More and more Americans are turning to the Internet to pay their monthly bills. Whether it’s through their bank’s website, a bill paying service, a vendor website, or direct debit, they enjoy the convenience and speed of paying bills in this fashion. Each method has advantages and disadvantages and one method may not fit all needs.
Paying bills through a bank website allows you to set up payees and schedule payments to be disbursed on a schedule you determine. Many banks now offer this service free of charge. Payment is sent either electronically or by paper check. However, this service may not be suitable for people who prefer to pay their bills very close to the due date as there is a lag between the consumer setting up the payment and the bank actually sending it. Different banks have different lag times, but it’s safe to count on 7-10 business days before your payment is received.
Bill paying services offer similar service to banks, but typically charge a monthly fee for their services. The benefit of bill paying services is that often they can integrate with personal financial management software and allow bill paying directly from the application. These services will also have a lag between the payment request and the actual payment.
Vendor websites that allow online payment are a good choice for last-minute payments since they are typically credited either immediately or the next day. Check the fine print on the vendor website to be sure you understand when payment will be credited. Paying all your bills this way can be a hassle since you have to visit multiple sites and not all your creditors may be set up to receive online payment.
Finally, for recurring bills with a fixed amount, you may want to consider direct debit. Direct debit allows creditors access to your bank account so that they can withdraw your payment amount automatically each month. Generally, this method works best for mortgage payments, car loan payments or other payments with fixed amounts since variable amounts, like credit card payments, might make it difficult to manage your account.
Whatever method or combination of methods you select, you still need to keep careful tabs on your account to ensure that the proper payment amounts were sent on time. Be sure to continue to balance your checkbook each month in order to avoid problems.