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Statements from your bank and credit card companies arrive regularly, either by mail or electronically. Reviewing them is an important step in keeping your finances in order, but how long should you keep them once you've looked them over?
Several factors affect how long you should hold on to bank and credit card statements. In most cases you should save them at least until you've filed taxes for that year and resolved any pending fraud disputes, but storing them away for longer may pay off in the future.
Keep Bank and Credit Card Statements for One Year
Having all of your statements available when you prepare your taxes will help you confirm income and track deductible expenses accurately.
This holds true whether you receive statements by mail or electronically. If you choose paperless statements, you can access them online, possibly going back months or years if your bank or credit card issuer keeps them available. Alternatively, you may download and store your statements in a password-protected file or print them out. Either way, you'll be able to access them for as long as you decide to keep them.
If you've used any statements to help calculate your taxes, save them—along with your tax return—for at least seven years, in case the IRS has any questions. See Experian's guide to storing financial documents for tips on how to maintain them safely and securely.
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Why Can It Be a Good Idea to Keep Bank Statements?
Bank, credit card and investment account statements provide a wealth of information when you're filing your taxes. Use your statements to do the following:
- Document payroll deposits, which you can check against the income listed on your W-2.
- Verify 1099 income if you do occasional work as an independent contractor or have your own business.
- Track mortgage payments, student loan and tuition information, and charitable donations.
- Detail investment income and losses as well as retirement account contributions or distributions.
- Record business expenses, if any.
In addition to reviewing your statements annually at tax time, you should go over them monthly throughout the year. Although you may check your transactions frequently online or by mobile app, your monthly statement is a full accounting of your activity and may show transactions you've previously overlooked. Look for errors: Double-check that your expected deposits have been credited and that there are no unfamiliar or incorrect transactions that might indicate fraud.
If you find an inconsistency or evidence of suspected fraud, contact your bank or card company immediately and make a report. Hang on to any relevant statements until the issue is fully resolved.
How Long Do You Need to Keep Other Financial Documents?
Other documents related to your bank, credit card and investment accounts abound. Here are a few types and how long to consider saving them:
Save until reconciled with your monthly/quarterly statement:
- ATM receipts
- Deposit and withdrawal slips
- Investment transaction records
- Credit and debit card receipts
Save for tax time and/or until reconciled with annual tax reporting documents:
- Monthly/quarterly checking, savings, credit card and investment statements
- Mortgage statements
Download and/or save paper copies with your tax returns:
- 1098 showing annual mortgage interest paid
- Schedule K-1 forms for income, payments and losses on investments
- 1099-INT for interest paid to you
- Form 5498 for retirement account contributions and 1099-R for distributions
Keep copies in your files while active:
- Stock certificates and records
- Disputed bills and supporting receipts, statements and communications
Is It Necessary to Keep Your Financial Statements?
It's possible to access past statements without keeping copies yourself, but you may choose to keep your own statements on file anyway. Your financial institution stores information in their system for multiple years, and may be able to provide you with copies of older statements on request. You can also request past copies of the statements you normally receive by mail, sometimes for a fee, by contacting your bank or card company.
The length of time your financial institution will store these records—and make them available to you—varies, so it's a good idea to do a little research on your bank's policy. Some card companies only provide online statements for the previous 12 months, for example; you may have to do extra legwork or pay for missing statements and wait a few days or weeks to get anything beyond that.
Some banks, including Wells Fargo, retain account statements for up to seven years on checking, deposit, home mortgage, trust and managed investment accounts. At other financial institutions, five years is the norm.
If you've used your financial statements to back up information on your tax returns, you may want to keep your own paper or digital copies, rather than relying on the bank to do it. That way, you can ensure that you have these documents on hand for a full seven years. And at any time, you'll be able to access and refer to this information without having to track it down online.
When you no longer need your documents, be sure to shred the paper files and completely delete the electronic copies (including any backups). Free software for Windows and Mac computers can help make sure these files can't later be recovered by someone up to no good.
Maintaining a Paper Trail
The bank and credit card statements you receive provide concise and comprehensive information about what's happening with your accounts. It can also be key supporting documentation to prove yourself if your finances are ever called into question.
Reviewing statements can help you spot fraud and other irregularities, such as an unusually high bill. Keep them as long as needed to help with tax preparation or fraud/dispute resolution. And maintain files securely for at least seven years if you've used your statements to support information you've included in your tax return.