Dear Action Line: Should credit card receipts be kept or discarded, and if "discarded" is the answer, should they be shredded or just thrown away? - N.L., Tulsa
Hang onto them for now - or at least until you've read this.
Credit card receipts are printed with every swipe of a credit card and are filling wallets, purses and car consoles.
They're used as scratch paper, bookmarks and fire starters - making these small but important strips of white paper easy to lose, said Bill Hardekopf, CEO of LowCards.com, which it identifies itself as "the most objective, comprehensive resource on the Internet for comparing rates on 1,000 credit cards in this country."
Numbers and signatures on receipts: Through the Fair and Accurate Credit Transactions Act ( tulsaworld.com/facta), Congress mandated only the last four or five digits of your card number - not your whole number - can appear on your receipt. Your receipt can't include your expiration date. This shortened or truncated number provides greater financial security, but it doesn't offer complete protection, Hardekopf said.
Sneaky thieves: Pretending to be your bank or utility company, thieves use the few published digits of your credit card number in an attempt to establish authority to ask unsuspecting consumers to provide the rest of the numbers. Never tell callers your card number no matter who they say they are. If you think the call is legitimate, look up the company and call its number.
Two copies: The rest of the numbers on your receipt are processing codes identifying the store, the terminal and cash register taking the payment. Two receipt copies are issued, one for the customer and one for the merchant. They are identical, and it doesn't matter which one you sign. Restaurants put the tip and signature lines on both copies. Your signature is important, no matter how illegible. The receipt is a contract you will pay, and the signed receipt is also important when you dispute a fraudulent charge.
Keep or toss: Keep these receipts to compare charges with your credit card statements, especially those that include a tip. It is possible that the cashier could make a mistake or fraudulently add a little more to your bill, a practice called tip-padding.
If a credit card charge is incorrect, the receipt is your proof to help you dispute the charge. Keeping your receipt is also important when you need to make an exchange, get a refund or use a warranty. It is a good idea to keep receipts for a year or two until the credit card warranty expires, especially on major purchases.
Document scanning services: If you don't want to keep up with your receipts, services such as Shoeboxed.com digitize receipts and store them in cloud-based archives. Retailers are also moving to electronic payments that send an email receipt to you.
Submit Action Line questions by calling 918-699-8888, emailing firstname.lastname@example.org or by mailing them to Tulsa World Action Line, P.O. Box 1770, Tulsa, OK 74102-1770.
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