Why don't banks pay me for going paperless?

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12 February 2013
Daniel W. Latimore
I recently stayed at a Sheraton in London. On arrival I was intrigued by a card that offered me 500 points for not having my room cleaned. This was a different approach than the old, and not particularly effective, exhortation to hang my towel if I wanted to save water – in that scenario, there was nothing in it for me but the potential for some vague good feeling. But this – this was real, this gave me something that I valued. So I opted to go without my room being made up for two nights, was 1000 points the richer, and the hotel saved on labor, detergent, water, and the like. It was a true win-win situation. When I remarked on it when checking out, the clerk said that the initiative was only a couple of weeks old, but had received very favorable responses. Count me as a fan! What’s the analog for banks and other senders of paper statements? The plea to go paperless. We’re told it’s green, and might reduce the risk of identity theft. But I know that the bank will save a lot of money by not sticking that statement in the mail (in round numbers, 50 cents per customer per month). So why not just offer to split that (relatively small) amount with me, or offer some other incentive? When added to those other worthy reasons, it might be enough to tip certain customers over the edge of going paperless. The goodwill it generates will certainly help from a marketing perspective. And finally, it’s a great example of a win-win for the bank and its customers. I love to ponder why we do what we do. The rapidly evolving world of behavioral economics is particularly relevant to financial services, and I’ll be exploring on an ongoing basis some of the lessons that banks can draw from this emerging field. If you’ve got your own interesting examples of changing behavior, let us know.


  • In India, my broadband service provider gives me 1% discount on my bill for e-bill.

  • Great example, Sumit! Any others (especially in a non-US context)?

  • Chase is now paying $5 for signing up for paperless statements. It appears to be a one time payment. Not very compelling, but a start.

  • Kasasa providers do! Community banks & credit unions who have Kasasa accounts give their account holders incentives to do things that both make and save the institution money (like getting e-statements, using online banking, using their debit cards). It's baked right into the account so when the account holder helps the bank/credit union, the institution turns around and shares that benefit with them in the form of awesome rewards like really high rates, cash back, donations, money to save, etc.

    I wrote a blog post last year explaining the win-win scenario if you'd like to read more:

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Asia-Pacific, EMEA, LATAM, North America