I don’t have to leave my house to pay a bill, which is awesome because now I don’t have to go to a store and be tempted to buy more stuff. As wonderful as online bill pay is, there are still some downsides to it, which I have learned the hard way. So here’s hoping these dos and don’ts sink in with you, so you can avoid a downfall with your finances by paying things online.
Do check your credit card statements
I check my statement monthly when it arrives through email. Mistakes can occur (though they are rare) on your credit card statements, so make sure to review them, especially if you don’t pay off the balance each month.
Do check your interest rates
Just like charges on your cards, you need to check your interest rates, too. Credit cards are required by law to inform you, in writing, of a change in your interest rate 45 days before the change takes effect. But, honestly, who among us really takes the time to read those pamphlets of tiny writing? I don’t have the time to do that!
But seriously, keep an eye on your interest rates in each statement. If they get too high, you might want to consider switching to cards with lower interest rates. You can easily find your interest rate on your monthly statement.
Don’t forget your payment date
It doesn’t happen often, but your payment date can change. Credit card companies by law cannot give you a due date on the weekend, one that changes each month, or payment deadlines that fall in the middle of the day. Regardless, a best practice is to make sure to check your due dates of your credit cards. If you have automatic bill pay, just verify that it’s set up correctly and pays the bill on time. This will assure you avoid late fees and additional interest payments – making you a happier consumer.
Do create strong passwords
Paying bills online is very convenient. Unfortunately, sometimes malicious hackers will try to steal your information. Be sure to change your passwords once a month (on average) to add an additional layer of security to your account.
Don’t log onto any computer to check your account
Make sure the computer you’re using to log on is secure. If possible, avoid paying bills on public computers – unless you can verify security. Also, confirm your financial institution has proper security on their website.
Do check if there are fees
Some financial institutions charge users a fee for paying bills online. Contact your financial institution to see if they charge fees - some waive fees for the first few months, but add them later.
Don’t wait until the last minute to pay a bill online
Even though the Internet is fast and can do many great things, you don’t want to wait until the last minute to pay a bill. Three business days is typical for processing a payment. Some are fewer and some are more. Be sure to plan accordingly.
Do keep an eye on items that have or have not cleared
I have one bill that will show it is paid on my bill pay account every month, but takes a few days longer to clear out from my checking account. That means I see my checking account balance with more money than I really have available. Sometimes I forget this and spend that money which leads to an overdraft. Check your balance to be sure all the bills you are paying online have actually cleared from your account.
If you’re thinking about paying your bills online, try it out for a while and see if it works for you. It can be a really convenient thing to use. Hopefully these tips reduce any anxiety of online bill pay. Now if only our computers could be ATMs…