Or it can be a huge problem, if it’s not done correctly.
Paying your bills online through your financial institution is usually free, or at a nominal fee.
Through my personal experience in the online banking/online bill pay industry, I will share with you the things you must consider before paying your bills online.
These tips will help seniors, and everyone who is considering paying their bills online.
Paying your bills online does NOT mean that all of your payments will be processed electronically.
In some cases, a paper check will be mailed to the payee on your behalf.
This is true when the person or company you are paying is not enrolled as an electronic biller.
This means you are at the mercy of the United States Postal Service.
If a check is lost in the mail, your bill pay provider will help you locate the check or reissue a new one.
It helps to have someone on your side assisting you in recovering the check and dealing with the payee to help you avoid late fees.
When you enter the biller information, make sure you are entering the payee name, payment address, and your account number with the payee, exactly as it appears on your statement from the payee.
When the payment is issued to the payee, the information must match exactly in order to apply the payment to your correct account.
This is especially true when paying a biller that accepts electronic payments.
If the information does not match what is in the billers database, the payment will more than likely be issued as a paper check, which injects the variability of the USPS.
When you enter the biller account number, make sure you enter the complete account number.
Even thought your financial institution will mask all but the last 4 or 5 digits of the account number on your screen, the complete account number will print on the check or be coded into the electronic payment. If you enter a partial number, the payment more than likely will be posted to the wrong account. Getting that corrected is not always easy.
If you are sending money to an individual, keep in mind that in most cases the bill pay provider will not be able to do a direct deposit. There are other ways to send money to an individual. One such method is called PopMoney. It is provided at a nominal fee by many financial institutions. PopMoney will allow you to send money to a friend or family member. It usually requires that persons email address. An email is then sent to them stating that you would like to send money to them. They respond to the email with their bank account number and routing number, and the money is sent directly to their account. Very convenient.
If you prefer to use the bill pay process, you will need to add the individual as a biller, enter their bank account number and the address to their bank, and then make a payment to them in care of their financial institution.
The check will then be mailed to their bank, payable to the individual, and with the individuals bank account number printed on the check in the account number field. The bank will open the envelope, and deposit the funds into their account.
Signing on to your banks website is not always easy.
Browsers get clogged with cookies and cache files, and updates to your browser can configure the settings in such a way as to block the proper operation of the secure website.
When that happens, it would be good if you knew how to clear your browser cookies and cache files, allow for third-party cookies, and configure your pop-up blocker properly.
Everyone should understand these basic browser troubleshooting steps in order to resolve internet issues.
These can play havoc with your ability to pay your bills and bank online.
If you have a joint checking account, make sure your financial institution enters both names as authorized bill pay users.
Nothing is more frustrating than to call your bill pay provider and be told they cannot assist you because you are not listed on the bill pay account.
Your financial institution will not automatically put both names on the bill pay account.
You will have to specifically request it. This will save time and frustration in the event of a problem.
When you issue a payment online, it does not automatically get deducted from your checking account balance.
In most cases, your checking account will not be debited until the payment date.
Keep that in mind when looking at your checking account balance.
You may need to keep a manual check register if you are cutting it close on funds availability.
If your credit card company, cable tv provider, or any other biller, notifies you of a change to your account number, update that number in your biller information online as soon as possible. It does not automatically update. And if not updated and a payment is issued, it will be applied to the wrong account. And this is not always easy to correct.
The same thing applies to a change of payment address. Keep your biller information up to date in order to have your payments applied properly.
When you sit down at the computer to pay your bills, whether it be once a week or once a month, give it your complete and undivided attention.
Double and triple check every entry to make sure you are paying the right bill, and paying the right amount.
If you want to pay your water bill payment of $52.43, make sure the decimal point is in the right place.
You do not want to enter a payment of 5243.00 by mistake. The bill pay process has built-in review steps to help you avoid entering wrong information. You have to review and confirm.
It’s easy to just click on through the process and become robotic. Take a little extra time up front and save yourself countless hours trying to get a payment corrected.
Online bill pay, if done correctly, can be a time and money saver, and provide an advocate to go to bat for you if a biller applies your payment incorrectly, or a check gets lost in the mail. Do your part and always make sure you enter correct information. After all, it is your money.
When a problem does arise, and you need help from your online banking or bill pay provider, your financial institution will provide a toll-free number that you can call for assistance.
It will help if you are not on a speaker phone or driving while you are speaking with them. They need you to speak clearly, and give them your undivided attention.
At the other end of the phone line will be a person trained to help you resolve whatever problem you are having. They can walk you through updating your payment address, your cable tv account number, or help you set up an automatic payment that is issued at set intervals automatically.
They are your advocate when things go wrong. They will contact the biller and help you get a payment applied properly or discuss late fees. The folks at your bill pay support team are always willing to help. Please remember that they are people too. Hardworking folks who will go to bat for you to help you resolve whatever problem arises. All they ask is that you have patience, and be courteous. Working with them, you will be able to resolve all of your bill pay issues.
Feel free to comment with any questions you may have. I will be glad to help in any way that I can.