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Bill Payment Services
My husband and I are terrible about managing our paperwork -- bills, insurance forms, etc. Officially, it's my husband's job -- he's the one with an MBA, and he set up all of our financial arrangements in the first place -- but no matter how much I organize the bills and papers for him and remind him they have to be attended to, they sit in a pile and get ignored. Several times, we've risked being sent to collections. I understand that it's not fun to pay bills, and I understand procrastination, but this is way beyond that. He's clearly intimidated by the task, and I don't know how to get him UNintimidated. And as I already handle most of the rest of the household responsibilities and work full time, I'm not feeling willing or able to take on the job myself. I've set up as many of our bills on auto-pay as I can, but there's still a lot of actual paperwork that has to be managed. So, here's my question: Is there a professional service that can help us? We're not rich or fancy, so I don't think we need a high-level money manager, just someone to keep on top of our financial documents, bills, and so on so we don't have to worry that we lost our car insurance a month ago because we didn't pay the bill and don't even know. Does this kind of thing exist? How much does it generally cost? Please help. Thanks so much for your suggestions anon
The online bank bill paying works ok because it can pay bills for the many companies that allow you to pay by electronic transfer. However, some companies and many individuals don't let you pay electronically (like your doctors, dentists, clubs, or friends). So unfortunately, you continue to get some bills in your mailbox.
Paytrust, unlike the bank online bill paying services, allows you to have your bills sent directly to a Paytrust address, they then scan the bills and email you to let you know your bills have arrived (no more paper bills in the mail !!).
You can set up bills for automatic payment based on your own rules so you don't have to remember to pay them- it's done automatically (you can change this at any time, or have some bills paid automatically and the others paid only when you direct Paytrust to pay them).
It should only take about an hour or so to input your bill information to first set it up (depending on how many bills you have), but after you set it up, it's smooth sailing!
It cost about $10 a month, but it's one of the best financial planning things I've ever done- no more bills in my mailbox, and Paytrust automatically pays my bills if I want. Diane
1. Put everything on regular (eg monthly) payments, even if that adds a small service charge. Enroll in any available program to pay the same amount each month.
2. Contact all payees and ask them to change your payment or statement date to the same date (I like the 15th; then I make all payments on the first). This takes a couple of bill cycles.
3. If necessary, switch your bank to one with Bill Pay (I like Wells Fargo a lot, but BofA and others have it too).
4. Enroll in Bill Pay (about $8/month). Enter all payees; most can be entered with a couple of clicks. Set it up to pay all your bills automatically on, say, the 1st. Pick an amount which is a little larger than your typical bill.
5. Be sure you have enough balance or overdraft to cover the bills on the night they pay.
6. Check your bank statement, and your bills, now and then. Make any necessary adjustments. Tina
So I ''turned it around'' and made it a necessity of our house (similar to cooking, laundry). Once I got it together, it only takes me 1 hour per week to file the papers that are paid through bill pay, pay the local bills that I have to write checks for and balance the checkbook.
You have to have on-line bank access (so you can get the answer right when you are doing the checkbook) and a little space that is only for the bills. We open the mail each night and recycle the junk so we only have the bills (this keeps the pile to a minimum). We then file the bills in our box in order of date due. Each weekend, I take the bills out that are due for the following week and pay those.
Since we made it a part of our chore list, my husband chose scooping dog poop and putting laundry away over paying the bills. I've actually grown to like it since he also takes our son away from the house when I am doing it.
BTW, we found a service who would help and they were about $35 per hour. I had to drive the bills over each Friday. If something important arrived during the week, I would have to make an extra trip over again. After the first month's bill ($140), I decided that it wasn't worth it (I would rather have a few meals out) and that is when I took it over. You Can Be a Super Bill Payer
FYI, I have set up a simple but workable system in my house: As soon as the bill comes in the mail, I tear out the pay statement, place it in the envelope, put a check in it and stick a stamp on it and then write the date it should be mailed on the front of the envelope. (If I don't do this right away, they risk getting lost in our little box by the front door.) Then I leave the envelopes in the kitchen where I can see them each day. Once a week I grab the bills that are due, fill out the checks and put them out by the mailbox. If you do the same thing each time, it becomes routine and you won't forget to do them. (It might help to examine who gets the mail and where the mail gets laid each day and how you could organize them before or as you're laying it down.) Busy Mom
Once again, my MasterCard has assessed a $35 late fee for a payment they claim was one day late. I think it's time to get serious about setting up some online or electronic bill payment system. The recs on the website are a couple of years old, so I'm curious to hear about current options. It seems there are a couple:
1) Arrange with specific vendors (PG&E, the credit card, etc.) for automatic bill payment. Seems cumbersome, and would be a nightmare if I ever were to change checking accounts. But I have already done it for the mortgage and a couple of other things. How does it work for bills that aren't the same every month?
2) Use the online bill pay services of my bank, Washington Mutual. Has anyone used WAMU for this? Pros and cons of the service?
3) Set up e-payment through a third-party vendor. I currently use Quicken to manage our finances, and I know they offer this sort of service. Any feedback on it? Any recommendations for other third party vendors?
Am I missing any options? I'm particularly interested in hearing about the tradeoffs between these choices. I also remember reading an article years ago that scared me, about how automatic/online payments aren't always properly credited, resulting in you unknowingly running up a big balance and, bam, your lights are turned off. I'm a balance-the-checkbook-monthly type, so having things happen out of my hands is a little scary. If you use an automatic payment service, what do you do to stay on top of things? Have you been able to address problems to your satisfaction?
Sorry, I know this is actually about 10 questions, not one, but I'm looking for any recommendations you may have. Many thanks! Ticked off at Bank One
But the beauty of Paytrust is that, unlike the bank bill paying services, you can set it up so that most of your paper bills (e.g., the bills from creditors who don't send bills electronically) go directly to Paytrust- they never even hit your mailbox. Paytrust then scans the bills into your online account for you to review. I don't know about you, but I *hated* getting paper bills in the mail. Now I rarely do. Also, I can log into my account wherever I am and pay all my bills, not just the ones that are sent electronically.
You can download your transactions to Quicken or other financial software, and at the end of the year you have the option of getting a CD with all your transactions. I have never had a problem with payments being lost, etc.
Paytrust has many more comprehensive services than the bank services. Of course, you pay more. I pay $10.95 a month, but I can tell you it is worth every penny!
I believe Paytrust has been rated the best bill paying service by several technology reviewers. Diane
I use Bank of America online bill payment. This is through my checking account. I am also a balance the checkbook monthy, super-organized person. I also like to be in total control of what goes in and out of my account and will not set up any automatic payments. B of A has a database of tons of creditors (Bank One, Macy's, etc.) that you can pick from as a ''payee'' to add to your personal list. If they do not have a payee in the database, you can add one. You can even add individuals. After having your payee list, it's super easy. You just enter the amount that you want to send, the date that you want it sent (they display the amount of days it will take to deliver), and click ''pay.'' The nice thing about this is that no payments take place without your knowledge. You can set up automatic payments if you want to, but I prefer to do it this way so that I can enter the info in my checkbook as I pay. This has worked out really well for me. Plus, you don't have to use a single stamp. It's really easy, convenient, and efficient. I write the confirmation number of each payment on the physical bill and in my checkbook. You can even print out the payment confirmation page which lists the date, creditor, and amount of each payment that you make. SO, hope this helps. Feel free to email me w/ more questions. Jackie
You get an email from the Bank advising that you have something to pay, which is good for the credit cards because they are not necessarily due at the end of the month. The only bill that I pay with paper is the garbage, because they don't provide this service. For insurance, gym, and daycare, which don't provide this service, I have set up an EFT automatic payment with the individual companies.
Many on-line companies offer automatic payment but I prefer to see the bill on-line before paying it, to check if there are any mistakes. I have never seen one. The only drawback is that I must keep a list of which companies are on-line, which are paper, etc. On the other hand I no longer keep all my bills in my car waiting to mail them 'when I see a mailbox', which I never see on time. Laura
I pay other bills (satellite, cell phone, newspaper) automatically from my credit card. This is actually slightly better because I never carry a balance and I get a cash rebate on credit card purchase.
Still, some bills are too variable and/or do not have automatic payment, such as my homeowners insurance, credit cards, property taxes, and garbage service, so I either write a check or use my online banking (a different bank than yours) to pay these. I know it's not optimal in terms of economic efficiency or time efficiency, but the best way to avoid late charges on these is to mail the checks back immediately and not wait till near the due date. Some people sit down and pay bills twice a month, e.g. the 1st and 15th of every month, but that might push the grace period of some credit cards. David
I set up every bill that is the same amount each month to charge to the credit card, so I have fewer checks to write and so I get the free miles or whatever else the credit card is offering. The credit card balance then automatically deducts from the checking account. In the past, I have always just written checks for the other bills.
My husband and I recently switched banks and credit cards, and I must admit that I have spent hours setting everything up again, so I think that is a valid concern of yours. We also recently set up online banking at the new bank and have enjoyed it so far. Once you get it set up by entering information on all of your payees, it's easy to log on, type in the amount for the bill and press submit. You get an email when payment goes out and can always get an online update of what has cleared the bank and your present balance, which helps with balancing the check book. On the downside, I must admit that I am a little concerned about security, especially after hearing on the news this morning how most home computer systems have little security. Since I have only used it for about a month, I haven't found out if payments have not been received, so I cannot pass judgement in that area. Susan
I pay $9.95 per month for Quicken's service because it has been so reliable, and because if I switch, I'll have to set up all my payees again. But if I were a new customer, I'd try the bank's free service first. Check-free
I use it to pay my bills at the end of the month about a week before they are due. Then I write all the amounts in my checkbook so I can refer back to them. This helps me keep a running actual balance of my account. Its great not to have to buy stamps anymore! happy wamu customer
PG & E, SBC, and few other utitlies will email your bill as soon as it is available and then give you an option to pay online or by check. Sign up for these services, sometimes they even give a $5 credit if you go paperless. If you do pay your bills at least a week in advance I would sign up all accounts with your bank. With B of A they list the bill paying transactions as pending and set the money aside before the vendor cashes the check. It is the easiest way. but like I said, I am last minute because my income flucuates, so it doesn't work for me. I hope this helps somewhat. Kerri
I have PG&E's balanced payment plan which means that my my yearly estimated bill is averaged out and I pay the same amount each month. I really like it- no more high bills in the winter. Go to this site to find out about it: http://www.pge.com/res/financial_assistance/balanced_payment_plan/faqs/
I have been thinking of setting up the kind of online bill pay services with my bank, B of A, so that I can be like the woman in the TV ad who sits down and whips out all her bills in 5 minutes! I'll be interested to hear what other people have to say about that. I'd like to save time, checks, postage, and licking envelopes. Cecelia
The only two issues that have come up are: 1. you have to have all your bills sent there, which requires changing your address on them. They give you a personal P.O. box number to use. We didn't have any trouble changing addresses with anyone. All of our bills go there and if something goes there that is not a bill (like a notice or replacement card) they notify us via email and mail it to us promptly. 2. You have to be careful about how long it will take an electronic funds transfer to post. Sometimes it takes 3-5 days, so you have to take that into account. But once we got into a cycle, it stopped being an issue.
Good luck late fee free
What I do is set up all my monthly bills in the system and every Friday I do my bill pay. You can pay multiple bills at once so I'll go in and put $78 for bill A, $555 for bill B, etc. You can also tell when it will arrive. So, let's say MC is due 11/1. The friday after I get my bill I go into my account and place the transaction order and tell WAMU that I want MC to get my money on 10/29 (I give it a day early because some credit cards post late charge if it isn't received by mid-day). WAMU will send it out in time to guarantee payment, if not, they will pay the late fee. (I've had them do it too, very nice!)
As for keeping on top of it, you really have to mentally deduct it from your account. So, say that I know by 11/15 I will have car, home, and credit card bill due, I know that I will need roughly $XY00 in the account.
Regarding the improper crediting of your account. This happened once to me, with PacBell. It was my own fault because in the area where I keyed in my account #, I mistyped. So, someone else got credited. I got my next month's bill only to find that I was ''late''. I called WAMU, who sent copies of the check to me and PacBell and also they straightened everything out with PacBell. I did end up paying the check again, just because we were going through the home buying and didn't want to accidentally have any silly dings on my credit. But, it would have been fine anyhow. PacBell even reversed the late charge on me!
Also, WAMU has this email customer line, which I find very handy. In general, I find that most vendors respect the online banking more than the old ''check's in the mail'' kind of thing. HTH Janki
Any advice about paying utility bills and such on-line, as opposed to using an automatic bill payment service? I really don't want to pay for such a service; I'm also getting confused after trudging through various utilities' and services' websites. Melanie
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