Online Bill Paying...Other than CheckFree?
December 11, 2008 5:56 PM   Subscribe

After the breach of CheckFree's security last week, I think it's time I find a new web-based bill paying system. I'm looking for something like CheckFree: they electronically hook up with my various vendors, notify me when a bill is due, and it's either paid automatically or I approve it first. What sort of services like this exist, other than CheckFree?

This was discussed in the green in 2005, but I can only assume that the market has changed in the past three years.
posted by waldo to Work & Money (11 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Do you really blame CheckFree for having their domain name hijacked? It does sound like an employee may have been tricked, and that's scary, but how would any other service be more protected from this kind of thing?

Sorry if this is a derail, but I think the premise of your question may not be 100% solid.

And this comes from someone who may have been exposed to this exact problem - my credit union sent me several "beware, you seem to have used the CheckFree system during the hacking time", which resulted in some real unpleasantness and inconvenience as I had to vet my system. Ugh. But I don't blame CheckFree.
posted by amtho at 6:33 PM on December 11, 2008

Follow up: This does seem to be mainly a flaw in the registrar validation system for what are admittedly attractive targets for domain hijacking.

Two comments in the post you linked list this strategy:

" ... find out what your financial institution's IP addresses are (use cmd.exe and type nslookup and put those host names and IP addresses in your [Windows] hosts file"

This would bypass the domain registry system - you'd be effectively doing that job yourself. I'm sure there are drawbacks, but it would protect you from this one type of (admittedly high-probability) attack.

I think this is the only way to really have more security than you'd have with any given online bill payment system, or really any online system that's an attractive target for this type of exploit.
posted by amtho at 6:46 PM on December 11, 2008

Response by poster: Yes, I do blame them; other services would employ less gullible people, would have caught the domain redirection far faster than they did, and they would have contacted customers in less than ten (!) days. But there are no shortage of other reasons why to want to work with somebody else: CheckFree has an awfully crude system for something so dominant in the market, they don't provide payment services for all of my bills, and they recently failed to make a scheduled payment for me.

So, pick your favorite reason, but the fact remains that I'm looking an online bill pay solution other than CheckFree.
posted by waldo at 6:47 PM on December 11, 2008

Well, yeah, you do make some good points there. My credit union contacted me two days later, which seemed kind of slow... wonder why it took so long?

I sincerely hope that there is a better alternative out there.
posted by amtho at 7:00 PM on December 11, 2008

Does your bank provide anything like this? I used to let Bank of America pay all my bills (in the process, I became known by my property manager as "that girl whose rent arrives first, every single month". Not bad). It's much easier for banks to start up systems like this because getting all the permits and hooks into ACH systems is hard work that banks have mostly already done. I found setup with BofA bill pay to be very easy, and if they didn't know who your vendor was (eg, a small property management company) and you were paying a fixed amount per month, they'd cut a check and mail it free of charge. Snoop around your online banking's amazing all the weird things banks do for people nowadays.

That being said, the idea that CheckFree employs exceptionally gullible people is optimistic at best. And I don't know if the competition will be much less "crude". Most companies writing financial software don't have usability at the top of their priorities list...and even those that do get it wrong a lot of the time.
posted by crinklebat at 8:10 PM on December 11, 2008

I'm with Bank of America and I have all my bills auto-paid except my rent. I had that with my previous bank, too. Most reasonable banks these days have that; they actually prefer it, because processing physical checks is expensive and slow.

You shouldn't need an outside service of any kind.
posted by Class Goat at 12:33 AM on December 12, 2008

I also use the BofA bill pay. It is free with your checking account (which is also free if you get direct deposit). It receives most of my billers e-bills. For those that do not, I get those notices to go to the biller's website when the new bill is ready and will pay them with the BofA bill pay (I have them mostly set up to automatically pay a certain amount -- like my car payment or a fixed amount for other bills). With the exception of my dentist and my rent all of the people I pay are transmitted electronically and my account is credited by the biller the next business day. For the billers that they send paper checks to they say 4-5 days. Unlike an earlier bill pay service from another bank I had, they do not debit your account until that paper check is actually presented for payment so you can tell when the paper check is received. I haven't had a single problem with this service and have found that billers will sometimes get their money faster via this method than when I use the biller's own website.
posted by birdherder at 5:18 AM on December 12, 2008

I would nth checking out your bank's billpay system and see if that meets your needs. Not all bank's bill pay systems are that great, though. I bank with TCF and I think their bill-pay system ( sucks. It's very confusing as to when payments are actually sent and I've had a few payments show up late even though it was set to automatically pay by the due date. I still use it for some bills where they are generating and mailing a paper check, but for the most part I've gone back to paying individual bills online instead.
posted by cabingirl at 7:46 AM on December 12, 2008

Another vote for your bank. I've used online bill-pay systems at three of them. All were different, but all were easy to use and dependable.

Many of the big banks (including BofA, I think) actually use technology from Yodlee. You could also try their MoneyCenter, although it's overkill if all you want is to do bill-paying.
posted by Robert Angelo at 12:58 PM on December 12, 2008

Just to let you know, a lot of banks contract out to Checkfree (the only one I know for sure is WaMu) for their billpay. It all looks like it's done through the bank's website, but Checkfree is their backend/handler/check cutter. You should call them to be sure.

Otherwise, I think Yodlee's billpay feature does what you want it to. But, you have to give it all your passwords and such and it pulls info directly from the payee's websites. I've never had any problem with it, but some people may not wish to give up that much info to a third party.
posted by calistasm at 2:00 PM on December 12, 2008

Response by poster: I work with a small community bank that doesn't offer any such services, or at least didn't as of a few years ago. I'm really interested in Yodlee, though, and I appreciate the advice to check with my bank. The fact that nobody said that there's this really great new, whizzy thing that all of the cool kids are using tells me that the options really are as limited as I feared they were. :) Thanks!
posted by waldo at 6:38 PM on December 12, 2008

« Older In the name of all that is holy, please let there...   |   Lost a Sci-Fi Short Story. Can You Help Me Find It... Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.