Paying Bills

Automatic Payments Save Time and Money

Paying your bills on time is good for your credit—which can translate to lower interest rates—and it just feels good knowing you’re keeping up with your financial responsibilities.

Fortunately, staying up to date on your bill payments has never been easier. Nearly everything from your mortgage to your car insurance now comes with the option to automate payments, and by opting for reminders and alerts, you can always stay a step ahead.

Set it and forget it

One of the easiest ways to stay on top of your bills is to automate your bill payments. Tools such as your bank’s online bill payment service can help you schedule payments for all of your bills on an ongoing basis or you can set up automatic deductions through each of your utility companies and other billers.

Typically, scheduling payments through your bank gives you flexibility around when you make payments, and you may be able to spread payments out. For example, you may be able to make smaller payments toward your bills on a weekly or biweekly basis instead of paying a lump sum once a month.

Gail Cunningham, vice president of membership and public relations for the National Foundation for Credit Counseling in Washington, D.C., suggests setting up an auto-pay option for at least the minimum amount due. If you’re unsure how much the bill will be, take a look at your records. “Most people charge close to the same amount each month, so look back at the past year’s statements to see what the minimum amount due each month is,” Cunningham says.

Use alerts and reminders

Beyond auto payments, many banks also offer tools that make it easier to stay on top of upcoming due dates. Using your bank’s website, you can set up text or email alerts that will notify you when your bank account drops below a certain amount, so you can add funds as needed or adjust your bill payments to prevent overdrafting.

Setting up bill alerts and payment confirmations with your utility companies and other billers can also serve as helpful reminders for ongoing payments.

Making payments in a pinch

In the event you need to make a payment quickly to avoid fees or a ding on your credit report, you can use offerings such as a bill payment service. You can also talk with a live representative who can take your payment over the phone. Both of these services can help you expedite your payment for a fee. Depending on your biller, you may also be able to take advantage of Same Day Bill Pay or Overnight Check services to make a payment quickly.

One free option for last minute payments is visiting a bank branch to expedite your bill payments in person.

By taking advantage of the tools and alerts your bank offers, it’s easy to make paying your bills on time part of your monthly routine. Better still, streamlining the process saves you time, money and puts you on track to building a strong credit history for long-term financial well-being.

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