HAVE COMPUTER, WILL PAY.
Online bill paying can be an efficient way to stay on top of your financial obligations especially if you’re constantly on the road. All you need is access to a secure computer, ideally with a CD-ROM and a printer to help your recordkeeping.
First, see whether your bank provides the service, enabling you to organize your payment accounts from one website. Some banks charge for this, but many provide it free with certain accounts or minimum balances.
BUILDING THE PIPELINE.
You also can set up online payments with individual payees. It’s like setting up a direct-deposit account for your settlements, only in reverse: You’re authorizing companies to take money out.
Each payee will have its own setup instructions at its website, but you typically will be asked for a voided check and your customer account number and customer name, exactly as they appear on your paper bill. You’ll also be asked for your signature – or your “I Agree” click – on authorization forms that include a list of terms and conditions.
NO MORE LATE PAYMENTS.
With many accounts, you’ll have the option to make bill payments not only online but automatic. Many prefer the added convenience of automation, so that your truck note or insurance premium, for example, gets collected at fixed times, without your doing anything. This assumes, of course, you keep your checking balance high enough.
You’ll still get a regular statement from your bank telling you who got paid and when.
Remember, too, you can cancel automatic or online bill payment, or make any other changes as needed, 24/7, whenever you’re online.
Online bill services
Banks aren’t the only third-party option for online bill payment. Monthly subscriptions are offered by a number of electronic bill management services, including these three:
- Paytrust, $2.95 to $12.95 a month (www.paytrust.com). Paytrust is a division of Intuit, which makes financial software such as QuickBooks, Quicken and TurboTax.
- MSN Bill Pay, $2.95 to $5.95 a month (https://billpay.msn.com). MSN Bill Pay is a division of MSN Money, part of Bill Gates’ Microsoft empire.
- MyEZBills, $4.95 to $19.95 a month (www.myezbills.com).
Turn the tables
Can your regular customers pay you electronically? If you’re an independent, ask your bank about that option. Many creditors find they’re paid faster and more reliably that way.