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What You Said: Do You Pay Your Bills Online?

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Earlier this week we asked you to share your bill payment workflow and now we’re back to highlight how you—overwhelmingly!—pay your bills online.

The absolutely overwhelming response (much to the delight of the Postal Service, we’re sure) was that you pay all your bills online.

Nancy weighs in with just how long she’s been auto-paying bills:

I have been auto-paying bills since you could do it on the phone by setting it up beforehand. That was before the internet was big and this became something banks do.

Then I went to CheckFree which you paid for. Again setting it up beforehand.

I have used Quicken for years and now that banks have it for free and creditors will let you pay online, there is little reason to write a check. However, I still keep a checkbook for such things as people you hire to contract around the house, my taxes and the dog trainer as they want a check and most don’t deal in cash.

As others have mentioned, allowing direct debits is a no-no except for insurance companies in my case. They seem to be able to keep it straight.

Avoiding direct debit was a recurrent theme in many of the comments. The Panda highlights how he sticks with companies that have online bill pay but won’t touch direct debit:

I won’t use a company or service that doesn’t allow paying bills online. There are some out there that still don’t offer this payment option so I don’t use them.

99% of my bills I get an email notification from them saying the bill can be viewed online. I match this up against a schedule I have in Outlook that shows what bills are due and when. I started doing this after my ISP didn’t email me (or I didn’t receive ….) then threatened disconnection after payment wasn’t made.

I won’t agree to a Direct Debit. Too many nightmare stories about them not cancelling it in a timely manner.

John3347 notes a practical reason for not allowing a company direct access to your bank account:

I pay all my repeating bills online. I still mail checks for one time, or very infrequent, bills such as multi-year magazine subscriptions.

I NEVER allow a payee access to my bank account. I always work from the other end and tell my bank how much to send each payee (whether check or electronic transfer). If you allow a payee, particularly a utility company, to take what they claim they are entitled to each month, it is far more difficult to negotiate a disputed bill settlement in your favor if they have your money than if you still have it and they want it. Some utility companies walk a very narrow line bordering on fraud if they have easy access to your money.

A valid point, it’s a lot easier to argue for keeping your money in your pocket than to convince a company to give back money they’ve mistakenly/fraudulently taken.

Finally, Anonymous (a fitting name for somebody concerned about security), voiced one of the lone dissenting opinions:

NO WAY! I do not pay via online methods. I never have and probably never will. And it’s not that I don’t trust the financial institutions or the entities that I regularly pay money to either (OK, maybe a little). It’s me! And it’s not that I don’t trust myself or anything either – it’s the Internet and my computer!!!

For more comments on online bill payments check out the entire comment thread here.

Jason Fitzpatrick is warranty-voiding DIYer and all around geek. When he's not documenting mods and hacks he's doing his best to make sure a generation of college students graduate knowing they should put their pants on one leg at a time and go on to greatness, just like Bruce Dickinson. You can follow him on if you'd like.

  • Published 09/30/11

Comments (4)

  1. Parker Phillips

    Interesting how things stay the same over time but with different subjects. I can remember my great-grandfather stated that he would NEVER keep his money in a bank because he didn’t trust them :-)

  2. Ric

    There are only two holdouts for me… have to pay the rent for my apartment and the cleaning service by cheque so that’s a maximum of 24 per year. With my Credit Union and bill payment system, I can pay any bill online. Can send money to friends’ bank accounts even if they are with other banks. Payments are so much faster and neither I or a creditor have to wait for snail mail services!

  3. rroberto

    Anonymous, you’re not alone. One of my friends has been trying to get an ongoing bank error — wrong dating of sent payments on every transaction — corrected for for over 6 months. The same error he was told had been fixed at least once a year, every year he’s done online banking with BofA. They fix it for a month or too, then they go back to dating things seemingly at random.

  4. Anonymous

    Dear How-2-Geek,
    I often pay my bills online. However, common sense dictates that I follow certain protocols, in order to protect both my identity and my personal finances, when paying my bills online.

    In spite of periodic program queries for me to save my bank account number and password to my computer, I never do. If hacked by some Trojan Horse, where my keystrokes and/or access to my computer’s programs may be monitored, I try to avoid saving any data within my computer. Instead, I write down the appropriate file reference numbers on paper and file those away in my file cabinet. That protects both my accounts and my computer, from unauthorized access to my banking services; in spite of whatever protections and security my bank’s website has in place.

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