General Question

janbb's avatar

What is your system for paying bills?

Asked by janbb (44542 points ) August 2nd, 2014

I am taking over full responsibility for paying my household bills next month and thinking about how to set things up. Obviously can pay bills by handwritten check and may do so but want to know more about online banking. Is there a difference between automatic bill pay and EFT? Who do you set it up with – the bank or the company? What about paying by phone? I have set up an online account at my bank but not any bill paying as yet. Most of the household bills have been coming out of another account thus far. Am polling a number of people to get ideas.

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23 Answers

SQUEEKY2's avatar

The wife pays them over the phone, but we do have it set up so we can do it at the bank as well, we don’t do any banking or bill payments on line prefer the other ways that I mentioned .
If I have to pay them I pay them at the bank.

Lightlyseared's avatar

I pay all my bills by direct debit. You often get a discount because it’s cheaper for the company to process and if something does go wrong it’s very easy to sort out.

janbb's avatar

@Lightlyseared That’s what we would call EFT – electronic funds transfer?

hominid's avatar

I pay all of my bills via Bank of America bill pay.

gailcalled's avatar

I use electronic fund transfers (debited from my checking account) for all bills that are budgeted monthy.

Electric/gas
Aarp Medigap
Home and car insurance
Verizon cell phone
Internet service provider (including landline)

I use my one credit card for almost everything else, and i mean everything.

A few local service providers (snow plow guy, lawn mowers, landscaper/handyman) want cash or personal checks, so I oblige.

I have to keep a checkbook going for the three or so checks I write monthly…a pain but I have no choice.

Pachy's avatar

I pay virtually all my bills online on the creditor’s websites, including those of credit cards, doctors and labs, utilities, mortgage and other loans. This gives me full control my payment date (I don’t like having to add extra time to pay when mailing payments via snailmail), and it allows me to carefully track my debits and credits. I use snailmail only when the creditor doesn’t have a website, but this is very rare.

I ALWAYS avoid fees by paying on or before the payment is due. I pay some of my bills online via credit card in order to accrue reward points, the rest directly out of my checking.

As for automatic pay vs. manual, I have some of my bills set to automatically deduct, which I’m careful to schedule and budget for, and some manually (like my mortgage) to be able to control when I pay.

I’ve used this system for years and it works very well for me.

filmfann's avatar

Some by check, some online. I usually sit down with the bills three times a month.
And never, ever in front of the wife.

livelaughlove21's avatar

I pay all but one through automatic bill pay, and the other I pay online each month because they don’t offer automatic bill pay. Easy.

dappled_leaves's avatar

I pay all of my bills online, except rent (because my landlady is too old-fashioned to bank online). But I pay on my own schedule, not automatically. I like to keep a close eye on the numbers.

I would add that I do this through my own bank, not via each separate company. I add each company as a payee; the online system prompts for account numbers during setup, then I simply select the payee from my personal list when paying a bill.

Lightlyseared's avatar

@janbb it’s a type of eft. Maybe there’s no equivalent in the US but basically you allow the company to take whatever they want from your account when ever they want. The rules are they have to tell you when and how much they are going to take and if a mistake is made you are repaid immediately in contacting your bank (ie your bank credits your account with the the funds before even contacting the organisation that made the request for payment for clarification).

CWOTUS's avatar

This is an interesting question (at least to me) because it causes me to consider changes that I’ve made in my own life in this regard.

Years ago, when paying by check was the normal and expected option, I used to take a particular pleasure (believe it or not) in writing a check for “balance due” on the same day that I received the bill. I just wouldn’t mail the check until a few days before it was actually due. So on the day that the bill arrived I would write the check, post it in my checkbook register, note my copy of the bill with the payment details (check # and date written), ready the payment for mailing – including sealing the envelope and writing the return address – and then writing “date to be mailed” in the corner of the envelope where the stamp would go. Then I would put that envelope in my “time machine” – a collection of payments to be mailed, sorted by date, to be reviewed daily to see if one had to go out today or not. Then I would file my copy of the bill in its proper place: “utility payments”, “loan payments”, “tax payments”, “miscellaneous payments”, etc., including “by year”. I was so damn organized that I can barely recall that person.

Each month I would also reconcile bank statements and balance my checkbook – to the penny – because that was just who I was then. Well, that, and because I used to be a “number dummy” – a field accountant – for the construction division of the company I work for now. I was also very meticulous about posting my paycheck to the account register (even though I’ve had direct deposit for over thirty years), and interest payments each month. I never ever paid late fees or credit card interest.
——
After my separation from my wife my habits changed (along with modes of payment, since checks were falling out of fashion). I rely much more upon automatic bill payment (which has to be arranged between the creditor and the bank, since the creditor has to know that the bank will be receiving the payment details, and the bank has to have your authorization to make the payment) or automatic billing to credit card or online payment by credit card for some billers (my water company, for example) who insist on sending out paper bills, but at least have implemented schemes to allow online payment.

And I never – ever – balance my checkbook any more. I haven’t opened an electric bill in a few years now. I know what I pay, since I see the debit from my checking account each month (it’s not that I don’t review my expenditures; I just don’t balance a checkbook register any more), and I “file” things by piling them on tables and chairs until the piles tip over and I put them in boxes. But I still don’t pay late fees or credit card interest. In fact, the only thing that I write in my checkbook register any more is the occasional check that I do write. I don’t record ATM withdrawals, EFT payments, deposits of any kind or interest payments. Just a few checks a year.

I like paying bills by credit card best, because my card gives me points based on what I spend each month, with the points redeemable in cash, and as long as I’m not paying interest on the card, it’s all gravy to me. And much simpler than trying to find a place to write a check nowadays. (Speaking of which, I need to order some new checks, I suppose, for the four or five that I write each year. I have one or two left in my checkbook, and I may need those before the year is out.)

hearkat's avatar

I have reminders in my calendar to send me alerts for when bills are due, then I go to the company’s website and pay them online. For continuous bills, like the car payment, cable, and cell phone, I set it to automatically deduct the payment form our account every month.

If I buy something, like my laptop or mattress, with a 0% interest for X months deal, I calculate how much I need to get it paid off in X-1 months, and round it up to the nearest $25, then have them deduct that amount form my account every month, 2 days before the due date. That way, I’m certain to not violate any policies that will incur massive penalties that those deals have if you’re a day late or a dollar short.

We even pay our rent online via the ‘quick pay’ feature that our bank offers. You give the bank the other person’s email and the amount you’re sending, and they contact the other person who then gives their banking information via a secured sign-up form—they don’t even have to use the same bank. We’ve used that feature to send money to friends in need after Sandy, and another friend paid us back money we had lent them using that service.

gailcalled's avatar

@CWOTUS: Each month I would also reconcile bank statements and balance my checkbook – to the penny That was the mantra my father raised my brother, sister and me on. When I finally stopped, in my early 60’s, Freud shuddered.

pleiades's avatar

Online is by far the easiest way to go about it.

It’s easy, bust out excel software or a physical note pad. Write all the bills down in order. Visit each site every two weeks, on a Sunday morning or night and boom. Done.

All you have to do is set up your routing number with the company. It’s great because once you hit the final submit button you get a verification code which acts like your receipt or proof (never had a problem paying online) You just have to read the fine print. Some companies you can pay the same day all recorded in E.T. or you can pay the night before, or weeks before. It’s great.

I also don’t have to worry about it being mailed by a certain day, or waiting for checks to clear it’s all sped up. Also doing it by phone some companies seem to charge a small fee sometimes, at least with my experience.

Anyways if you do choose the online. I highly recommend writing all your log in information and passcodes in a certain place where you can access it as reference. Since some companies require special characters or more than one number it’s a great idea to jot down the log ins.

Earthbound_Misfit's avatar

Bills that can be paid monthly (insurance etc.) are paid by direct debit.
Utilities where I don’t know the amount are paid quarterly with Bill Pay online.
Other bills that come in irregularly are paid through Bill Pay or via Online Payments through my bank account.

I haven’t written a cheque for years. I don’t know where my cheque book is and I only visit the bank to sign forms.

Adagio's avatar

I pay all my accounts by bill payment with online banking, the only direct credit I have is insurance, I like to have control over when I pay, direct debit doesn’t offer that and sometimes I have to juggle accounts around to make the payment, so an account is not overdrawn. To set up a bill payment facility I only need the bank account I want to transfer funds to, it can all be organised online, the company/person involved does not need to do anything. Before I started online banking I used to do the same thing over the phone.

jonsblond's avatar

I send a check in the mail for rent, propane, garbage and water. Our account number with our water company is 8. Online billing and payments is not an option.

Electricity, phone, car insurance and DTV are paid by
EFT over the phone.

@CWOTUS And much simpler than trying to find a place to write a check nowadays.
My husband and I need to make sure we have a check or cash on hand when we visit some restaurants and bars in our area. They do not accept credit/debit cards. Can you imagine?

CWOTUS's avatar

The last time that happened to me was around 1996 or thereabouts, while driving cross-country and low on gas late at night we (the whole family in the car with me) stopped at a BP gas station to fill up, and then I walked into the store / office intending to pay by credit card, just like at every other gas station I’ve stopped at since the late 1970s. “Oh, no sir. Cash only.” Since I had no cash, I offered a check, but since I was living in Michigan at the time (and attempting to buy gas in New York), that wasn’t going to work, either.

I think we finally resolved it – after he called the cops and a state patrolman showed up – by me writing a check for cash to the cop, who paid the station owner. Ridiculous.

LuckyGuy's avatar

I do electronic bill pay for most of my bills. It is set up through the bank. It takes a little time to set it up and enter the account info but once they are entered you’re done. Easy.

I do make some payments by check. My oil bill is once every year or so. I can pay that with a credit card (and get a little cash back) but I choose to write a check. Why? Because the guy would have to pay the credit card company a much larger fee than I would get cash back. Rather than give the money to Amex, he and I split the difference.

tedibear's avatar

Most things are paid via our online bill pay at our bank. I don’t like to let companies (other than our mortgage) directly debit our checking account. I sit down with the bills each Sunday and pay them online.

There are a couple of things that I pay with checks. Our recycling bill is once a year so that gets a check. Car insurance also gets a check so that I don’t mess up the policy numbers for the three vehicles. The check goes with the specific bill for that vehicle.

hearkat's avatar

Our bank sends us notifications for activity based on parameters that we set, so I am notified of nearly every charge that posts to my account on my phone. Often, the notification pops up at the restaurant before the server comes back with the slip for us to sign it; so it’s easy to keep tabs on what’s going in and out of the account.

seekingwolf's avatar

I pay almost everything through my bank’s free ebill system. It’s free, no fees, and the money comes out fairly quickly.

Bills I pay through my bank’s site:
-credit card bills
-electric bill
-cable/internet

Rent, I pay that by check and drop it off in the “rent drop” box at my complex.

antimatter's avatar

I use a hat trick. I simply throw all my bills into a had and than I draw three and they are the lucky ones to be paid. Just kidding…
I got a nice little book keeping thing going. I like to be very organized.

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