July 2014: Online Statement Centers and Paperless Enrollment

In this Bank Monitor Report, we dive into the private site statement capabilities of each Bank Monitor firm, not only investigating the design of the statement center and the depth of its archive, but also looking at the secondary tools provided by each firm for managing statements and enrolling in paperless delivery. Specifically, the report focused on three main criteria:

  • Format of Online Statements
  • Tools to Enroll in e-Statements
  • Depth of Archive 

Every Bank Monitor firm offers online statements as true-to-form PDFs. One firm also provides an HTML statement, while another offers the now-rare text format for downloads. Otherwise, online statements are increasingly limited to PDF copies of mailed statements. The movement to replicate statements that clients receive in the mail as PDF statements is a good one, though few firms have taken steps to recreate the full paper statement experience online. Only a handful of banks provide access to any traditional statement inserts through the private site. For example, one firm provides an Inserts column in its statement center, but has not populated it for any of the 36 months for which the firm provides online statements.

Most firms offer online statements in hopes that account holders will opt out of paper communication. In pursuit of this goal, all banks now include a tool within their private sites that allows users to enroll in paperless statements. Offered under different names at different banks, these tools almost universally allow clients to both suppress and restart paper statements, a great capability for those willing to try a paper-free banking relationship while still providing an easy way to switch back if they later decide they do not like it. While only a few firms are currently promoting paperless statements through sweepstakes or other incentives, three firms limit access to their online statement centers to those who have already suppressed paper statements.

Firms vary in terms of their available archive. Some firms offer only six months of past statements, while others offer up to six, seven or even 10 years of PDF statements. Eleven of the firms we looked at offer users 24 months or more of past statements by default, a nice archive that enables users to both see long term trends and access information they may need to complete their taxes. The shortest archive offered in this report is a scant six months; however, that bank mitigates its extremely short statement archive by offering next-day private site uploads of any statement from the previous seven years. While 12 banks allow users to request paper versions of back statement copies (usually for a fee), only three help bring the delivery of back statement information in line with the digital channel they hope clients will use for current statements, a feature we rewarded in our grading.