How late can I pay a power bill?
May 3, 2009 6:55 PM   Subscribe

I have never paid a bill late in my life. I am afraid I will be paying my electric bill four days late this month. I am aware of a 2% late fee, but that is not a huge deal. My bigger concern is that they will shut off my power. Is that a real possibility if a bill is four days late? Or am I being paranoid?
posted by waywardgirl to Grab Bag (33 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Not a chance in hell. You have to be months late.
posted by waitingtoderail at 6:56 PM on May 3, 2009 [1 favorite]

I am 99.9% sure you are over worrying. I can't imagine that there is a power company out thre that will cut you off over 4 days. FWIW, I'm in Canada, but still...four days? I wouldn't worry.
posted by Richat at 6:57 PM on May 3, 2009

Yes, no power companies shut you off for being 4 days late. They'll ding you for being late, but power cut-off would typically come after months without payment, not days.
posted by chudmonkey at 6:57 PM on May 3, 2009

You are being paranoid.
posted by nitsuj at 6:57 PM on May 3, 2009 [2 favorites]

Paranoid. They won't shut it off. If it's really eating away at you, you could always call them and let them know you'll be four days late.
posted by punishinglemur at 6:57 PM on May 3, 2009 [1 favorite]

They will not shut off your power for a bill that is 4 days late.
Even after 30 days late, you're still fine.

Don't worry about it and just pay the bill when you can.
posted by j at 6:57 PM on May 3, 2009

NOTHING will happen if you're four days late except maybe a penalty of some kind. As far as I'm aware you have to miss an entire billing cycle before they shut off power.
posted by crapmatic at 6:58 PM on May 3, 2009

No, they aren't going to cut off your power. For one thing, its not going to be worth it to them to do a "truck roll" to have someone cut your power over just one or two missed payments, much less a few days.
posted by Good Brain at 6:59 PM on May 3, 2009

Nthing that you'll be fine.
posted by Sweetie Darling at 6:59 PM on May 3, 2009

Paranoid, and call them and ask them if they can forgive the late fee, even.
posted by ostranenie at 6:59 PM on May 3, 2009 [1 favorite]

Four days late? In my experience it takes a while longer than that - actually, I'd had my power turned off once (eh ... long story, totally my fault I'm afraid) but it only happened after they'd sent a second warning notice out, maybe two weeks after my bill was due. So long as this is the first time you're late, you should be fine. And for whatever it's worth, even if the absolute worse comes to worst and you get your power turned off, it's a simple matter to get it turned back on - in my case, at least, I simply phoned them up and it was switched back on in a matter of hours.

It's very admirable that you are so scrupulous about your bills, but I hope you can cut yourself a little break in this case. Four days late shouldn't be a problem; you'll be fine.
posted by DingoMutt at 6:59 PM on May 3, 2009

In general, you will get a second notice stating that your bill is overdue before they send out someone to cut power. YMMV, of course.
posted by Thorzdad at 6:59 PM on May 3, 2009

As far as I know, you will be warned several times before this actually happens. Also I think you have to be at least 2 months behind on your bill.
posted by jaseaco at 7:00 PM on May 3, 2009

Also, they will give you all sorts of warnings beforehand, both in the form of bills with "FINAL WARNING" printed on them and notices stuck to your front door or whatever else your local power company thinks up. It won't happen without you knowing well in advance that it's coming.
posted by frobozz at 7:02 PM on May 3, 2009

Response by poster: Thanks, all. You have consoled me greatly!
posted by waywardgirl at 7:03 PM on May 3, 2009

In the SF Bay Area, you would have to be several months overdue, and they would send you a 3-day (? something like that) notice — "pay up or we shut you off 3 days from today".

Four days late on the payment, and you've never been late before? Really not a problem.
posted by Lexica at 7:04 PM on May 3, 2009

4 days late? They're not really going to notice that, considering how long they have to chase people around just to pay the bare minimum to keep the power on. You're fine.
posted by azpenguin at 7:17 PM on May 3, 2009

For the 18th time no, I'm haven't paid an electric bill on time in 2 years and we've never had our electricity shut off.
posted by BrnP84 at 7:24 PM on May 3, 2009

If you call and let them know that you're going to be a few days late, they may even forgive the late charge, since this is your first time.
posted by desuetude at 7:25 PM on May 3, 2009

If you call and let them know that you're going to be a few days late, they may even forgive the late charge, since this is your first time.

Totally do this. It will ease your worry and the fact that the lady on the phone may actually laugh when you tell her the bill will be a few days late may make you smile.
posted by jessamyn at 7:26 PM on May 3, 2009 [3 favorites]

Stop making the rest of us look so bad.

Seriously though. Not a problem, except they'll hit you with a "late payment fee".
posted by Mephisto at 7:30 PM on May 3, 2009

This is like one of those kids who always gets A's on their tests and freaks out when they get a B+. I forget to pay my bills all the time, so I'm used to seeing the overdue bill total added on to the next month's bill, even though it's paid in the meantime.

I don't think they've ever added a late fee, and it could be different in your case, but I doubt it. But as long as your payment goes through, just ignore that part if you see it on your next statement.
posted by TheSecretDecoderRing at 7:48 PM on May 3, 2009

Something else to figure - some utilities are prohibited by law from cutting off your electricity during certain parts of the year. I live in Vegas and they cant turn off your electricity in the summer because people will die from the heat.
posted by SirOmega at 7:48 PM on May 3, 2009

Call them, tell them this is a one-time-only thing, that you have a good history, and ask for a grace period (i.e., ask that you won't have to pay the late fee.)
posted by IndigoRain at 7:59 PM on May 3, 2009

Reiterating try to get them to take off the late fee since you're such a stickler.
posted by ostranenie at 8:03 PM on May 3, 2009

This is a derail and probably not meant to be here. BUT. I have had my power shut off (after 2.5 months). I immediately paid that day ( I had been lazy/out of town/etc...)

Anyways, I actually enjoyed the night I spend with no power. I wrote 2 letters to people who I hadn't seen in awhile. It's fun to write letters by candlelight.
posted by localhuman at 8:10 PM on May 3, 2009

Please do call them, there is a very good chance that they will forgive any late charges and if nothing else, there will be a note on your records that indicates you are a conscientious and communicative customer who deserves consideration in the future if you have problems again.
posted by padraigin at 8:29 PM on May 3, 2009

It isn't the electric bill but this seems to be the right place for this anecdote. I have been paying my car insurance bill on time almost every month to the same auto insurance company since 1991. Every month, without fail, "We appreciate the way you consistently pay your account." is printed under the billing summary.

One month this past winter I misplaced the bill and forgot to pay. On my next bill in bold type was a very pissy "All or part of your last month's bill is past due. Paying premiums monthly is a service we provide to help you budget for your insurance. We will be unable to continue this service if we do not receive your full payment each month by the due date." I realized my mistake and promptly paid the bill.

The next month the bill said "We appreciate the way you consistently pay your account."
posted by plastic_animals at 8:51 PM on May 3, 2009 [1 favorite]

I'm a veteran of numerous phone and power shutoffs. (I feel like I'm at a late-payers anonymous meeting.) Basically, nothing happens unless you get a notice saying YOU MUST PAY BY [DATE] OR YOUR SERVICE WILL BE DISCONNECTED. Then at a random point within about three days from [DATE] it suddenly stops.

Also, note that you don't actually have to pay ALL of the bill every time. You may owe $60 for April, and only be able to pay $50. Instead of waiting until you have the full amount, just pay what you can now. Then you only get a finance charge for the difference (although sometimes there are flat lateness fines as well).

Lots of people get behind on their power or gas during the winter, when it's used a lot, and catch up with the lower bills of spring. (Electricity tends to spike again in August, of course, when the season is called "air conditioning"). Utilities don't like it, but they understand it happens.

Finally, ask your utility about flexible payment plans. You can, for instance, pay a fixed amount each month of the year, which makes it easier to plan and doesn't hurt you so much during peak usage months. When you have a big past due amount, almost all utilities will allow you to go on a payment plan, where you catch up over 3-6 months.
posted by dhartung at 11:46 PM on May 3, 2009

I'm a rather haphazard bill-payer, so I speak from experience. They don't want to cut you off. They will work with you to get bills paid. It's nice that you are concerned about this. You might benefit a lot from developing an emergency fund. It's a really good idea to have 1 month's expenses in the bank.
posted by theora55 at 6:48 AM on May 4, 2009

I tend to pay bills a few days late all the time, and often there is not even a late fee; if you look at the bill closely, it may say past due after one date, and late fees apply after another date a few days later. I speak from experience when I say the local water company here in GA will shut you off after 2 missed payments, though.
posted by TedW at 8:01 AM on May 4, 2009

I just paid my electric bill 2 months late and they hadn't even started adding late fees yet. Think about the people who need medical equipment, babies who would potentially die if the heat/AC were turned off, the food that would spoil, etc. There would be rioting in the streets if the power companies were turning people off for being 4 days late.
posted by bradbane at 12:04 PM on May 4, 2009

Get my bill on the first, due on the 15th, and if not paid by the 25th, I get cut off. 4 days is a little paranoid.
posted by deezil at 3:52 PM on May 4, 2009

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