Pay it...forward? Backward? Sideways?
September 3, 2010 10:28 AM   Subscribe

I pay my bills online every month. I use each service's website in order to do so. I'm thinking of switching over to Chase's online bill pay system. Is this worth it?

When I pay my bills (cell phone, a couple credit cards, and a Stafford loan) each month, I do so by logging in to each service's website, going to their "make an online payment" page, filling out the information, and submitting it that way. However, one of my friends was extolling the virtues of his bank's online bill payment system. (I think he uses Bank of America, but I'm not sure.) I use Chase, which also offers online bill payment. Would there be any benefit to going through Chase versus the way I'm doing things now? I know that if it ain't broke, you don't fix it, but I'm curious if there's a reason to use one over the other. Can anyone who's used both systems advise?

(Bonus points if you use Chase's system. Do they notify you when you have a new bill ready to pay?)
posted by andrewcilento to Work & Money (28 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
I don't use Chase but I do this with TD Bank. Dead simple to set up.

I don't get notifications from the bank but I do from the various accounts I have. It works for me.
posted by dfriedman at 10:34 AM on September 3, 2010

All they do is cut a physical check with a lot of their customer's information on it (account numbers, names and such) and mail it out to the companies. When you pay online via credit card, they get the payment much faster.

I say stick with what you're doing unless you absolutely need one stop billpay.
posted by inturnaround at 10:35 AM on September 3, 2010

Bill pay rocks! The benefit is knowing your bills are paid without you even lifting a finger. I used to have to write a check each month to pay my rent. Now, I let my bank automatically write and send that check for me. I use U.S. Bank.

I used to do this with all of my bills and it was really convenient, but I switched over to using a credit card instead. I like getting the points! Plus, I like being able to easily track my monthly expenses by looking at the total of that one credit card bill I pay each month instead of paying all of the individual bills. My only complaint is that I haven't been able to pay my rent this way because my apartment building doesn't do credit cards. Boo!

The way I see it, you might as well get something out of paying those bills, right? ONLY consider the credit card option if you pay it off completely each month though. The last thing you'd want to do is pay interest on your bills. I'm a zero-balance guy, so this works for me.
posted by 2oh1 at 10:38 AM on September 3, 2010

My girlfriend swears by Chase's bill pay system, but I've avoided using it out of a dubious need to feel in constant control of my finances; in short, I don't want to be bothered with scheduling issues if I need to delay a payment. Chase's system might handle such cases wonderfully, but I'm not sure.

What I do know is the one major selling point for my girlfriend: as soon as the bill pay system makes a scheduled payment, the amount is deducted from your account. As a result you're less likely to spend money you don't have because you've mistakenly forgotten to account for a payment you made two days ago with Random Website #42.

I'm more than a little neurotic about this sort of thing, so I wouldn't benefit much from that aspect, but to each his/her own.
posted by Raze2k at 10:39 AM on September 3, 2010 [1 favorite]

I use Citibank to pay my bills. The benefit (which I view as being sizable), is that once the accounts are linked, you only log into your bank account to make your payments. I still get my statements delivered separately (either by mail or electronically).

Your situation may be different, but: 1) oftentimes, your student loan processor will give you an interest rate sweetener if you set up ACH payments. I think I get .25% reduction in my rate for having my loan payments deducted automatically from my account. 2) If you don't carry a balance on your credit cards, why not pay the cell phone bill with a credit card? This would have the double benefit of getting points/miles on the card, if you get those (and you should), and gives you additional interest on the amount of the payment (i.e., if you pay $100 to cell phone on day 1 straight from your account, you lose the interest on that amount; if you pay that $100 on day 1 from your credit card, that $100 will sit in your account earning interest until you pay the credit card itself).
posted by Admiral Haddock at 10:41 AM on September 3, 2010

Chiming in to agree with 2oh1 about using a credit card instead. Equal convenience to auto-bill-pay, but you get points or rebates too.

Be sure to pay off monthly, though.
posted by fivesavagepalms at 10:44 AM on September 3, 2010

All they do is cut a physical check with a lot of their customer's information on it (account numbers, names and such) and mail it out to the companies. When you pay online via credit card, they get the payment much faster.

Many, dare I say most, companies accept Electronic Fund Transfers through bank bill pay - ie, they cut them an Electronic Check rather than send them a physical one. This works out to a next-day payment for the majority of companies. The only companies that asks for a physical check is my landlord, so I have to make sure I set up the payment 4 days early.

Many online bill services that use credit card payments charge a fee. The benefit to online bill pay through my bank is that it's completely free.
posted by muddgirl at 10:45 AM on September 3, 2010 [3 favorites]

All they do is cut a physical check with a lot of their customer's information on it (account numbers, names and such) and mail it out to the companies.

Depends on the payee. Many big payees are set up for electronic bill payment at the major banks, which is just as fast as a payment through the service's website.

Last time I checked I don't think Chase had a reminder email when you get a new bill.
posted by phoenixy at 10:45 AM on September 3, 2010

I love using my bank's billpay, esp since I can sort by last payment date and see if I screwed up and neglected to pay something.

It also means I just have to log in one place to do my bills and all I have to do is enter the dollar amount, nothing else.

One benefit is that we even automatically pay our rent this way (goes to a normal human not a corporation) Our landlord loves it, the check comes the same day every month and we don't even have to lift a finger.
posted by bottlebrushtree at 10:46 AM on September 3, 2010

As much as I hate Chase, I love their online bill pay system. I respectfully disagree with inturnaround....payments are made electronically by chase to your billers for big companies (Visa, state farm, etc. ) and checks are only cut for smaller or individual payees (your landlord, healthclub, etc. It takes only a couple of days for electronic payments, longer for manual. I love being able to go online with Chase once a month and paying all my bills at once (I have called all my billers and they were willing to change bill cycles where needed, so they are all due about the same time--around the first of the month). Highly recommended. It saves time to do it all from one place at one time.
posted by Lylo at 10:49 AM on September 3, 2010

I'm far from perfect at mailing stuff in or even logging into each site on time. My credit union always does stuff that a 100% responsible, never-away-from-home, highly conscientious me would do, theoretically.

If I had a credit card, I would pay all of my bills automatically with it, and schedule automatic payments to the card to happen one day later. Points plus never messing up = yay.
posted by SMPA at 10:50 AM on September 3, 2010

There is one problem with bill pay systems like this that you should be aware of: if you set your bill payments to automatic, out of sight means out of mind and you will be less in touch with how much money you're spending.

Every single "how to manage money" article I've ever read suggests that keeping to a budget is much easier if you stay in touch with each and every bill, and I've succesfully put that into practice for several years now. Yes, it's inconvenient, but it also gives me insight into my charges that I wouldn't otherwise have -- I know, for instance, that I just had the biggest LADWP bill I've ever had and so now I'm going to figure out why, and that my ISP just bumped my monthly fee by $5 without notice, and now I'm going to call them and see what's up.

So is it worth it for convenience? I cannot say. Is it worth it for helping you manage your money better? No, and in fact it will likely be counterproductive.
posted by davejay at 10:54 AM on September 3, 2010 [3 favorites]

Another great thing about bill pay: no-one "loses" your check. My apartment management company TWICE lost the paper check I wrote them (and instead of notifying me, slapped a three-day notice on my door. Way to treat a long-term, reliable tenant, folks). With online bill pay, no one has lost, misplaced, or delayed processing my check. Also the fact that the bill amount is deducted from your account right away - no "will this clear or won't it" guesswork.

I never, ever pay by paper check anymore if I can possibly help it. And I don't bother going to each individual website either - my credit union's bill pay feature has worked fine. Do be sure to include your account number and name (or at least initial + last name) on the "memo" line for each payment just to be sure everything is credited to the right account.
posted by Rosie M. Banks at 10:59 AM on September 3, 2010

Another thing I like about Chase online billpay is that once you get it set up, you now have a list of all the bills that you pay every month, and you can see on a single page what was the last payment date. So, no, Chase doesn't notify you about a new bill - that's still up to each of your service providers to notify you of a bill. But when you can see at a glance which ones were paid this month vs last month, it's really easy to keep track.
posted by CathyG at 11:00 AM on September 3, 2010

So is it worth it for convenience? I cannot say. Is it worth it for helping you manage your money better? No, and in fact it will likely be counterproductive.

With Chase you don't have to set your bill payments to automatic. I do mine manually each month.
posted by nooneyouknow at 11:01 AM on September 3, 2010 [2 favorites]

I stopped using online bill pay after they botched the rent check. The money was deducted from my account, but it was not sent to my landlord. Luckily this is apparently a very common thing, because they gave me a pass for a few weeks until the check finally showed up.

I have also had payment to me be delayed by several weeks. But I have to take the client's word for it.

All banks use a third-party company to cut the checks. It's not Chase or Bank of America or Keybank mailing the checks - it's the company they contracted with. This means that they don't have the same accountability your bank would. Or - in my experience - the accuracy.

When I contacted my bank, they basically shrugged and said "Our part is done. Hopefully the check shows up soon."

So no. I do not advise using the online bill pay service through your bank.

You can pay almost all your bills online through the company's website anyway. I pay my phone bill at ATT's site, my insurance bill at Progressive's site, etc.
posted by ErikaB at 11:37 AM on September 3, 2010

Nthing the wonders of billpay. The best part is that you don't have to keep track of how much you have left in your account to cover the bills, because the money is automatically and instantaneously deducted from your visual balance. Of course this is less of an issue if you are not living so hand-to-mouth, but I love it for that main reason among others. I tried using a small credit union, which I was determined to support, but I eventually came back to Chase because the billpay just helps a disorganized person like me who used to dread paying bills to the point of paralysis.
posted by thegreatfleecircus at 11:45 AM on September 3, 2010

My experience is akin to ErikaB's.
posted by aramaic at 11:46 AM on September 3, 2010

I use MyCheckFree to pay almost all of my bills. As far as I know they don't cut any checks, it's all electronic. I get an email every time a bill is received. I can set an upper limit on each account, so if the bill is under the limit it is paid automatically and if it is over I have to log in and approve it (it's saved me headaches a few times when I've been overcharged). The only problem I've ever had was one time when Comcast inexplicably changed my account number and stopped submitting bills to CheckFree.

I have my credit union cut and mail a check for my rent. They send me "hey, we're going to cut this check in 3 days unless you cancel it" and "your check has been mailed" emails.
posted by indyz at 12:04 PM on September 3, 2010

I have an Excel spreadsheet with by bills listed, divided into two lists for each paycheck.
When I get paid, I go down the list and go to each website and pay. It doesn't take very long at all - 15 minutes, tops - and the result is that twice a month I am guaranteed to be looking at my overall finances and making adjustments.

I personally don't believe in automatic payments because I've had bad experiences. But, this is me.
posted by micawber at 12:15 PM on September 3, 2010 [1 favorite]

I distrust automatic payment systems. Too many people I know have had problems. Heck, something as benign as Google Calendar is utterly unreliable - I set it to send me email alerts, and half the time, there are no email alerts (to Gmail, fwiw). So, no, I don't trust any such system, though I do rely on a few automatic payments, such as Netflix.

But as has been pointed out, you can go to Chase (or whatever bank) and pay all bills manually online. I still don't do it, except for vendors who don't have their own sites (like my landlord). I prefer instead, to go to all the sites individually - credit cards, utilities, etc. The reasons are multiple. Not only can you track your expenditures better and notice fee hikes etc., as has been pointed out, but also because when you have electronic statement delivery, a lot of what happens, like change of terms, notifications, etc. is presented on the website. If you never go to the website because you do everything through Chase, you are liable to miss an awful lot, possibly with dire consequences.

Thus, it is much better to keep tabs, monthly, on all your credit cards etc. through their websites.

And, it's really not problem logistically. On your browser, establish a folder on your toolbar and call it something like "Finance". In that folder, you keep, alphabetically arranged, all the bookmarks to the sites you have to visit monthly to pay bills, like credit cards, utilities etc.. Then, you keep a small document or electronic sticky or dashboard widget (which I do) textnote, which you can bring up with one keystroke - the sticky is simply a list of all your bill payments for the month, like f.ex. this:

BofA Visa x/06 ------.--08
Ter Visa x/10.-------08
Citi Visa x/10 --------.-08
Citi Mast. x/10 -------.-08
CapitalOne Visa x/13 ----08
Amex Gold x/14 -------.08
SEVisa x/23 ------------.-08
Amex Blue x/24-------.-08

Verizon x/07 ----------.08
gas x/01--------------.09
Apt x/05--------------.10


Cable x/12--------------.AP

The entries are arranged by date of bill presentation, from earliest in the month to latest, and the date on the left shows that, so f.ex. BofA Visa x/06 means the Bank of America Visa shows up with a bill ready to pay on the 6th of every month - I then go to my browser "Finance" folder and pay the bill online. The numbers on the right side, show which month has ALREADY been paid for. So, in this case, as can be seen, 08 means August bill has been paid. When I pay a bill, all I do is change the number on the right side. So, as soon as the September bill for BofA Visa shows up (on the 6th), I'll pay it, then invoke the list, and change the number from 08 to 09. Done. Now I know at a glance, what I've already paid this month, and what I still need to pay and when. The list is broken into categories, the first group is credit card payments, the second group things like cell phone, landline, rent, electric bill is its own category because it's a bi-monthly, and the legend AP means automatic payment, which I do for Netflix and cable etc.

So, it's really simple, seems to me, to set up a folder with all your bookmarks, and a simple list easily invoked, that only needs one keystroke to update monthly. FWIW, never in my life, have I missed or been late on a single bill.
posted by VikingSword at 12:51 PM on September 3, 2010

Count me in as someone who thinks Chase's website is teh awesome.

Every single "how to manage money" article I've ever read suggests that keeping to a budget is much easier if you stay in touch with each and every bill, and I've succesfully put that into practice for several years now. Yes, it's inconvenient, but it also gives me insight into my charges that I wouldn't otherwise have

I'd agree, with a caveat: there's a difference between setting things up with the vendor so that they charge you every month and setting things up with your bank so that you pay every month. In the former case, they can charge you whatever they damn well please, and unless you're really on top of things, you may never notice it. In the latter, you know exactly what you're spending.

Thing is, the latter case only works with bills that don't change from month to month. So I have Chase pay my rent and car payments automatically, and my internet and phone are auto-debited from a credit card (points FTW). But I don't pay my power bill automatically, because I want to know what it is every month. Same goes for auto insurance, which isn't that big of a deal because it's only twice a year.

So I've got a sort of hybrid system going on. Combine that with and I've got a great handle on where my money is going.

Which is mostly to Citibank. Damn student loans.
posted by valkyryn at 12:53 PM on September 3, 2010

Addendum: when I pay online, I always do a screen capture of the page showing that I paid, and the confirmation number. That page goes into a folder on my computer "Receipts" - when I save it, I always give it a name format with date, so, f.ex. when I paid Bank Of America Visa, last month, I'd save the document as "BofAVisa080610". That way, if there's ever any question as to whether I paid and when, I can always bring up a document. I have that stuff going back years and years. Never had a problem.
posted by VikingSword at 12:58 PM on September 3, 2010

I prefer to use the individual company's automatic bill payment systems. My reasoning is that the people who want your money are more likely to get your money on time, because they want to get paid. If there are any problems with their system, you can directly complain to them about why their system screwed up your payment, delayed it, etc.

Your bank, on the other hand, has no similar incentive to make sure your payments get to their destination on time. Online bill pay for them is simply another "feature" sold in order to attract your money; and they know that even if they screw up, switching bank accounts is a lot of hassle, so you aren't likely to leave.
posted by meowzilla at 1:22 PM on September 3, 2010

I pay my bills the way you do, primarily because I can pay with my credit card and maximize credit card reward points this way. Just something to consider.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 1:48 PM on September 3, 2010

(I then promptly pay off my complete balance, of course.)
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 1:50 PM on September 3, 2010

Addendum: when I pay online, I always do a screen capture of the page showing that I paid, and the confirmation number.

This is why I also vote for going to each individual company's website. After I click "Submit" I print to PDF the confirmation page, which automatically gets saved in my Receipts folder.
posted by invisible ink at 4:36 PM on September 3, 2010

Response by poster: Hmm, lots of good advice here, both in favor of switching to Chase's system and in favor of sticking with what I'm doing now. Thanks, guys.
posted by andrewcilento at 11:14 AM on September 4, 2010

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