Automating Bill Pay – The Pros and the Cons
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Using bill pay has been incredibly convenient for us. Whether we're on vacation or in the middle of a hectic work cycle, we know that the mortgage, utilities and debt snowballs are being sent.
I can't remember the last late bill fee we've had since we started sending our bill payments online.
Most banks and credit unions offer this money and time-saving feature and in most cases, it's completely free. If you haven't already used this, setting it up can be incredibly easy.
Setting Up Bill Pay
We took copies of our bills and set them in a pile. I entered the bill names, addresses, due dates, account numbers, and bill amounts with our bank.
You can set the bills up to be recurring, where it will pay it automatically for you. If a bill changes from month to month, I just log in and change the amount. The bank takes care of the rest.
It took less than an hour to set up most of our bills with our joint checking account. We only need around 20 minutes a month to pay bills. Once you set your online bill pay system up, it’s very easy to maintain.
What's also great about using bill pay is the ability to automate your debt snowball and quickly adjust as you find more money to grow it.
With the student loans, it's a mix of automatic payments and regular payments I make from the account on a semi-schedule as the money comes in.
Bill pay also allows us to smooth out our cash flow into a predictable manner, so we can minimize the sting of irregular expenses. By having a buffer in our budget, it also gives us a safety net.
Don't Set it and Forget It
While we don't have to constantly check our bills, completely ignoring them as they come in can be a costly mistake. We had a few instances where bills were creeping up.
This past year our home association dues and our cable/ internet bill increased. Fortunately, I was able to call and get a better deal with our cable company, saving us almost $200/year.
We've also had addresses change on a few bills as some companies merged or got were bought out. Check your bill to make sure that hasn't happened to you.
Thoughts on Automating Bill Pay
I'd like to hear about your financial system. How much of your bill payments and budgeting is automated?
I don’t automate too much. I feel like the bills that I do have automated, there’s always some type of annoying error.
Sorry it has worked out for you Michelle 🙁 It’s been a time saver for us and as part of our system it helps us grow our savings bit by bit.
One thing to keep in mind with automated bill pay is that you have to be pretty careful when switching banks. Not only do you need to transfer your payee information and turn off the old payments, but you also need to contact and configure payees that were set up with ACH. I paid big-time in one case, where I THOUGHT I’d set it up and found out I had not when the NSF charges came through. I went online an immediately paid my bill, but only found out later that ACH payments are attempted THREE times before they fail, and my payee (a credit card) was apparently unable to the process. While they refunded my NSF charges, my bank did not. So, this was an unplanned-for $100 cost of switching banks (to avoid a new $20 monthly service charge…)
I appreciate the warning Tom- sometimes it’s easy to forget the ACh bills. We try to minimize them for the most part unless they come with a benefit like the interest rate reduction on student loans.
I automate everything. I prefer to automate through credit cards in order to maximize rewards programs, but I will do it through my credit union when that’s the only option. I’m definitely a big advocate of doing it.
I added your helpful post on my tweet schedule- thanks!