How to Make Sure Automatic Bill Pay is Working for You and Not Against You
Automatic Bill Pay is Just the Start
It’s official: we’re living in the future. We get same-day deliveries of everything from books to party supplies. Free smartphone apps give us the ability to take 360º video that our friends can experience with VR headsets. We even buy groceries with our phones – we don’t even need to go to the supermarket to do so.
It’s reasonable, in such a world, that many young people consider personal checks antiquated. Hmm, personal check… was that something written with a quill pen by candlelight? Estimates have checks persisting for another decade or so, mostly due to behavioral inertia on the part of consumers. When the British government first tried to phase out paper checks (or should I say cheques?), it encountered public outcry and had to reverse course.
Consumer habit aside, use of personal checks is on the decline. Most major stores, such as IKEA, Toys ‘R Us, and CVS, no longer accept them. Bills are a common use for personal checks, but most utilities offer paper-free payment methods. Electronic billing options have been around for years, and recent smartphone apps offer an impressive level of convenience. I’ve been enjoying the swipe-to-pay convenience of Prism for a few months, and I’ll never go back.
The Convenience of Automatic Bill Payment
Though we all know the importance of paying bills on time, 1 in 4 Americans still miss bill deadlines. In addition to harming credit scores (one 30-day delinquency can lower a credit score by as much as 110 points), late payments come with late fees.
One strategy for avoiding late fees and credit score injuries is automatic bill payment. Auto pay can be a boon for those of us who occasionally forget bills, but it’s not risk-free. Here are a few of the pros and cons to consider before enrolling.
- Save time (take back those hours of stamp-licking and check-writing)
- Prevent stress (no more worries about late payments affecting your credit score)
- Reduce the likelihood of identity theft
- You might miss bank or biller errors (is it me, or do errors only happen in one direction?)
- Overdraft fees result from any payments made automatically without sufficient funds
Diagnosis? The safest approach is to auto pay your fixed-rate bills (with a rewards credit card if you have one – no surprises, more rewards) while continuing to pay variable bills manually.
For more on the advantages and disadvantages of automatic bill payment plans, check out this thorough list on Moneycrashers.