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August 18, 2011


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There are only two bills that are paid automagically by them withdrawing from my account. My Water Bill and my House payment. The reason for both is financial and the bills never change much. They gave me another .25% discount on my mortage for having it auto deducted. Can you say bonus. Over the life of the loan that is a huge amount. So no brainer there. and the Water bill is like $2 a month lower for auto deduction. Other wise nope I Will pay you. You will not take money from me. Thanks have a nice day. Now if my insurance or my utility bill was much lower for auto deduct I would consider it. But like you said the Cable bill and the Cell phone bills those are always wrong so I never let them take my money. That would be a losing proposition.

My only auto-payments are my car, home, and student loans which are all fixed amounts and 2 of them give a rate discount for auto-payments. Come to think of it, our only other bills are CC, which we manually schedule online each month, and various small payments to family for a family cell plan, personal loans, etc.

All my bills are autopay by CC (including insurance). Every month the statements are reviewed and if there are incorrect charges the business is notified and issue corrected. The only time this occurs is when the electric bill is wrong because the meter reader is too lazy and does an estimate instead of an actual (however I bust him every time :) ).

By charging on a cc I get the points plus the protection from Visa/AmEx.

Why would you not auto-pay insurance? I also used to let Comcast auto pay my bill. Never had any major problems with their billing and when there was they corrected and credited on my next bill. Now I no longer have cable but would still let them autopay. I also auto pay my cell phone.

Really it comes down to tracking your finances. I know what a normal bill should be and if its more than a few dollars off the norm then I investigate. All in all never really had a problem with autopay from any company I have chosen to do so with. I am also more likely to autopay when it can go to a CC since I get rewards and the grace period to dispute charges before having to take out of my checking account

HA. I autopay all of those except for the gym membership because I don't have a gym membership.

- Our phone plan is unlimited, so there is no exceeding, and if a different amount comes out of my account than I had budgeted, I look at it and see why, and get the adjustment.
- Insurance - its the same every month for the 6 months / 1 year that you have the plan for, and they always let you know when it is going up or down.
- Utilities - ok - I have my gas autopaid because I have it on a budget billing, but energy savings is what I do for a living, so I look up usage every month and compare it with heating degree days / cooling degree days, so I know when something is "off" at my house - same with electric. Water is every 3 months, so that just gets paid when they send the bill - I don't auto pay it.
- Cable Bills - that is auto pay, but its only 83 for cable and internet. We are talking about dropping the cable portion out, and going to internet-only. I can see their logic if we are paying an astronomical fee for extra channels and HD, but we have pretty basic taste in what we watch, and we have netflix for when we want to see something that isn't on cable.

I can understand their point if they are assuming that because something is automatically deducted that you don't notice the amount, but I keep a pretty tight budget and reconcile my spreadsheet with my bank account when things are taken out. So its really just a matter of convenience to not have to write a check and drop it in the mail, or go online and process the payment.

I autopay everything except utilities just because gas and electric vary quite a bit from month to month depending on the season.

I see no good reason not to auto-pay insurance. The article says its because you won't shop rates. Those activities are independent. I shop rates about every 18-24 months and often times, the current company still has the best rates available. In the meantime, I have the payment auto-paid. It's the same every month. I autopay my mortgage. Why not the insurance?

Phone and satellite are the same within a couple bucks and if it's different I investigate.

I've simply never had a problem with autopay and it cuts down on my effort.

My phone, gym, utilities, and cable are all automated. I get text messages or emails prior to bill being paid stating how much they are, so there's no issue there.

I've never been over charged on any of these.

We auto pay our cell phone, utilities (power is the only one we pay for), and cable bill. We have the cheapest cell plan available and never go over our minutes/texts, so that amount is always the same. Cable (bundled with home phone and internet) is a locked-in rate for the next 2 years, so that amount is always the same as well. Power bill I watch, but we are rarely home and conserve energy when we can. Plus my husband works for them and we get a significant discount (so nice!) - I'm sure it would be easy to have a mistake corrected.
Insurance is only due twice a year (we get a discount for paying that way) and gym once a year (10% discount for paying that way as well) so I manually pay those.

We don't automate anything for the big reason listed in the article- we want to make sure we actually look at our bills to make sure there's nothing unusual. Also, to make darn sure that they are paid. Our insurance is paid once a year, which also gives us a decent discount to pay in full up front. We have no gym membership (our apartment complex has a gym included in rent; when we get a house soon, we plan on buying an elliptical for me, and my husband runs and we'll be near plenty of parks for him to do that in).

I auto-pay everything possible. My electric and water utilities will not let me auto-pay unless they charge me a fee (can you spell b-a-c-k-w-a-r-d?) so I online bill-pay them. I get detailed e-bills on everything so I know what I am paying and, knock, knock, I have not had any problems. I write maybe 8 checks per year tops.

I do not auto-pay my credit cards bills since that is what pays my other bills and I feel better having a little more manual control of my cash outflow. Although I am honestly tempted to use their auto-draft option to see how it goes.

I autopay everything I can. Electric,heating (gas),water, cable (which is phone,internet,WOW cable), cell phone. I even electronically pay bills out of my checking like paypal, credit union credit card.

Auto insurance is paid once a year.

I find it liberating that I don't have to write checks for these every month and I always have enough to pay without being overdrawn.

I auto pay it all via VISA credfit cards and no fees are charged. On card is a a lower credit limit for utilities, etc., and any internet purchases and another card I carry and use for almost everything from gas, groceries, dining out, etc.,. The points add up. The bank has instructions to pay both cards in full on the due date automatically, so I only need to make one transfer/xaction a month, from savings to checking to pay these (after I review the statements/bills). That alone, and two checks a year to pay property taxes is it for bills. EASY!

I autopay absolutely everything. Like Nashville, if a company doesn't let me autopay I will use a (free) billpay service to pay them. I could be wrong, but I feel like the risk of incurring a late fee because I forgot a bill (or the check got lost in the mail) is much higher than the risk of having a dispute with a company.

I use auto pay for just about everything. I have had no problems. I think the real issue is to keep an eye on the charges/fees as they come though. If you automate and then don't bother to watch the bills... that would be the mistake. This is more about just paying attention.

Why wouldn't you auto-pay insurance? It is a set amount, and you can stop it whenever you want. Why would I want to handle a bill that is the same every month and not only waste that time, but have the risk of missing a payment. It's one less thing to worry about. Sure, keep an eye on it, but to have to remeber every month???

I auto pay pretty much anything I can and don't really have any worries about it. Watch your bills and theres no real problem.

The only problem I recall ever having with auto pay was when DISH network failed to bill my credit card somehow and then shut off my service. The credit card worked just fine and I used it regularly at the time so it was clearly DISH's fault as far as I'm concerned. So after that fiasco I didn't trust them and manually paid my bill online every month afterwards.

The source article says the reason not to auto-pay is that
1) the companies might hit you with "fee hikes, surprise costs, and payments for services you never even use".
2) "if you run low in your checking account, you can easily overdraw your account and rack up $35 overdraft fees."

I'm not really worried about either of these.

You need to watch your bills for #1 in any case. If #1 does happen then you have to deal with it in any case. Auto pay doesn't mean you simply roll over and blindly pay any fee they impose on you.

I pay with credit cards as much as possible so #2 isn't an issue. Direct access to the checking account is reserved for utilities and banks which aren't going to hit me with any surprises.

I autopay only 1 bill: My monthly donation to my charity of choice. If they ever make a mistake I'm pretty sure they will bend over backwards to fix it. If not, I can always take my money elsewhere, for much less cost to my time than switching phone companies or insurance carriers.

Everyone else can send me a bill first, by snail mail or email.

DC --

For me insurance is an annual bill (not monthly) and I get a discount for paying once per year.

I have 'Auto Payment' set-up with almost all of my Bills to CCs and CC statement amount is 'Auto Debit' to my Bank Account where I have direct deposit from Employer...I don't write single check, hassle-free for me (NO need to remember 'due date'), ONLY once, AT&T charge more on my Internet Bill and they corrected same day (and I recd. some freebie for their error)...But yes, I have MINT, where all of my CCs and Bank account set-up and I review it online almost everyday, so any discrepancy or wrong transaction can be corrected same day

I autopay everything except most credit cards and insurance.

The exceptions are on the two credit cards I use most often (FIA's visa and amex - xSchwab and Fidelity). I autopay the minimum payment and follow up with the balance using my bank's online billpayer. I pay the minimum separate because I don't quite trust FIA yet and would hate getting dinged for a late fee.

Ninety percent of my autopay items are charged against a one-vender "safe" credit card number set up specifically for that vendor. That way I can stop payment at anytime by cancelling the safe-card number, plus I earn cash rebates in the process! I also use a safe number for all insurance premiums and internet purchases. This type of service is provided by FIA's Visa, Discover, and CitiBank. I'm sure there are others, these are just the ones I use.

I concur Jani. I auto-pay everything on CC. Use MINT to review all a/c. Takes only 5-min everyday. Make sure you sign-up for e-bills and review them when they show up in your inbox.

Even though I don't need to be, I am rather miserly where money is concerned. An old proverb I used to hear frequently when I was growing up in England was, "Take care of the pennies, the pounds will take care of themselves". I have been retired since 1992 and have plenty of time, as well as regarding it as a personal challenge, to manage money as efficiently as I possibly can.

My first preference for paying bills is to use the CC that gives me the best cash back reward for everything possible. I also like to maximize the float that CC companies give me. Thus if a CC closes its books for the month on a particular date, then I ensure that a large charge to that card will be applied a day or two after that so that I get to keep my money working for me for almost another month.

I also try to write as few checks/month as I possibly can, use as few stamps as possible, use a CC whenever possible and never use cash for purchases. You guessed it, I'm tight and my wife is a close second.

I only have ONE monthly bill that cannot be put on a CC and that is from the company that provides our natural gas. For that one I have direct payment out of my checking account. I also use PayPal frequently and use my CC there also.

I also bank only with a Credit Union and love their free Bill Pay system. It's free because I get my monthly statements online and I also have direct deposit of my pension and SS checks every month.

I automate everything possible. If it is a known amount I pay with my bank bill-pay service and if it is an amount that can vary I set up for them to draft it out of my account. The things the article says not to automate are all the most common things paid, so in other words, it's saying don't automate anything. That's just not reasonable. Automating saves time and assures a bill will not be lost or thrown away with the newspaper (I've done that). I also have utilities on level billing (or budget billing) which makes all my bills very predictable.

It is necessary though, to look over the bill in detail when it comes in to make sure it is correct.

Happy to report that I automate ALL of those! ;-)

I'm all about simplicity. The only bills I can't get on auto-pay and have to remember to pay are my mortgage and credit card. The rest either go directly to the CC (first choice) or my checking account. I always review bills when I receive them so I can make sure everything is correct before the transaction processes.

On the point about the risk over overdrawing, since I purchase most things on my CC, my income is in my bank account well ahead of when I have to actually pay for my purchases, or I have plenty of time to transfer savings to checking if I made a large purchase. Because of this, I've never run into a problem where I don't have enough in my account for an automatic transaction to process.

I have all of my bills on autopay and I look at the bills as well just to make sure everything is going to plan. I have had a couple of problems which either fixed themselves or I had to call in to fix. Example: Water bill on autopay and for some reason it wasn't paid. I called them they removed the late fees, called the credit company to remove the late payment on my report, and fixed the autopay problem.

Personally I believe that having autopay keeps my piece of mind and my wifes mind. We always make sure money is in the account and from there we have a lot less to worry about. My bills thus far include: water, electric, car loan, 2 student loans, mortgage (automated to pay extra as well), 1 credit card, internet, insurance, trash. I don't want to constantly worry about what bills do I pay when, this makes my life literally 10 times easier.

Like a lot of people here I autopay every single bill I can and have for 10+ years.

I find no valid reason not to autopay any bill. I have heard all the reasons and have never found any of them to be anything other than unreasonable fear or invalid claims about feeling locked in.

In over a decade of having well over 10 bills automated I have never had an automated bill pay transaction be wrong. I am sure it can happen but it has never happened to me. I have however had multiple mistakes made by banks or companies when processing check payments. Banks drafting a check more than once by mistake. Companies auto pulling a check more than once. Even had a bank pull funds from the wrong account when they had a check with an account number on it.

Autopay is in the computer and once it's set, it's less likely to have a mistake. Checks are handled by people. I know computers scan them, but people still touch them. People make more mistakes than computers.

I don't fear the computers. I for one, welcome our new computer overlords. :)

I'm totally agree. I see very often as my friends or relatives pay mobile bills without paying any attention to what they're paying for. And as a result a Colleague of mine had to pay for her business number a huge amount of money because she used Internet without having even a slightest idea that it's not for free. And it's even worse when you come to insurance. I know only a couple of friends who are really worrying about the point. Most of us know only about the main insurances (life, house, car). But there are lots of them: iPhone insurance you don't know about but keep paying, credit card insurance package you don't know about and have to pay twice buying some service for extra charge...

I have some accounts set to autopay because they're cheaper that way (my car insurance and student loans are cheaper if I do autopay). I have one utility that I auto pay, one that I don't, but there's no real reason why they're not both on auto-pay.
I check my bills before I pay every other bill. I guess the downside to autopay is if there's a discrepancy or you don't trust the company. But then I would try not to do business with a company I don't trust. I'd still do an online payment, so I'd have to trust them to only take that amount, right?

This is the first time I have felt completely out of touch. I have never auto-paid anything. That said I only write one check a month. Everything else I do with free bill pay from my bank.

If you autopay everything on CC and autopay the CC in full then you don't have to worry about being late, you get CC rewards, and save time (money).

Just use or some other website to set a monthly budget for bills (and other stuff) and you can have a record month to month to see any fluctuations. It seems that catching mistakes is the biggest issue but this solves the problem.

I don't get why people wouldn't do what I do

Why wouldnt you automate these bills? Simplifies your life, you look at your checkbook atleast wkly I would hope, we monitor ours daily.

FMF - I pay my insurance with auto pay also. I pay home insurance once a year and auto insurance every six months. That gives me the lower rate also. My insurance company sends me the bill about a month before its due. If I agree with it, I do nothing and it is taken from my credit union account on the due date. I have in the past called my insurance guy when I had questions or if I wanted something changed. Its been no problem to make changes days before its due.

Why wouldn't you autopay these? I don't really get the autopay this but not that mentality, either way they are automatically getting your money. Most places bill you BEFORE they take money out of your account so you have time to review any issues.

Disagree. I don't have a gym membership but all of the other ones are on autopay for me.

Cell phone - Never have had a problem here as I get a statement weeks before the autopay. Only after getting new phones or changing plans has there ever been an issue, and in every case I've been able to work out the corrections in plenty of time so that the correct amount is deducted.

Insurance - I have a great relationship with my insurance company. To me this seems silly not to auto-pay, since if you forget you're basically puting yourself at risk of being uninsured! In fact, my homeowners policy is the only one that wasn't on auto pay and I almost forgot to pay the damn thing this year.

Utilities / Cable - Again, statements arrive long before bills are due so I fail to see where this could be a problem.

As long as you look at your statements before auto-pay is due, I see no reason that these wouldn't apply. But I do agree on the gym membership, though.

I use my cc's and my checking to pay most of my bills. My small town has a lot of businesses that do not accept cc's and so I still use about 10-20 checks a month. The cc's are not acceptable for my utility bill, my dentist, the local restaurant, clothing store, church, etc. My utility bill and one donation come out of my checking by automatic payment. My bank sends them a check. There are no charges for this. And, my utilities are set up each April for level pay. My bill is the same the entire year and I adjust in March. And I am a lucky one, my utilities (all by phone co., are all on one bill - gas, electric, water, sewer, trash.

The rest of my bills and donations are paid by cc automatically. My cc's are paid manually online each month so I can verify the balances. I balance them each month on the date the statement comes out and set my payment up for 2 days before it is due. Gives me about 23 days to make certain the money is there if I am a bit short. I pay my insurance by cc, but do it in person as it gives me a chance to visit with my agent and find out new ideas. I also paid by auto pay my cable, phone, & internet bill as they were all with my telephone service and I got my bill before payment due each month.

I also find it strange that so many people use an online service like Mint. My math is good enough to balance my own records and keep track. Occasionally I make a mistake, but it is easily found & corrected. I have a register for my checking and for each of my cc's. I just list each check and cc usage. In fact, my cc's are usually balanced just by looking at the balance in my register and the one on the computer. One cc is actually dead on each month.

For those wondering why not to automate - peruse the problems that autopaying bills can cause:

Autopay is a convenience. Until one day, it's not.

My casualty insurance policies all offer monthly autopay at no extra cost. Before the renewal date each year, I will get a statement which tells me the annual premium for the next year and what the monthly payment will be, which is when I review the cost of insurance compared to previous years.

I have my cell phone on autopay as well, since I'm the only one who is on the account.

I autopay everything. Some are on credit cards; some draw from our checking account.

I have to do this, because otherwise I misplace bills and forget to pay them on time, which results in late fees. I learned this the hard way. Several times.

So it's much better for us to autopay it all.

I only use autopay with companies I trust not to screw things up based on previous experience (USAA) and who want roughly the same amount each month. Everyone else (Verizon/VZW, Comcast, and the local power company) gets paid electronically, but only when I trigger a transaction and can verify that the proper amount is being sent, even if it's the same amount as the previous month.

I am pained when I read these types of articles (the one on Yahoo that is referenced). If there's one thing to remember about this topic, it's that autopay does a lot of good things for you, but it does not give you permission to neglect your bills without potential repercussion! Autopay maximizes float, earns cashback/rewards, avoids late fees, saves money (stamps) and most importantly saves time - time you can use to monitor your bill amounts and review the detail if something looks out of whack. But you should be monitoring your bills regardless of whether you use autopay or not.

People insist on clumping together independent activities as though they are the same. I can autopay my bills, but still receive and review them far enough ahead of my payment for me to prevent any errors and catch any price increases or extra fees. I can also fix errors that do occur fairly easy by calling my biller and/or disputing the charge with the credit card that gets charged by the biller.

The only bills that make sense to pay manually are ones where there is a choice to pay less than your bill - think Credit Card. If there's a particularly big CC bill one month, perhaps you decide to pay less than the full amount or you transfer money into checking. Or maybe you're trying to pay it down and you want to decide how much to pay this month. That makes sense. Suffice it to say it makes far less sense to charge your bills to a credit card you revolve on. Go get a free cashback one and use it for your bills and pay it off each month.

But why would anyone decide to manually pay a non-credit card bill that offers recurring autopayment? There are a few commenters that manually pay their "bigger" or more "irregular" bills regularly or "want to make sure they get paid". Does anyone who manually pays a (non-CC) bill ever review it and decide NOT to pay it or only to pay some of it? If that's the case, you have bigger problems. You should not be automating any bills and you need to start cutting back immediately.

I've pulled out a few comments in hopes that the authors can explain:

FMF - you say "In short, I only auto-pay with companies that I trust. Everyone else gets paid one at a time as the bills are due."

It should go without saying, but I should first warn you NOT to enter into long-term contracts with companies you DON'T trust. And second, I would remind you that every autopay I've ever used takes the payment on the last day that the bill is due. Given this, why wouldn't you automate all the bills you possibly can?

Matt: I autopay everything except utilities just because gas and electric vary quite a bit from month to month depending on the season.

What do you do when you get a bigger-than-expected bill - do you not pay all of it? Do you wait until the last day to pay (that's what autopay does too)? If you're worried about overdrawing, why not charge that bill to your credit card?

JM: We don't automate anything for the big reason listed in the article- we want to make sure we actually look at our bills to make sure there's nothing unusual. Also, to make darn sure that they are paid.

Why not look at your bills before your autopayment gets processed, then call the biller if something's unusual? And about making sure they get paid - are you worried that an autopayment won't go through? What if I told you that billers try to get their customers on autopayment specifically to make sure payments are made more reliably on their due dates? I've never heard of a biller making a problem for an autopay customer that is late on a bill - this is because it's either the biller's fault or something they're willing to overlook as long as the autopay is fixed for future payments.

JM: We don't automate anything for the big reason listed in the article- we
Overdraw, fewer overdraft fees, miles, etc.

I would definitely NOT use my checking account for autopay unless there was no other choice. You are at far greater risk in an identity theft situation and biller errors (or your low balances) might result in overdraft situations. Credit cards don't get overdrawn or charge overdraft fees. If you revolve on your credit card(s), get a new one and use it to autopay bills.

MattJ: Autopay is a convenience. Until one day, it's not. For those wondering why not to automate - peruse the problems that autopaying bills can cause.

MattJ - I linked to the Consumerist website you reference in your comment and actually read the stories about autopay problems that were there. In each case, yes there were errors, but 1) they could have been caught prior to the autopayment processing and 2) when they were caught, the biller rectified the situation immediately and made the customer whole on other charges they incurred. Here are the excerpts from those articles:

Xcel figured out how much the restaurant really owed, wiped out the bill and has promised to pay any overdraft charges, but the moral of the story is that you should always read your bills — even if you have auto pay.

The helpful phone rep quickly credited my account and life went on... but I'm glad I noticed the extra charge.

I feel like the Yahoo article is kind of deceiving by it's title. For the cable bill, it doesn't tell you why not to automate your bill.. It just tells you that you should look into other options, but for people who decide they still want to shell out money on a monthly basis to their cable company, I see no reason why they wouldn't automate it. The same thing with the insurance rates -- they're really just telling you that you should shop around for better insurance rates.

The major argument is to make sure that you look over all your bills before the autopayment is processed. If you can delay the payment by a week or two from the time the bill is actually received (for example my cell phone statement is ready on the 28th but isn't drawn from my account until the 20th), then this shouldn't be an issue. It's really just a matter of whether you can rely on yourself to look over all your bills before the autopay kicks in.

I autopay everything, but it happens one of two ways -- either it's automatically charged to my credit card where a charge can be disbuted if necessary, or it's paid from my bank account, where I can cancel or change the payment before it's processed. That way bills are paid automatically, but I still have the control over the payments. And of course I ALWAYS check over bills before they're paid to verify accuracy and identify any problems that pop up.

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