Sunday, January 30, 2011

Automated Bill Pay

There's a big push on for all payments to done electronically. Convenient for everyone, right? No writing checks and dropping envelops in the mail. Heaven forbid actually paying a bill in person with cash.

Combined with electronic deposit of your paycheck, it's easy. Money comes in, money goes out. There's no need to think about it. It's all done automatically.

What could go wrong?

Of course, if the Internet is closed down, like in Egypt, how are those bills getting paid? My guess is that electronic payments in Egypt aren't as common as in other countries. How would that affect countries where automatic payments are the norm?

Okay, it's an extreme scenario. (or is it?). I tried to access my bank account on-line to check my balance. The web site was down. What to do? Years ago I used to check my balance by phone. Digging around in my wallet, I found the old phone number to access the bank account. Sure enough, the phone system was still in operation. It took two tries, but I eventually remembered the pin number and was able to get the info needed.

Some things I do pay automatically: my house mortgage, Netflix account, and the Vonage phone bill. What those things have in common is that they are monthly bills that don't vary. Bills that change very month, like the electric bill, are paid by check. There's a couple reasons for that. I can't budget for a bill I don't know exactly how much it'll be. Another reason is that it's easier to contest a bill that hasn't been paid. Once they get your money they never give it back. With a tight budget, sometimes not everyone gets paid. If I have to delay an electric bill to pay my property taxes on time, so be it.

When a bill comes in the mail, it's studied more closely. Writing a paper check keeps me aware exactly how much something costs. That's one more opportunity to reflect on if that's a bill I want to keep or not. Maybe it's a service that can be eliminated.

At one time I was such a Luddite that my paychecks came by mail. That was just stupid. The paper check comes a couple days later. Then I had to drive into town to deposit it. What was I thinking? Now it's not even possible to get paid by check. It's all electronic.

As you can see, I'm not totally against automated electronic payments, but I pick and choose. Limit who's hands have access to your electric wallet.



  1. have seen myself in cases when the internet was down, how many take cash readily versus a check or credit card.

    one other thing is that a paper document copy of your check beats trying to prove electronically if you made a payment at all.

    and there is a move to make your cell phone your credit and ID card, this is going to lead to some interresting theft and fraud in the future; worse if a virus wipes out the cell phone or cell service.

    fun times ahead//


  2. My thoughts exactly. I will eat, and have a tank full of gas before the electric bill, cable, phone, etc. gets paid...

  3. For those of us who like to take the RV and go for long trips, electronic or automatic bill paying is a blessing.

  4. I pay one bill online because my bank requires a minimum of one electronic payment to qualify for no service charge on my checking. Having Luddite tendencies myself, however, I don't like the idea of ANY hands other than mine in my checking account. So what bill do I pay online? My charge account that is through the bank that holds my checking account. I figure that way I'm only dealing with ONE entity if there is a screw up.

    I am a curiosity among the younger set where I work because I refuse to have a debit card. I want the paper trail of a check, I have two credit cards in case of an after-hours or away-from-home emergency and I have emergency cash at my house. I see no reason to carry around a piece of plastic that is immediate access to my deposit accounts. Two or three times a year, at least one of my younger-oh-so-much-wiser co-workers has a panic attack and has to jump through a few hoops because they misplaced their debit card or are suddenly noticing unauthorized charges on it. I just smile sympathetically and restrain my urge to say I told you so.

    I do like direct DEPOSIT though.

    : )

  5. Very interesting post, my friend! My social security comes electronically by choice, and is usually about 4 or 5 days ahead of the checks by mail!

    Most of all the bills I have I pay electronically, but I do print a copy of any and all transactions...just in case.

    Luckily I don't have but a couple of bills. Makes it a lot easier for me. I also make sure that I have access to a fair amount of cash, just in case the ATMs go down, like during the hurricanes.

    Sometimes cash is a necessary thing, ya know?