online bill paying
October 17, 2005 7:13 PM   Subscribe

What is a good/the best online bill paying service? I am currently using the version of Checkfree that my bank provides but it is absurdly clunky ( but free). I need to be able to set up recurring payments and I would like to be able to make last minute one time payments too, right now the fastest I can make a electronic payment is five business days. I need to manage a wide range of vendors and be able to pay vendors that that are not set up for electronic payment. Right now I still want to get paper bills but in the future may start to switch to electronic billing. Of course the lower the price the better seeing as I have a free service now.
posted by flummox to Work & Money (13 answers total)
I've used Paytrust since 2001. I pay $10.95/month and most of my bills are sent to Paytrust, scanned, and then I'm emailed. A lot of my payees accept electronic payments, but some do not and Paytrust mails checks. Unfortunately they probably take 4-5 days.
I have recurring payments set up and can also make one-time payments.
It's really helped me stay on top of my bills--if I don't pay something right away I keep getting emails reminding me of due dates. They also contact me if a bill they expect does not arrive. They've been super reliable for the past 4+ years.
posted by jdl at 7:36 PM on October 17, 2005

I'll second jdl's endorsement of Paytrust. I've used them since 2000.
posted by stevis at 8:00 PM on October 17, 2005

I use Bill Pay, provided free through my bank, for 2 years now. It does everything you've stated that you want. I've even used it to send $50 to my sil. Takes 2-5 days, longer time is for the checks they have to send out.
posted by LadyBonita at 8:18 PM on October 17, 2005

I double-second the paytrust vote. I used PayMyBills since 2000 or so, until they were subsumed by Paytrust. i've been using paytrust ever since. Very reliable, easy, and saves me tons of time.
posted by slookdog at 8:19 PM on October 17, 2005

It's all about! Been using it for three years now and I love it.
posted by JPowers at 8:49 PM on October 17, 2005

Most of your payees will probably accept electronic payment from their end, and for free. Often they will let you do "last-minute" one-time payments (this is very common with credit cards, for example). Usually these happen faster than initiating the payment from your bank's end -- Capital One posts payments the same day or the next day, for example. Some banks will do a same-day payment for an additional fee.

Out of all the people I pay money to on a monthly basis, I have to do it from my bank's end for only one payee. Well, two -- I write checks for my rent to get the float, but I could have my bank pay 'em.

This does suck if you ever change banks, but it's going to suck equally setting up all your payees again if you did it from the bank's end.

$10.95 a month for a service that pays your bills? Lord Jesus no, don't pay $130 a year for that. Sheesh.
posted by kindall at 8:50 PM on October 17, 2005

Billpay - Provided free by my credit union. If you are not a member of a credit union I urge you to join one. Way better than banks in my opinion.
posted by snowjoe at 9:56 PM on October 17, 2005

I use WellsFargo BillPay and it does everything you said you want. I haven't written a paper check in about 4 years, I just mail them via BillPay. I pay around $6-7/mo and it is the only reason I bank with WF.
posted by fshgrl at 10:30 PM on October 17, 2005

Kindall, the advantage of a service like Paytrust is that it consolidates your bills in one place, and tracks them for you.

The way to determine the value of such a service is to think about how many hours per year you spend on managing your bills and multiply it by how much per hour your time is worth. Add in the amount you spend on postage for mailing off bills. Then add in the amount per year you spend on late fees because you forgot to pay bills on time. If you are highly organized or if you have a ton of free time, this number will be pretty low. If, however, you are absent-minded or very busy, you might well find that such a service is well worth $10.95 a month. I certainly do.

Anyway, chalk me up as another satisfied Paytrust customer. I've been using them for 4 or 5 years, and in that time, I've only had one problem with a biller not receiving my payment. When that occurred, I called Paytrust, and a very intelligent and helpful customer service rep set up a conference call with the biller and helped me resolve it.

The only hesitation I'd have about recommending Paytrust to you, Flummox, is that you can't make instantaneous payments. After you set up a payment, it can take up to one business day for the payment to go out. Once a payment does go out, if it's electronic, it's usually received as soon as it's sent. Still, if you do find yourself regularly needing to make payments moments before the due date, you might be better off taking Kindall's suggestion of just using the biller's own website.
posted by yankeefog at 7:44 AM on October 18, 2005

Paytrust user here. I've been happy with them for several years too. From time to time I consider trying Yahoo's service, as it seems less expensive and I've heard good things about it, but with everything set up in PayTrust my life is at least $10.95/mo worth of simpler.
posted by Tubes at 8:33 AM on October 18, 2005

Kindall, the advantage of a service like Paytrust is that it consolidates your bills in one place, and tracks them for you.

I guess. I don't need my bills "tracked" and "consolidated," I just need them paid on time every month. For 90% of the bills I pay, it's a set-it-up-once-and-forget-it situation. For the rest, they send me a reminder in e-mail (or I set up one in my calendar if they don't offer this) and I click the "pay now" link and two clicks later it's paid. I don't see how any service could save me $11 a month worth of time. The free tools most people already have available are quick and easy.
posted by kindall at 9:18 AM on October 18, 2005

I work for a bank that offers bill pay through CheckFree. With bill pay, the "Five Business days in advance of the due date" business is CYA on the part of the banks. If you are reasonably certain the payment will go electronically, feel free to issue the payment on the day it's due or on the day before . . .but remember that if something happens and your payment goes awry, you are responsible for dealing with your payee because you scheduled the payment outside the terms of the bill pay service agreement with the bank. It's for this reason that if I need to make a "right now" payment, I just use that particular vendor's website. If you dont need the additonal features added by PayTrust, then stick with what you've got, in other words, and use vendor websites for the times you need to make an immediate payment.
posted by Medieval Maven at 9:26 AM on October 18, 2005

I use Paytrust, but I've thought of dropping it. The problem is that it's taking more and more maintanence to keep it running properly. They convert a bill from paper to electronic, and the paper bill keeps going to Paytrust, so now there are duplicate bills, and it's not clear when one is getting paid. The electronic bills don't always have the same information as the paper ones, so I still have to file the paper bills manually at home when I get them to redirect the bill. Since they get the electronic bills by web scraping, periodically a company will change their web site or they will expire your password, and Paytrust can't get the bill. Sometimes they notify you when this happens, sometimes they don't. This can cause you to be late with payments if they don't get the bill. Companies I deal with are always getting bought out, and the change of name always confuses Paytrust. Their Quicken integration is terrible. When they first started, they were great, because they dealt with all of the paper, but they don't seem to want to do that anymore, and most banks let you do the payment thing for free now, so the utility of consolodating the incoming bills is becoming less.
posted by cameldrv at 2:01 PM on October 18, 2005

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