How Long Should Bank Statements Be Kept

By Sarah Li Cain · October 18, 2023 · 7 minute read

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How Long Should Bank Statements Be Kept

How long you should keep bank statements will depend on several factors, such as whether you need them for tax filing purposes or as proof of financial transactions.

Typically, it’s best to keep them until you’ve successfully filed your taxes or no longer need them as a form of financial proof. That could mean hanging onto them for a year or considerably longer, though keep in mind it is often possible to access bank statements online vs. keeping a paper copy.

Here, you’ll learn more about:

•  What is in a bank statement

•  How long you should keep bank statements

•  Why you should keep bank statements

•  What you should do with older bank statements.

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What’s in a Bank Statement?

A bank statement is a document created by your bank that shows you details about your banking activity — such as for a savings or checking account — for a specific account over a specified period of time, like a month.

Information you’ll find on your bank statement can help you manage your bank account and may include:

•  The reporting or length of your statement period

•  Personal details such as your name and bank account number or type

•  The interest rates, or annual percentage rate (APY), you earn for that particular account

•  The amount of interest earned

•  Any fees you may have paid during the reporting period

•  Deposits, withdrawals, and other transfers (including the amounts) during the reporting period

•  Ending balance at the end of the reporting period.

The purpose of a bank statement is to help you understand exactly what is happening with your bank account and keep track of what is going in and coming out.

How Do You Receive Bank Statements?

You can receive paper or electronic bank statements.

With paper bank statements, your financial institution will mail you a copy each month, or you can head to your local branch (if you have the option) and request one. Electronic statements are either sent via email or secure messaging.

Or you can log into your online account and look at or download a copy for your files.

Recommended: What Is a Debit Card?

Benefits of Keeping Bank Statements

The main benefit of keeping bank statements is that you have a record of any income, deductions, or other forms of transactions ready for tax time or when applying for a loan. It’s also helpful for you to track your banking activity to help spot any potential fraud. How long do you keep bank statements? Typically, at least a year or until tax time.

Here, more specifics about why doing so is a good idea.

Refer to Them at Tax Time

You want to be sure you have accurate numbers when it comes to filing your taxes, and having bank statements makes it easier to do your calculations. It can be especially helpful if you’re self-employed and are reporting income and business expenses.

Though you may not need to hang onto your bank statements after 12 months, it may make sense to hold onto them for three years (or even up to seven) in case you get audited or need information so you can file an amended tax return. In fact, there are IRS guidelines on how long you should hang onto your bank statements depending on your financial and tax scenario.

Provide Proof of Payment

You can use your bank statements to track any payments you’ve made in case there are any issues. For example, if your lender believes you missed your monthly mortgage payment, you can provide them with a copy of your bank statement to show the transaction went through.

Or, if you’re unsure whether your employer paid out your semi-annual bonus, you can look at your bank statement to make sure they did. If not, you can show this documentation when you contact your payroll department.

Some lenders for various loan applications may also want to take a look at your bank statements for proof of income purposes.

How long should your bank statements be kept for this specific reason is up to you. Keep in mind that banks are only legally required to keep them on record for at least five years. If you want to hang onto them for longer, it’s best to download or save a copy for your own records.

Spot Fraud or Identity Theft

If you’re concerned about fraudulent transactions or just want to keep an eye on your bank account, regularly reviewing your bank statements gives you insights into your account. It can help you spot any suspicious activity. The sooner you can see these types of transactions, the sooner you can report them to your bank and get matters resolved.

Recommended: How Many Bank Accounts Should You Have?

Where to Keep Bank Statements

It may seem like it’s not necessary to keep your own copies of statements since your bank is legally required to keep them for at least five years. However, it may make sense to have your own copies in case you need them quickly or you want to be able to access them whenever you want. As mentioned above, how many years of bank statements you keep is up to you, but at least a year’s worth can be a wise move.

Paper Bank Statements

You’ll need to find physical space if you want to store paper statements. Depending on how many you have, you can use a small filing folder or filing cabinet. Consider separating them by the type — such as a personal savings account vs. checking account statements — and year.

To help make papers easier to find, file your statements in chronological order.

Electronic Bank Statements

Electronic statements don’t require as much physical space, which can be an advantage of online banking, but you will need a device to house them. Yes, you can simply store them on your computer or laptop’s hard drive, but it may be worth considering having a backup just in case your computer crashes or gets lost. You can purchase portable hard drives; there are many affordable options out there.

Otherwise, you could consider storing statements on one device and also confirming with the bank how long it keeps bank statements as a backup plan. You can then download bank statements as needed for as long as the bank still has them on file.

What to Do With Older Bank Statements

If you no longer need your bank statements, you’ll want to dispose of them safely and securely. That’s because they contain sensitive information that you don’t want going into the wrong hands.

Shredding Your Documents

You can shred your documents to protect your sensitive information by either purchasing your own shredder or heading to your local office supply store and paying for professional shredding. (Some communities may offer free paper shredding days at credit unions and local organizations, often around tax time.)

Completely Delete Electronic Copies

If you have electronic copies, make sure to delete them from your computer and any backup sources. Check your computer’s recycle bin or other folders to ensure they’re completely wiped from your device.

The Takeaway

Keeping bank statements is an important part of your overall financial health. It can help you with tasks such as accurately filing tax returns and providing proof of payment. Whether you keep hard copies or electronic statements securely, they can enhance your personal finance management.

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How many months’ worth of bank statements do you need to keep?

It’s generally recommended that you hold onto your bank statements for 12 months or longer if you need them for auditing purposes.

Is it OK to throw away old bank statements?

You can get rid of old bank statements that you no longer need. However, you want to dispose of them securely (often by shredding them) since they contain sensitive information.

Do banks destroy records after 7 years?

Banks are legally required to keep records for at least five years, and they may not hang onto them for seven years. If you’re unsure, contact your bank to find out if you would have access to your statements after seven years.

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