Whether you pay your bills online or with a check, you’ve probably seen the automatic bill payment option It’s a great service for the companies you pay, but is it a great service for you?
Each company lists all the advantages of the service: your bills will be paid on time, you’ll never miss a payment, and you’ll never have late fees Yes, those are great advantages But they don’t mention the down sides.
You won’t be able to check your statement before the payment is made.
This is a definite downside You might even get in the habit of not checking your statement at all There might be charges you need to dispute: maybe a purchase wasn’t yours, maybe a new service charge was added to your account, maybe there was an increase in fees.
On credit cards, you only have a limited amount of days to dispute a transaction Once that time is up, you can’t be reimbursed Or, if the cost of a utility increases (after a promotional period), you may want to make other arrangements as soon as possible.
If you choose the automatic payment service, take the time to look over your statements as soon as they arrive.
A Payment Could Overdraw Your Account.
Many of our accounts have fluctuating balances Utility charges change with the seasons and credit card spending increases on holidays and vacations Do you keep enough money in your account to cover all your payments, regardless of the amount?
Here’s an example: August was an unrelentingly hot and humid month in some states Many people left on the air conditioning all month only to be shocked by the size of their electric bill They didn’t realize that the rate per kilowatt would increase as their usage increased, which made the bill go even higher than expected Some people thought they’d end up paying $100 more for August, but ended up paying $200-$400 more How many people keep enough in their checking account to handle a $500 electric bill? Not many.
If you choose the automatic bill payment option, keep extra padding in your checking account and check your bank balances frequently.
Automatic bill payment works great for some people Choose the option that works best for you As always, take steps to protect your personal finances.