Keep old bank statements?

As my wife and I downsize, we have to get rid of unnecessary paper. For at least a year, we have not gotten paper statements but do everything online. Is there any reason to keep the older ones? I cannot recall ever looking at one of them and, it total, they take up a lot of room.

For several years, I’ve been downloading bank statements in PDF form (along with credit card and utility statements) and saving them on my PC. I no longer receive paper statements from any of these companies and have shredded all of the old paper ones I still have.

If you ever close an account every on line trace of it disappears so if you ever have to prove it once existed you may have a problem. We hang onto paper statements for 7 years.

Downloaded pdfs serve the same purpose, there’s no need for paper.

I used to be in charge of the archival of customer statements at the bank where I worked. I don’t know what the ‘official’ regulation states, but our in-house lawyers advised us to keep all online statements for seven years. And if we were subpoenaed for any statements less than seven years old, we produced them.

Having said that, if you do close an account, keeping the last statement either in paper or PDF form is probably a good idea.

I don’t keep my statements. In fact, I’ve been paperless for years. My bank keeps my statements on file electronically going back for seven years. I can see any particular month’s statement and print it out.

That works too. :smiley:

I don’t think you’d need an actual statement to simply prove an account existed, though. If the account earned interest you would have gotten a 1099 form which you probably have saved with your tax records. I would think that would be sufficient proof that the account existed. I suppose if you needed proof that a specific transaction took place you’d need an actual statement.

Tax forms like 1099s are pretty much the only documents I actually get on paper anymore. Everything else it online. I was an early adopter of electronic statements, and signed up for them as soon as my bank started offering them back in the early 2000s.

I have them going back 32 years, and every now and then there’s some minor reason to look something up. It’s interesting, and can be handy when I want to replace something and can’t remember where I bought it. I also had a weird thing happen in my checkbook software: suddenly one of my accounts wouldn’t balance, but all the items on the statement looked correct. When I went back in time I discovered that for over 4 years it wasn’t balanced. Then I found an item on a paper statement from back then which had been checked off but wasn’t in my checkbook software, and adding it to the software version fixed everything. Since I had been getting correct reconciliations for all those years, I think what happened is that the software forgot that item (and I don’t think I could have accidentally deleted it because the software makes more noise than a forklift in reverse when you try to delete an item you’ve already marked as cleared). But I couldn’t have corrected this properly without the 4+ year old statements to check.

I think all these statements take up one cubic foot. Since I seem to have room for things like an antique winch and a tandem bicycle, it fits in here OK.

I’d ask the bank what their policy is on providing old statements. I used to work on the phones for a brokerage firm and it was common to get requests for very old statements, often for proof of ownership of a stock that’s the subject of a class action suit. While it was often a pain in the butt for me to do it, the customer would get their old statement free of charge.

I’d say it might also depend on how complex your financial situation is. Mine is very basic and I can’t imagine needing to look back to see me withdrawing $100 at an ATM back in 2015 or a debit card purchase of a Pepsi and chips from 2012.

In PDF form, the statements take very little hard drive space to store; each statement is under a megabyte (usually much less than that) so even ten years of statements take less than fifty megabytes. (One suggestion, if you haven’t already heard it. I keep the statements in separate folders, one for each bank/credit card/utility/insurance account. And in each folder, the statements are named in the form YYYYMM, so that the current month’s statement would be called 201908.PDF. That allows me to easily sort the list and find any needed statement.)

I haven’t received any sort of paper statement for banking, credit card, retirement, etc for as long as I can opt out of them. I also do not download and save any of them beyond using them to reconcile. I can go online and get them if I ever need them. I think the last time I ever needed them was 16 years ago when I got a mortgage. I won’t need to do that again so I don’t see the point in downloading them.

In all my years I have yet the need to look up something on an old bank statement.

Yes, this is a good point. I have never need OLD bank statements. When I got my mortgage, I needed like the last 2-3 and I can always just download those.

No, you probably don’t need old bank statements, but for those who saved paper statements, I suggested saving electronic copies as a low-cost, low-clutter alternative. (And it can be interesting to review old statements. You can see, for instance, how your bank balance or cable bill has changed over the years.)

Considering your paper problem in general, for stuff you are not sure you want to throw away in the vast majority of cases you can simply scan it and store the scans in your computer and/or online.

In the “olden days” keeping bank records (and lots of other paper records) was necessary. The general rule of thumb was to keep them for seven years (generally because of IRS regulations). In practical terms (for me anyway) this meant keeping them forever. When I moved out of my house in 2012, I had to get a crapload of paper shredded. from then on I have relied on the bank’s online records. It is much easier. I have never had to refer to records older than three years, and that only rarely. Even in those cases it was not a matter of real need, just of curiosity (who did I make the check out for that plumbing work?).

Occasionally I get something on paper that I think I should keep, so I just scan it.

Life is much simpler.

I have no idea what you are doing with bank statements anyway. I do all of my banking on line and I check the account often. I never look at a bank statement. I can’t imagine what reconciling a bank statement means in modern terms. Are those of you who are doing this writing a lot of paper checks? Otherwise, what exactly are you doing to “reconcile” your statement?

What I’m doing isn’t necessarily different from your “check the account often”. It’s a way of thoroughly checking the account. I’ve found fraudulent activity, items I recorded in this account when I should have recorded them in that account, items that have not cleared even after a long time and so need looking into, and various other things. Anything I can think of that could go wrong ought to turn up in this process.

When you check the account, are you just keeping an eye out for charges that look wrong? Or would you have a way of noticing, for example, that an item that should be appearing in your account is missing without explanation? I think it’s a question of what mechanism is thorough enough for you.

By the way, if you want to come close to spending the account down, I think you have to reconcile to be sure you’ve caught everything, as otherwise there could be some large forgotten transaction pending and you could overdraw.

Due to being a borderline paperwork hoarder, I have banking and other records that go back to 1986. And I regret that I don’t have them going back any further.

I’m happy to say, however, that practically none of them are paper any more after I went on a huge campaign to scan everything starting about 12 years ago. It took longer than I’d have liked (and, in fact, if I’d known how long it would take, I’d have just gone ahead and bought a scanner with a sheet feeder), but I finally got there.