How Long Do You Keep Paid Credit Card and Utility Bills, Bank Statments, Etc?

Updated on January 31, 2012
M.J. asks from Downers Grove, IL
10 answers

How long do you keep your paperwork for? I know you keep tax records for 7 years but what about the other stuff? How long do you keep your monthly credit card and utility bills, bank statements, etc? Do you keep them until you get your next statement or do you keep them for a certain length of time? I have found conflicting information on this so I'm wondering what others do. Thanks for your input!

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answers from Chicago on

File Organizing - How Long to Save Paper

*Any advice should be checked with your accountant or attorney.

Keep for 1 Month
- Bank account withdrawals & deposit receipts. Toss after you’ve checked these against your monthly bank statements.
- Catalogs & magazines. Toss when the next issue arrives.
- Credit card receipts. Toss minor purchases after you’ve checked these against your monthly bill. File major purchase receipts w/ their warranties & manuals.
- Debit card receipts. Toss minor purchases after you’ve checked these against your monthly bank statement. File major purchase receipts w/ their warranties & manuals.
- Sales receipts. Toss sooner if you are certain the purchase will not be returned.
- Utility statements. Toss after you’ve checked these against your current utility bills.

Keep for 1 Year
- Monthly bank, credit card, brokerage, mutual fund & retirement account statements. Keep until you receive the year-end statement.
- Paycheck stubs/direct deposit receipts. Keep until verified by W-2 statements.

Keep for 6 Years
- W-2’s, 1099’s & other material for your tax returns. File these w/ your completed tax returns.
- Year-end account statements: credit cards, brokerage & mutual funds.

Keep Indefinitely
- Auto records & title. Keep in fireproof box & as long as you own the vehicle.
- Birth & death certificates, & adoption papers. Keep in fireproof box.
- Copyrights & patents. Keep in fireproof box.
- Insurance policies. Keep in fireproof box.
- Marriage licenses & divorce decrees. Keep in fireproof box.
- Medical records
- Passports. Keep in fireproof box.
- Powers of attorney. Keep in fireproof box.
- Real estate records & property deeds. Keep as long as you own the property. Keep deeds in fireproof box.
- Receipts for major purchases. File these w/ their warranties & manuals
- Tax returns. You may be able to toss after 6 years. Check w/ your accountant.
- Wills, trusts & estate plans. Keep in fireproof box.

*I have this as a WORD document & am happy to email it to you as an attachment.

H. Machina
Precision Organizers Company

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Chicago on

Once or twice I could have used a record going back further, but that's in my whole adult life. Is it worth the effort and space to keep all that paper and file it in a way that would make it useful? We decided, no. Life is too short and we're drowning in paper as it is. Cheaper to replace anything we end up needing than buy a larger house to store it on the off-chance. We keep non-tax stuff for a year, just stored in large envelopes. If you really need it, your bank can (for a fee!) print old statements and copies of checks.



answers from Chicago on

Hi Tara,

I keep anything relating to tax information (investments statements, property taxes, bank statements) for 10 years.

Medical bills, I keep for 5 years - I include the check carbon or a printed copy of the cashed check with the paid bill(I get an electronic copy online for a limited amount of time thru chase - I make sure these are always always always paid with a check for this reason) I go through about once a year and put the years worth in a manila folder and rubberband it, and it goes into a plastic box in our basement, with the contents written on the folder.

Paid utility bills, we toss those during our yearly file drawer cleanup.

Also... invest in a good shredder. We have one that cross cuts and it can handle a work out - we give ours a major workout! we do not ever throw away anything with our name on it - credit card offers, loan offers, car financing, etc. everything in our house gets shredded. you could use the shredding in your garden to help insulate rose bushes or delicate plantings... you can use the shreddings for packing materials too! mostly we just throw ours away.

anyway, hope that helps! I have learned the hard way on the medical bills and had a hospital try to come after me for an 'unpaid' debt, until i was able to prove that i did in fact pay it, and that they DID in fact cash my check - how they applied it, was not my problem, i gave them payment and i was able to prove it.

Also, anything legal (divorce papers, old tax returns, lawsuits - god forbid) I keep indefinitely.

Good luck - sounds like you're doing a little spring cleaning - enjoy! i'm doing that myself - jsut stopped to take a break and eat breakfast... well... i guess more like lunch :) busy busy




answers from Chicago on

i keep them 7-10 yrs and they have come in very handy a few times. For instance, my luggage got lost and because I keep receipts and credit card bills, I was able to piece together the cost of the contents. So whether lost or stolen, they can be useful later. also I bought a new winter coat and several months later its backseam came undone and so I was able to get a refund. There have been a few instances where they have been useful for doing taxes the following year.



answers from Chicago on

My husband used to be a CPA, and he says seven years on all of these things (less on utility bills, if you're not claiming them as part of a home-office deduction.) Far easier to hold on to these things, especially the bank statements, than to try to get the bank to reprint them later on -- first of all, there will be a fee, and you may not know which statement you need. Second, your bank may cease to exist! My seven years of bank statements cover four different institutions with all the takeovers.

Bank statements are related to taxes, so don't throw those away.



answers from Chicago on

I keep mine 1 year and clean out about every January. I figure that each bill shows that there was no balance the previous month, so they can't come back on me and say that I owe anything. I've done this for 8 years w/ no problem. Also most bills/cc you can look at at least 6 mths of statements online and even more if you go to paperless.

I do keep all of my health papers just in case. It helps.



answers from Chicago on

Hi, Tara-

I keep utility bills for one year, then toss.

Bank statements,I keep for one year, though you can toss out
monthly. Regarding bank statements and cancelled checks, I remove anything associated with income taxes-ie charity, medical, etc. that I put in my current year Income Tax file-
so when the time comes for taxes, these items are ALREADY in this folder. These documents are saved for 7 years. That current
year folder-i.e., 2008 Income taxes, is kept up for the whole year--so it's a breeze to have everything needed for taxes
all together in one place when filing.

Credit Card Receipts-may be discarded after appearing on credit card statement and when NOT needed for warranties, merchandise returns, or TAXES.

Hope this helps, I like to keep things as simple as possible-

L. P.



answers from Chicago on

i throw them out as soon as i pay them. You can access all that on line so there is really no reason to keep them. As long as they have a website, which almost every place does, you really dont need to hang on to them.



answers from Chicago on

I have heard for bills, 1 year. For bank statements, I keep them 7 years (because I don't know what to do with them). Although the exception to that is mortgage and car payments. I've heard to keep copies of those canceled checks for the entire time you own the house or car.

I hope that when you collect the responses, you'll please post a summary of the results. I'd be really interested to see them as well.




answers from Detroit on

Holly has responded with the best answer here, and I am just posting here to say thank you to her, I have taken down the list and will be following it, hopefully adding thing of my own to it as well. Though as for the bill and there payments are concerned I have hired services of an Automatic Invoice Solution which pays my bills when they arrive and manage my bills account with them :)