeping all of my most important records together and it’s relatively small & easily portable to boot.

  • ship management

    The comparison between both of two environments have been brought out interestingly but going paperless absolutely will take some more time.

  • ship management

    The comparison between both of two environments have been brought out interestingly but going paperless absolutely will take some more time.

  • http://www.carefulcents.com/ Carrie Smith

    I love going paperless, and I almost exclusively sign up for it, if the company offers it. I have a separate folder in my inbox labeled “invoices/bills”. Once I get my paperless bill or statement I put it straight into that box. Then a few times a month, I’ll go through it and review them. I’ll also download and save any that I need. It works great for me.

  • http://www.oddcents.com/ Dannielle @ Odd Cents

    I’m not sure if many companies here in Barbados do it, but I guess it’s somewhere on the horizon. I might go for it if they decide to charge you extra for mailed bills tho.

  • http://www.procurandomilionarios.com/testimonials.php Brazilian wife

    Absolutely right, 

  • http://www.procurandomilionarios.com/testimonials.php Brazilian wife

    Absolutely right, 

  • KNS_Financial

    I think paperless billing is wonderful, but it’s good to take notice of the cons listed above. For instance, I know that many people have been caught by phishing scams, because they assumed their bank was reaching out them via email (since that is how they now get their statements and other correspondence).

  • http://www.nextpay.com/credit_card_processing.php Take Credit Cards Online

     I’d go for a combination for this two. I use paperless and automate payments for recurring bills as this would save me time in a long run. And I keep track on payments that are automated. In general, the advantages have much weight than the disadvantages.

    Regards,
    Belinda