Paying bills online saves time and money, and provides you with peace of mind. However, because online bill pay is a relatively unfamiliar concept for many people, you may wonder how to best pay bills online.
Check to see if your bank offers a service to pay bills online.
Most banks give customers the option to pay bills online, free, with a standard checking account. Some banks charge an additional fee to pay bills online, but still offer the service. Before you go looking for a third-party vendor or software solution, check your bank's policies on paying bills online. When you use your bank to pay bills online, the bank either submits payment electronically or issues a paper check drafted on your checking account to pay the bill.
The benefit of managing online bill-pay directly through your bank is that you have the ability to monitor all transactions in real-time, together with your regular banking services, and know quickly that a payment has cleared.
Consider a third-party service to pay bills online.
Some third-party providers give you the option to set up an account and pay bills online. Unfortunately, these third-party services also come with a few potential drawbacks: you can pay bills online only with partners of the website, necessitating manual bill-pay for some transactions, or you may have to pay a fee to pay bills online.
If you do use a third-party service, know what you're getting before you agree to a fee for paying bills online. Is there a limit to the number of bills you can pay online per month? Can you pay all your bills online, or only bills for specific providers?
Some software programs include options for paying bills online.
Some software programs, such as Quicken and Microsoft Money, offer options for paying bills online. Using a financial management program to pay bills online can be a great asset it's part of an overall financial plan. The software can track your online bill paying and calculate whether you're on track with your financial goals, and how changes in paying bills online might affect your complete financial plan. The drawback with these services is that they often charge to pay bills online, rather than offering the service for free.
Paying bills online for frequent travelers.
Frequent travelers face another challenge: if you're not home when the bills come, how can you pay bills online? For people who want to manage the entire bill-paying process online, from receiving the bills electronically to paying bills online, services such as Paytrust.com are a great option. Paytrust receives your bills directly and scans them in, sending them to you in electronic format so that you can pay your bills online.
However, this is a fee-based service, so people who aren't frequent travelers typically prefer other methods to pay bills online. If you need to pay bills online even when you're away from home, Paytrust is a great option.
As long as you know how online banking works and how you plan to use it, you can find the banking account that best meets your financial needs, but it's still a good idea to choose a bank with both online and physical banking or open separate accounts, one with an online bank and another at a bricks-and-mortar institution.
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