If you feel overwhelmed by years of paperwork, watch out. You may be able to lighten your load when it comes to your credit card statements.
Experts suggest that credit card holders keep their personal credit card statements for at least 60 days. But how long all that extra paper (or extra bytes) is kept can vary depending on how a credit card is used and whether the cardholder relies on hard copies or statements. online (or both).
For many people, keeping credit card statements for at least 60 days is probably sufficient. It is important to double check and confirm purchases made against copies of receipts or other proof of purchase. Reviewing each monthly statement also helps avoid unpleasant surprises, catch errors, and identify signs of identity theft or fraud.
According to the Fair Credit Billing Act, consumers have up to 60 days to report signs of fraud or other billing errors to credit card servicers, but the sooner they can, the better. Recording credit card statements is also useful for tracking spending habits and maintaining a budget.
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It may be advisable to keep records longer than 60 days for other reasons:
- If the cardholder relies only on hard copies, some experts suggest keeping copies of credit card statements for up to 12 months. This is useful not only for tracking spending habits, but also in case unexpected issues arise later.
- If a charge on a specific credit card statement is disputed, it’s always a good idea to keep the statement until the dispute is resolved. This can take 30-90 days depending on the situation and the credit card company.
- If a purchase should result in a statement credit, keep the statement that shows proof of purchase until the credit is received. For example, a travel rewards card may give statement credit for TSA PreCheck enrollment or other eligible travel expenses.
- Some credit cards offer extended warranties on qualifying purchases, such as televisions or speaker systems. Keep the credit card statement showing proof of purchase for as long as the extended warranty is expected to last. For example, if the television purchased has a two-year warranty, and the credit card used grants an additional year, keep the corresponding statement for three years.
- Some credit cards offer return protection for qualifying purchases. Keep the declaration as long as the protection lasts.
Tax-related expenses are a very important reason for keeping credit card statements for longer than 60 days. This can be especially useful for those who use business credit cards. The IRS reserves the right to check anyone’s financial history for up to six years. In this case, it is wise to keep credit card statements for at least three years, preferably six years if there is a very high audit risk. Credit card statements are essential for proving business expenses, large purchases or payments (thousands of dollars), or tax deductions such as charitable donations.
Keeping statements in a safe place is essential in all cases. Most credit card companies offer online account access that allows account holders to access their statements for at least one year. Some popular companies offer a longer statement history. For example, Chase allows account holders to search up to seven years of statements. Bank of America allows you to search up to three years of statements.
Best practice is to download each month’s statement and save it to a password-protected file. There is no guarantee that a credit card servicer will keep statements longer than they advertise. The declarations may not even be easily accessible by a simple search. Downloading statements at least once a month will also be helpful if the account holder ever decides to close an account. Often, credit card statements will no longer be accessible after the account is closed.
For those who rely on paper statements, it is important to organize and file hard copies in a safe place. Experts recommend a fireproof, lockable safe that is stored in a secure location. Always label statements with the month, year, and any other important notes to remember. Accordion filing systems are handy for keeping everything organized for those who don’t want bulky filing cabinets but need to avoid what I like to call the “fire hazard office.”
Once credit card statements have become old news, the next step is to get rid of the old copies. Online statements can be kept on a hard drive for as long as needed, then can be permanently deleted to free up storage space.
Hard copies require a bit more effort to get rid of. Believe it or not, dumpster divers who find old credit card statements in trash cans or landfills can steal your identity with their new “treasure.” The best way to prevent identity theft is to shred each statement before it is thrown away. Shredders can be purchased cheaply from online retailers like Amazon. Office providers like FedEx or Office Depot also offer shredding services for a fee. Shredding old credit card statements (and other important financial documents) is crucial to protecting account numbers, names, addresses, and especially social security numbers.
Maintaining and organizing credit card statements can seem quite boring to many, but it’s important to review financial records to avoid any surprises. Getting audited by the IRS or losing thousands of dollars to fraud is a lot less fun than filling out a bit of paperwork. Be sure to download online statements monthly and destroy hard copies when they are no longer needed.