My wife has been on me to shred a bunch of old financial paperwork. Instead of scanning many of the statements I thought I would see what archives are available from various financial, utility and other companies which have moved to electronic bills and statements. That way I could download a digital version – most in PDF format – from their sites. Or hopefully not even download – have them retain it and access as needed.
I got excited when Fidelity offered statements online going back 15 years – not kidding! But in contrast, others are quite meager. Citi cards allow you to “request” up to 6 statements going back 10 years which they put on-line within 48 hours and hold in your account for a week. Slow, convoluted process. Fail. Bank of America, beyond 18 months on-line, makes you request one statement at a time – and then mails you a paper copy. Fail. I thought it was a ploy to charge more fees, but best I can tell neither charges a fee for the “service”. Also, to BofA’s credit, it provides copies of checks in digital format.
Amex keeps 6 months of statements on-line, then you can order others upto 5 years back, using a reasonably easy menu. It is available on-line within 24 hours. Even better, they pioneered the annual recap so you can download that each year. But for some reason they only retain the current year recap on-line, not that of prior years. Also, wish they would offer copies of charges – something they pioneered 2 decades ago. If you have signed up for their eBilling, Chase credit cards give you access to 6 years of statements on-line – available right away, no ordering needed. For its Platinum cards it also offers a year end recap. Again, recap not available on-line beyond the most recent year.
AT&T offers 18 months of statements on-line. Verizon was one of the most aggravating. In the various silos of that company – FioS, long-distance, wireless etc they must be having chaos in billing. My account, which has been valid for years, would not access the statements. Their payment system cannot access it either since they keep charging late fees in spite of a valid credit card. When I did get in, had access to 12 months worth of statements. Fail.
It would be nice to have online transaction query and data visualization capabilities with most of their providers. Shockingly, for what each of these large companies have in their IT groups in licensed analytical tools, very little is being made available to the consumer – even though it is “our” data. Amex on search and Fidelity on visualization came close to acceptable. In their defense, they figure most consumers download to Quicken or to their accounting systems so let those tools handle the analytics.
Other local utilities and financial institutions we use have very basic digital archives.
So, bottom line – companies, don’t just promise electronic billing or statements unless you can also deliver on your consumers’ needs for digital archiving (for tax reasons, for example) and analytical capabilities. You are creating a headache for your customers and clogging your call centers with routine questions without thinking through how stopping paper statements affects them.