I want to talk about the best way to pay bills and how it helps to achieve a type of financial freedom. With the advent of new technology, we have the ability today to pay our bills without using cash.
By looking at ways of automating the payment and processing of my bills, I’ve been able to find ways of enhancing my financial management.
Here are some of the benefits I’ve found in automating the payment of the majority of my bills:
- No late fee penalties.
- Discounts for paying early.
- More time doing things I enjoy.
Let’s look at how each of these have helped to improve my own finances.
Avoid Paying Late Fees
By automating the payment of your bills you can avoid having to pay late fees. Depending upon how payment can be made towards your bill you should always try to find the most effective way of paying these bills using an automated process where necessary. I’ll explore some of these methods later below.
By avoiding paying any late fees and penalties it helps reduce the cost of paying for these unnecessary expenses which reduce your net cash flow.
By removing expenses it means I can put more money away in savings and investments.
Discounts For Paying On Time Or Early
Another great way of adding more money into your back-pocket without doing more effort is by making the payments on your bills if they happen to offer a discount for early or on-time payments.
Currently, with my electricity and gas provider, I’ve been able to set up direct debiting of my account and because of this arrangement, they have provided a discount of 4% off of my bill.
This helps businesses by getting their necessary cash from their customers, and not having to spend money on the recovery of that money.
Spend More Time Doing Things You Enjoy
Paying bills isn’t the most exciting thing in the world to do, and therefore I don’t want to be spending time each and every month making payments.
Of the half a dozen bills I receive each month, if I had to manually pay each of them, the process would be something like this:
- Find the bill (did I print it out, or leave it in my email?).
- Check the bill is correct – I do this for every bill regardless of whether I need to manually pay or not.
- Locate on the bill the best method to make payment – this might mean I’d need to check which account has enough money to make payment.
- Phone or navigate to the website where I can make payment.
- Enter all of my details.
- Process payment.
I’d envisage that this process for each bill would take around 3-5 minutes. With half a dozen bills each month this would equal somewhere between 18-30 minutes each month just making payments! Over the course of a year, this would be 3.5 to 6 hours!
So then how can we automate this mundane and necessary task in life?
How Can You Pay For Bills Automatically?
There are many new ways to pay bills today with the most common being to use online banking.
Most (if not all) banks offer a way to login and access your accounts details through the internet. Besides providing information about your balances they also provide the convenience of being able to pay for your bills through a method called online banking.
Online banking is fast and convenient to be able to transact using the internet. It can allow for instant payment of your bills, as well as the ability to regularly make payments to desired destinations for a specific period of time, or indefinitely.
Besides online banking, another instrument that could help with the automatic payment of your bills is to use a credit or debit card.
Most providers accept credit or debit cards these days and the biggest benefit of using a card to make payment is that you are not charged any fees should you not have sufficient funds to make payment. More on this later when we explore the pros and cons of using your card to pay for bills automatically.
How To Automatically Pay Bills?
The process is fairly straightforward when it comes to automating the payment of your bills.
With the bill in hand look at the various methods at the bottom, or overleaf, the provider has listed how payment can be made. What do you see?
You should see either any or all of the following:
- Paying using a credit or debit card;
- Paying directly to a bank account (most common with small businesses);
- Paying directly through an intermediary service (like BPay, or PostPay, etc).
Automatically Pay Bills Using Credit Or Debit Card
When paying by credit or debit card, you might be directed to either a website where you’ll need to enter your card’s details or to make a phone call.
If you’ve chosen to pay by navigating to their website, ensure you’ve entered the URL correctly into a browser window, and when you have accessed their payment website you’ll want to make sure the website is secure. This means you should see a little padlock icon next to the URL: 🔒
Without the padlock icon, it means the information you are entering and submitting on that form could be comprised.
As you enter your card details on this website see if there are any areas where automatic payment can be made each time a bill is raised and forwarded through to you. If you trust the service you’ve been provided and will be one you’ll continue with for some time then you’ll want to automate these processes by finding a way where they can capture funds from your card automatically without you having to go to their website each time.
If you don’t find anything, then I’d encourage you to pick up the phone and make a phone call.
By calling the providers’ accounts department you may be able to have them automatically store your credit card information with their accounting systems and to take payment when it falls due.
While you’re chatting with them on the phone ask if there are any discounts with them storing your details and making payments early or on time.
You’ll never know if you never ask.
Benefits of Credit & Debit Cards
My personal preference when setting up an automated process with payment of bills is to use my credit or debit card. The reason why I prefer this choice is that if I don’t happen to have any funds available on my credit or debit card the payment will decline, whereas if I provide my bank details and the provider tries to take funds from my account that doesn’t exist I’ll be charged a bank fee and possible overdraft interest.
Automatically Pay Bills Using Your Bank Account
Sometimes a provider may not have the ability to capture payment using a credit or debit card. When using your bank account there are a couple of options available: setting up payment automatically yourself within your online banking platform; or enabling the provider to direct debit from your bank account.
As mentioned previously though, you will want to be careful you have sufficient funds in your bank account when using this method as your bank will charge you a fee should it be overdrawn.
When providing your details for direct debit you’ll want to ask your provider if doing so can provide you with a discount, again if you don’t ask for it, you don’t get it.
To set up payment of bills automatically using online banking you’ll need to check a couple more things:
- Is payment the same amount?
- Is payment to be made on the same type of cycle?
If there’s any variation to these two questions when setting up your automatic online bank payments then you might find you’re wasting time by editing each payment to the specific amount or date.
Bills are a part of life for the services and products you consume. If you add up all the time you spend making payments towards these things you may be shocked at how much time you spend.
By automating the payment of bills it can help give you peace of mind that your bills are paid, provide you with more potential discounts and avoid you having to pay any late fee penalties.
It might seem a little daunting at first giving somebody your financial information, but rest assured there are many who have gone before you and have done the same thing and now don’t even blink a second thought about it.