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Bank Statements: Paper or Pixels?

For a while now, the trend in banking is to push consumers to use electronic statements. Whether to "keep green" or to just save some money, e-statements are pretty commonplace these days. Consumers seem to have accepted them.

For a while now, the trend in banking is to push consumers to use electronic statements. Whether to "keep green" or to just save some money, e-statements are pretty commonplace these days. Consumers seem to have accepted them.Then I ran across something that shows this might not be quite true. According to the Attention Span Research Study by Pitney Bowes, Americans spend twice as much time reviewing printed bank and credit card statements compared to the 3.5 minutes spent examining their Web equivalents. So people are a bit more careful when reviewing a paper bank statement and tend to skim when they're reading one online.

The study also found that consumers pay more attention to direct mail than to "cold" prospecting e-mails. Well, that should be no surprise to the financial services industry since we live in the era of spam and phishing.

The thrust of the research, however, was designed to show companies that their direct marketing campaigns might be better served on paper and to rethink how they move customers online for self-service functions.

Although I can certainly see the researchers' point, it also makes me wonder about the general push to digitize everything. I bank online, but I still receive a paper statement. Some months I just tuck it in the filing cabinet, and other months I'll sit down and give it a good read to see just where my finances are, where money is being spent, etc. Do I also do this online? To an extent. But I think I'm just as guilty of skimming as the next person. You're online, after all. You want to do everything as quickly as possible so you can move on to the next website.

Does this apparent trend of glancing at e-statements affect the bank in any way? Probably not in a direct manner. But there certainly are implications for consumers. If you receive e-statements, are you truly giving your transaction history the attention it deserves? Some proponents of e-statements say they're safer with regard to preventing fraud since they arrive in a more immediate manner and aren't out in "the wild" as the post office attempts to deliver them, as is the case with paper statements.

I think it comes down to the fact that no matter how handy it is to do things online, human nature dictates that we enjoy holding something tangible in our hands-like a paper statement. Granted, this was a vendor-based study, but it does raise an interesting point.

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