NEW YORK (9/23/09)--Credit card issuers likely will take steps to eliminate paper statements within the next several years, say several analysts studying the paperless trend. But for now, the issuers are wary of consumer backlash and the card issuers are waiting to see what happens in the telecommunications industry's efforts to go paperless. Initial steps in eliminating statements could include offering new card products with online-only bill payment and/or charging customers who demand paper statements a fee, according to card advisory firm RK Hammer. It said that mailing paper statements could be seen as an add-on benefit that could be offered free at first, then move into a fee (American Banker Sept. 22). Aite Group told the publication that card issuers probably wouldn't call the fee a statement fee. Instead, the issuers could bundle it with other customer service fees and features consumers used to get for free. American Express Co. is testing the idea with corporate credit card customers. In June it began eliminating their monthly paper billing statements. However, it still mails statements to employees of businesses with extenuating circumstances, upon request and with no fee. United Kingdom-based HSBC Holding PLC's Hong Kong unit announced in August that beginning on Jan. 1, 2011, it would charge its customers $2.60 a year to continue receiving paper statements. However, customers can apply for a fee waiver. Several major U.S. card issuers said they have no plans to charge customers for paper statements, according to the article. However, many urge customers through mailings and bill-payment websites to switch to paperless. Wells Fargo & Co. and JPMorgan Chase & Co. have offered in the past incentives to credit card customers to opt out of paper statements.