Three Reasons to Automate Bill Payments – and Four Precautions You Need to Take First

Three Reasons to Automate Bill Payments – and Four Precautions You Need to Take First

There are many benefits to automated bill pay using online banking, but three of the biggest are saving time, money, and monitoring your credit score.

Between work demands, family commitments, and other claims for your time, it’s often hard to find a break in your daily schedule. By automating bill pay through online banking, you can gain time in your day — and maybe even better manage your money.

Before putting your bills on autopilot, consider the benefits but also the necessary precautions for automated bill pay.

3 Benefits of Automated Bill Pay Through Online Banking

There are many benefits to automated bill pay using online banking, but three of the biggest are saving time, money, and keeping a close eye on your credit score, which can help improve it.

  1. Save Time and Energy: Paying bills manually can mean the hassle of sitting down with your checkbook and a stack of bills, and sometimes making an extra trip to the post office. “Automated bill pay is easy to use and convenient,” says Greg Melville, Vice President of Digital Strategy at Regions. “Once you’ve set up bill payments in online banking, the bank does the recurring work for you.” 
  1. Save Money: Not only can you save money on checks and postage, but automated bill pay can help ensure your payments are sent on time to avoid merchant late fees.
  1. Monitoring Your Credit Score: A history of on-time bill payments looks good on your credit report. “People typically don’t link automated bill pay with credit scores, but timely credit payments can make a positive impact on your credit,” Melville says.

4 Necessary Precautions When Automating Your Online Payments

While automated bill pay is largely hands-off, you still have to make sure it runs smoothly and provides the benefits you want. “Cruise control is great, but it won’t drive the car for you,” Melville says. “You have to keep your hands on the wheel.”

Keep in mind these four things before automating your online payments:

  1. Make Sure You Can Cover Payments: Even with automated bill pay, it’s still your responsibility to ensure enough funds are in your account to cover the bills. If your funds run low, you’re at risk of overdrawing your account and incurring overdraft and other fees.

    “Automated bill pay may not be best for people who live paycheck to paycheck and fail to monitor their account balance, or those who don’t have a steady, regular income deposited to cover automated payments,” Melville says.

  1. Keep Tabs on Bills:“The convenience of automated bill pay makes it easy to forget about,” Melville says. “Sometimes the amount of your bills can change, and if you don’t monitor them, you could pay the wrong amount each month and not know it.” If this results in an underpayment of a bill, you could incur late fees and other charges from your creditor.
  1. Be Selective: Even if automated bill pay is right for you, not all of your bills can or should be paid automatically. It works best with bills that are the same amount every month, like rent or a mortgage or car payment. “Bills that fluctuate, like utilities, may not be the best candidates for this,” Melville says.
  1. Set up Payments Through Your Bank: While it’s possible to arrange automated bill payments through each of your individual creditors, by going through your bank, you can minimize sharing your financial account information. If you need to make a change like canceling a payment, it’s a simple process through your bank. “If you have your automated bills set up through individual service providers or creditors, you have to maintain each account,” Melville says. “The bank is a one-stop shop.”
  2. You may want to check with your creditors first, though, to see if they offer an incentive that makes payments through them more attractive. For example, some creditors may offer a reduction in the amount of interest charged on a loan if payments are automated through the creditor.

    There’s also the option of signing up for an ACH debit service to make payments for fluctuating bills like utilities. But that still requires giving out your financial account information, and if you want to make changes to the service, you can’t go through your bank; you have to contact the merchants.

Online banking tools like automated bill pay can make money management more convenient. Before you set up automated payments, remember that you also have to play a part in making it work for you.

Gain additional tips for automating payments in this slideshow.


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