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I noticed that none of my banks I have accounts with in the US (i.e. my local CU, Bank of America, Chase, and Citi) offer any way to view or download bank statements (e.g. as PDFs), account activity pages, and transaction lists (e.g. CSV, OFX, QFX) older than a few years.

For example, my credit-card with Chase was opened in 2014, but both web-page activity listings and CSV/QFX downloads only go back to September 2018:

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I understand that banks will keep a record of every transaction: the amount of data that represents a transaction is no more than a few hundred bytes (at most!). Since the mid-1990s there's no technical or economic reason for banks not to store the full details of every transaction indefinitely - and there is business-value in having that data.

So assuming that banks do have that data available, why do they all prohibit access to old records?

I note that most (but not all) of those banks say on their website that you can contact them to request a print-out of your statements going back an additional 2-3 years, but nothing older than that. This feels arbitrary and frustrating (and I really don't want my statements on paper!)

I would assume that being able to determine an account balance by re-running every transaction from the start would be desirable, or even required, for a bank's recordkeeping to be considered trustworthy.

I'm asking this question because I recently lost my old manually-downloaded CSV/OFX files that I downloaded every month since I opened my accounts, and I want to re-build my personal-finance database but none of my banks offer any records older than 2014 or even 2018, which is annoying.

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You are right that banks store the information of your bank account for a long time. (in Germany for example they are required to keep them for 10 years). Its another thing though to make them technically available 24/7 online.

Making your account data available in a live system costs resources. If the amount of data on the servers gets too big it can even break what standard industry solutions have to offer out of the box, requiring additional development. If that data is almost never used and requested, those resource are wasted.

Also Remember that web-technology moves very fast and the banking industry moves way slow. So when they create a new online system, not all the data may necessarily be compatible with that system. Again, conversions for data nobody uses add unnecessary cost.

One specific example I encountered was that a bank my employer used had a merger with another bank, and the system the old statements where stored in was no longer used. When we asked for old bank statements they could reproduce them but wanted to be reimbursed for the effort.

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