The Receipt Paper: Keep it or Throw it Away?

Identity theft is a serious threat and if you’re not careful, criminals can get hold of very sensitive information about you and make your life miserable. For professional criminals, this can be easily done by rummaging in your trash for old, unshredded financial documents and even receipts.

Shredding outdated receipts that contain your personal details, such as your name, account numbers, signature, and address is a great way to keep your identity safe. However, you don’t need to shred everything. Other kinds of receipt can simply be thrown away.

So what receipts are for keeps and which ones can be shredded or thrown out? If you’re worried you are storing too much receipts or throwing out the valuable ones, read on to find out what receipts to keep, shred, or safely throw away.

Keep it

1. ATM Receipts

Keeping ATM receipts is a no-brainer. This piece of paper contains the name of your bank, the amount of your transaction, your available balance, and the last four digit of your account number. In the wrong hands, these details can be used to create fraudulent bank accounts. Always keep your most recent ATM receipt until the bank statement arrives, so you’re sure that they match. After that, shred the receipt along with the old ones using a cross-cut shredder.

2. Services Receipts

Receipts from garage services, equipment and appliance repairs, as well as inspection or maintenance service should also be kept. You will need these receipts to claim against warranties if issues occur. Meanwhile, you need to file all your car repair and service receipts, particularly if you’re planning on selling the vehicle in the future as you will have to pass these on to the next owner.

3. Purchase Receipts

You may want to keep purchase receipts in case the item you bought is defective or unsuitable. This way, you can easily return the product to get a refund or a replacement. These receipts are also typically used to validate an item’s warranty.

The policy for refund or return is often printed on the receipt. So unless the product does have a warranty, you can simply throw the receipt away. But, if you purchased using your credit card or debit card, it is best to shred the receipts after you’re certain that they match your bank or credit card statement and the return period has expired.

4. Credit Card Receipts

Again, keep receipts from credit card or debit card transactions until the return period or warranty of the product you bought has expired. On the other hand, if you used your card to pay for restaurant meals, salon services, or anything that does not warrant a return, make sure to check your receipts against your credit card or bank statement. Once you’re certain that they match, that’s the time you can shred the receipts.

5. IRS Receipts

The payment receipts you get from the IRS consist of sensitive information, which a lot of bad people find appealing. So you must shred these documents if you are going to dispose of them.

But before doing anything with them, ensure to check with your accountant if it is necessary to retain these receipts on file. Most of the documents that are related to your tax records, including a claim for deducting securities, are usually kept for as long as seven years.

Always file receipts containing personal data and remember: do not ever leave them out where just about anyone can see them.

Throw it Away

The receipts you get when you buy at the grocery store or pay at fast-food restaurants can almost always be thrown away instantly, provided that you paid in cash. You can even immediately throw out receipts that display just your name or address or both since these details are already on public record and practically accessible by anyone and everyone.

As long as the proofs of purchase are not signed and do not contain pertinent information about your finances (like credit card number or social security number), then it is safe to throw them away.

Shred it

Whatever piece of paper that has your social security, bank account, or credit card number written or printed on it (with or without your signature) should go straight to the shredder. Same goes for any receipt that contains even part of these sensitive data along with your signature.

It should be noted that any receipt that has your signature on it must be shredded, especially if it includes your identification and financing details.

You might also want to shred supermarket receipts that show your name and the number of your courtesy or membership card before disposing of them. If it contains your name and a retail account number, customer number, or any identification number, shred it. These details are typically enough for identity thieves to… Well, steal your identity, so make sure to shred these kinds of receipts.

If you are going to shred the receipts, be sure to shred them the right way. Most cheap shredders only cut paper lengthwise. This isn’t very effective as pros today can still put these shredded pieces together very easily to retrieve critical information.

As mentioned earlier, a cross-cut shredder is way more effective. Diamond-cut and confetti shredding machines are also a good choice. Unlike conventional shredders, these machines turn your document into small pieces, making it impossible to glue or tape together.

You can also burn these paper receipts in your grill or fireplace. Just make sure they are reduced to ash.

Parting Thoughts

Managing receipts is a twofold process. In order to defend any financial claims or tax discrepancies and have the option to make returns, it is important to keep your receipts. But, when the time comes to finally part with them, make sure that they are of no use to anyone before shredding or throwing them away.