Creditors Start Charging Customers for Paper Statements

Credit card companies are trying to reduce their use of paper - but it's not because they want to go green. Rather, they want to hold on to more green.

In the last couple months, credit card issuers have been sending out information about term changes in order to comply with new credit reform legislation, which limits and requires advance notice for the fees they can charge.

Along with notice of higher interest rates and steeper fees for cash advances, I've noticed a much smaller change. At least two of my card issuers are going to start charging me for receiving paper statements -- $1 and $2 each month. Imagine paying that fee for a handful of credit cards - the amount most Americans carry - and you're looking at as much as $100 a year, just to receive statements the way you always have. That's no small change when most folks are already struggling to pay the bills.

On the bright side, it has the potential to be a win-win. Forcing customers to go paperless will save them the cost of a stamp, and banks the cost of purchasing paper and printing statements. On the downside, paying electronically requires some planning and organization.

Most banks offer free online banking, in which you link your credit accounts to your bank account. You can either pay when you receive statements by e-mail (in this case, it's smart to have an e-mail account set up just for your bills or have a good idea of when statements arrive each month - otherwise it's easy for them to get lost among other e-mails) or set up automatic payments, in which money is deducted from your checking account each month whether or not you take any action. The latter method means you'll have to keep a close eye on how much is in your account and how much you're spending each month - unless you want to get hit with a fee for overdrawing.

If you find it all too much of a hassle, the easiest solution is to cut back on credit. Try using cash instead. You won't spend more than you have, since you're limited by the number in your bank account. And you won't have to pay interest, meaning you won't owe money on today's groceries two years from now.

Of course, sometimes your debt burden might be so big that you have no choice but to keep using credit, since most of your paycheck goes towards managing that debt. But bankruptcy can break the cycle by reducing the amount you owe, thus freeing up more cash each month. Find out if bankruptcy is your ticket out of debt when you try a free one-on-one debt analysis with an Atlanta bankruptcy attorney. No strings - or surprise fees - attached.

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