Paying Your Bills Automatically

In the last article, we discussed how to automate your investments, and today we will cover another easy step to improving your finances — automating your bill payments. I can’t count how many times I used to look at my online checking account and wonder aloud, “Where is that check from?

check writing

Photo by CarbonNYC via Flickr

Why Paying Your Bills Automatically Makes Sense

We would get a utility bill in the mail, I write a check, and then I would check my account to look at our budget. Only problem is after 4 or 5 days I had already forgotten how much the check was and who I wrote it to. (At the time my bank didn’t offer free online check viewing and I didn’t want to have to check 3 different utility company websites to figure it out.)

One of the biggest hurdles for someone struggling with money to get over is paying their bills on time. We like to play the juggle the due date game and you can only keep that up for so long. Eventually you get burned and end up paying a late fee.

Automatic bill payment solves that problem immediately. You decide when you want the bill paid and — wah-lah! – no more worrying about writing checks.

To successfully use auto bill pay, you do need to have your financial house in order. If you’re living on the edge of overdrafting your account every day, then having a bill automatically come out of your account can crush you. That’s why I’ve put this tip in 11th article of the series rather than toward the beginning. Get your house in order using the rest of the tips I’ve sent you, then set up automatic bill pay to make sure you don’t waste any more money on late fees.

Some People Fight Automation

Bill payment automation seems like a no brainer to me. It takes a basic financial task off of your plate, but some people actually don’t like automatic payment.

The rationale is that if you never even look at your bill — you just notice the money comes out of your account — then sneaky charges can get past you. Your cell phone service provider might accuse you of sending a text you never sent, or your water bill might be a surprise $600.

Those are valid points, but I still think automation is the better choice. No one said you have to stop reviewing your bills when you automate the payment of them. In fact, I highly recommend you still look at all of your account statements to make sure everything is right.

But in most months I think you will find that everything is absolutely correct. Not having to get out the checkbook and wonder when the check will be cashed is well worth the small effort it takes to automate paying your bills.

Your To Do List

  • Automating payment of your bills
    • It will protect you from late fees and make your financial life easier to manager.
    • It also takes a task off of your plate, leaving you free to do other things.

About the Author

By , on Aug 16, 2012
Kevin Mulligan
Kevin Mulligan is a debt reduction champion with a passion for teaching people how to budget and stay out of debt. He's building a personal finance freelance writing career and has written for RothIRA.com, Discover Bank, and many others.

15 Steps Financial Success Plan

Leave Your Comment (7 Comments)

  1. I’ve had everything completely automated for years. I blogged about this a long while back and was really surprised at all the negative reactions to the automation.

    I don’t understand the paranoia that somewhere, somehow, someone is going to scam my checking account because I automated my bills. There is risk in everything in life. Frankly, someone can scam your checking account whether you automate your bills or not.

    The much bigger risk is not paying your bills on time, which is easy to do when you are sick, really busy, or on vacation. Bill automation means I don’t have to worry about bills I misplaced, late fees, or how long I’m away at the beach in the summer.

  2. Jenna says:

    I’m still working on getting all my bills to come to me via email and not via snail mail. Hopefully, I can move to automation next.

  3. Lulu says:

    Like Jeff, I also have a dedicated credit card that is used to autopay bills. I check my bills every month but in all my years since doing this I have never seen an overcharge or anything that I needed to worry about. I pay off the card in full at the end of the month so I don’t get charged interest (also have this on auto push pay) and I get cash back for some of the bills that are classified as ‘purchases’.

  4. Jeff Umbach says:

    Because of the possibility of accidental overcharges and not wanting to have to always make sure there is enough in that bank account (whoops, used my debit card to pay for groceries so I could get some cash as well, forgot to replenish the account and now my bills aren’t getting paid) instead I dedicated my old credit card for my auto-payments and just keep that card locked in my safe. At the end of the month I check the statement and if everything looks good I pay if off.

  5. Daisy says:

    I think it’s valuable to automate. I don’t automate my Rogers (cell phone) bill because they always try to overcharge me, but I do for the rest of them. I don’t like the hassle of logging on to my xyz company account (I never remember the passwords) and having to pay it. It just automates straight to my credit card (to collect rewards).

  6. Rich Snook says:

    I am one of those who will probably never pay bills or do any banking on line.

    1. I don’t trust anyone with a direct line into my accounts. With paying my bills the old fashion way, I have total control over the payment and can dispute any payment. The worst case is when people set up automatic payments. You are at their mercy when you let that happen.

    2. How many times in the last year have you read in the paper about account information being hacked or left exposed on the internet. I leave nothing on my computer that is financial in nature. An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.

  7. Just because you automate doesn’t mean you don’t get to look at the bill. I have some bills automated but always check them for accuracy every month.

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