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March 04, 2011

Online Billing, 2011 Edition

In 2008 I discussed Online Billing, since then there hasn't been much movement, but a little something to discuss today. While I still find that several of my accounts that offer online billing/statements only allow paper OR online versions, I'm pleasantly surprised that several of them now allow me to get both simultaneously. Unfortunately what I feared has proved true anyway. The online versions of my statements suffer from errors in amounts, problems with rendering making them unreadable and one thing I hadn't thought of previously, they have less detail than my paper versions. Another of my thoughts has also proven true. While at the bank making a transaction lately the teller suggested I convert my accounts to online billing. I read back my list of reasons why not and she countered with the correct arguments. While I trust my bank more than others to maintain correct and detailed records, the sticking point is their maximum retention of 7 years of data. In the past month I have had to go searching for records from 2000 and 2001 for two different reasons. If I had been using online billing, I may not have any records at all. There is a counter argument here that I have overlooked though, some of my services allow you to easily download your online records as PDF statements or even transaction records in various formats. Although these often suffer from the same errors and rendering problems, they also become another set of digital bits that need to be filed away and retained, as well as not being universally available or formatted. All in all, I still prefer the paper versions, but like the flexibility to refer to the online versions when they are available.

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