Online bill pay
August 31, 2004 1:38 PM   Subscribe

Online bill pay. Is it safe? Any service providers you recommend? Would I be better off going through Yahoo or my bank or something else?
posted by keswick to Work & Money (12 answers total)
Go through your bank. It's safe and easy.
posted by agregoli at 1:46 PM on August 31, 2004

Yes, it's safe. I put about $50,000 a year through an online bill payment system and have never once had a problem. Banks regulated by Federal Reserve are required to comply with Reg E, which provides quite a lot of protection for the customer.

(Full disclosure: I'm sitting about 20 feet from the folks who built one of the earliest Web-based banking and bill payment applications, and several years ago had a day job supporting a nonweb online bill payment system).
posted by majick at 1:46 PM on August 31, 2004

I second using your bank- I've been paying all my bills through Bank of America online for the past couple years, and it works great. Simple to use, no postage, and I can enter the payments as the bills come in but set it to pay on payday.
posted by InfidelZombie at 1:59 PM on August 31, 2004

Okay, for some reason, I was under the impression that bill pay services notified you when bills were due. Was that only one particular service? Is there a site I can go to for an overview or primer on how this stuff works?
posted by keswick at 2:07 PM on August 31, 2004

Yes keswick, they can notify you if you have your bills directed to them either electronically or manually. I like PayTrust. They have electronic bill presentment and payment options for many billers nationwide. If they can't arrange to get your bill electronically, you can change your billing address to a PayTrust P.O. box and they'll scan bills & notify you. Any payee that can't take an electronic transfer can be cut a paper check. They offer reporting and archiving of transaction records. It pretty much covers all the bases. (Your bank may offer similar online services.)
posted by Tubes at 2:39 PM on August 31, 2004

I prefer using Paytrust to my bank, because Paytrust can receive electronic bills, remind me when they arrive, and nudge me when they're due. When I'm ready to pay, it's about six clicks and done. With the bank, I still get all my bills on paper, and enter them by hand--though this is a credit union, so YMMV.

In any case, I've been using Paytrust for years, and can heartily recommend them.
posted by frykitty at 2:40 PM on August 31, 2004

My bank charges $5.00 a month for their online bill paying service, so I prefer to pay my bills directly to the vendors (none of them charges for that service). In fact, Verizon, my cell phone service, gives me an extra 100 minutes a month for paying online by debiting my checking account.

Many vendors give you the option of having the payment automatically deducted from your credit card/checking account or manually paying the bill when you want to. They'll also send you an email to tell you that your bills are due and confirm receipt of payments.

So far, I haven't had a problem using this method.
posted by lola at 4:24 PM on August 31, 2004

I've been using my bank. I'm generally very happy doing the online-checking thing, but a couple observations:

1. Some payees are set up to receive electronic transfers; some are not, so the bank (or whoever) prints out a check and mails it to them. This obviously slows the process down.

2. I've noticed that my gas company (which does not take electronic payments) seems to change its mailing address pretty regularly, so I wind up being in arrears with them when they move: the payment goes to the wrong address and spends forever getting forwarded. When I get nastygrams from the gas company, I know to check their current mailing address.
posted by adamrice at 4:27 PM on August 31, 2004

"I was under the impression that bill pay services notified you when bills were due."

Most bill payment services will offer this service, "e-billing" [don't blame me, I didn't come up with the stupid name] in addition to bill payment. A majority of them, such as the one my department runs, offer billing for most major billers, but by no means all of them. You'll get utility bills and mortgage statements and the like, but nothing for small businesses.
posted by majick at 8:25 PM on August 31, 2004

I love Bank of America's bill payment (it's free with direct deposit and $300 held hostage in a savings account). They tell you exactly how long it takes payments to reach each payee. I've been using them for about five years and never had a problem.

I get some e-bills through Bank of America, the other ones I just enter the payment when I get the paper bill. I like having it centralized rather than paying online at each of my payees' sites.
posted by kirkaracha at 9:37 PM on August 31, 2004

Sorry I'm late to the party here, but I wanted to add a word of warning. I use my credit union's bill pay service, for no fee. As Tubes and adamrice mentioned above, they'll send a paper check to any payee who can't accept an electronic transfer. (My credit union charges no fee even when they have to send out a physical check.)

I've never had a problem with the electronic transfers.

The issue, at least with my credit union, in sending out a physical check is that the funds are deducted from your account when the check is sent out, not when the check is deposited (as for normal checks).

Usually even this isn't a problem. I had my rent set up to be paid that way. (Yes, I live right by where I would drop off the rent anyway, but I kept forgetting to do that on time.) Worked fine for quite a while--over two years.

Then one month I get a call from my apartment complex office--they haven't received my rent which is now a few days overdue. The credit union says the check was mailed out, but says, OK, it must have been lost in the mail. I get the CU to call my apartment office, explain it wasn't my fault, and the apartment office graciously agrees to waive the late fees.

So far, no biggie. Here's the real problem: even though the CU cancels the original check sent out, the funds are already deducted from my account, and won't be restored for three days. (Why they couldn't be restored immediately, I still don't understand.) Without restoring those funds, I don't have enough in my account to cover a second rent check. The apartment office doesn't want my already-overdue rent in three days, they want it now, and certainly won't waive any additional late fees (which the apartment office has every right to do, and I don't blame them at all for that attitude.) So I end up paying a good chunk of late fees in addition to the rent.

I still use the CU's bill pay for the payees that take electronic transfers, but I won't use it any more to have paper checks sent out.
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 11:13 AM on September 1, 2004

" Without restoring those funds, I don't have enough in my account to cover a second rent check."

You don't have to cover a second rent check. Your CU or bank has to reissue the check on the basis of the funds already deducted, or they're out of regulatory compliance.

"So I end up paying a good chunk of late fees in addition to the rent."

Since the fees are a result of an error on the part of the CU or bank, as long as your payment instructions were given to the bank five days prior to the due date, they have to pay the late fees or negotiate with the payee (more Reg E) and take the appropriate steps to be sure that there is no impact to your credit reporting (Reg E). What your bank just did to you is illegal, and the Fed can fine them or shut them down for doing it just the one time.
posted by majick at 6:09 PM on September 3, 2004

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