Online, On Time

By paying her bills via computer, Nicole Long becomes more efficient and avoids late fees

Quicken or Microsoft Money. You’ll receive a record of your expenses, which will be very helpful in budgeting and tax preparation.”

If you want to pay your bills online, here are a few tips:

  • Pick The Right Provider
    “See what your own bank has to offer,” says Holden Lewis, a reporter for Bankrate.com in North Palm Beach, Florida. “If you’re comfortable with your bank, and it has a good online bill-paying service, there’s no need to set up a separate bank account for online checking.”
    If you don’t want to use your own bank, Lewis suggests looking into an online bill-payment service. “Using a national service,” he says, “may make it simpler to add new companies that you wish to pay. Also, if you think you might be switching banks in the future, it may be easier to do so if you’re paying bills through a third-party service.”
  • Check The Costs
    “Some banks offer free online bill paying if you keep large accounts there,” says Lewis. “Otherwise, you might be charged $5 or $6 a month. In some cases, though, that fee entitles you to only a certain number of paid bills a month, after which you’ll pay extra. You should know the terms before you sign up.”
  • Confirm The Schedule
    Most online bill payments take a day or two, says Lydia Sheckels, chief investment officer at the Philadelphia-based Wescott Financial Advisory Group, but the wait can be as long as five days. “Keep track of your payments and the e-mail confirmations you receive. This will let you know how long it takes for your payments to go through, and you can schedule your payments to meet the deadlines. In addition, you can print out the confirmations for your records.”
  • Stay Focused
    Don’t think paying your bills online will solve all your money management problems. “Just as you can forget to write checks, you can forget to go online to pay your bills,” says Sheckels. “You still need discipline.”
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