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.
- 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.
- Environmental Impact. If your bill is sent to you electronically, you will save trees and lessen your carbon footprint.
- Faster Access. Your bills will get sent to you in a more timely fashion than if they were sent through postal mail.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
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?
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