I really love when I get emails from people. Like, seriously, really love it. In the past few months I’ve gotten two emails that ask about autopay and whether or not it's a good idea. When I got the second email I was like “oh, maybe a few people have this question! Perhaps I should do a post on it?”
So here we are. Thanks, Lindsay and Doug, for giving me a great post idea!
One thing I automatically do for any new credit card or bill (phone, electricity, cable, etc) is to set up autopay. Autopay is when you link your bank account to the bill so that the bill is automatically paid every single month without you having to write and send a check (or log on to a website and pay) each month.
Just pretend like I'm using my computer to set up autopay here...
If you already use autopay- hooray! Maybe you’re too advanced for this post ;) If you don’t, read on! I bet I can convince you to try it...
Benefits of autopay:
- Set it and forget it. You don’t have to remember to write and mail in a check.
- Cheaper. No more buying stamps and envelopes and checks.
- Once you’re set up, you can say goodbye to late fees for-eva!
How to do it?
Every bill and bank is going to be different. But there are two main types of autopay options i’ve run across: actual “bills” (think utilities, cell phone, etc) that come in the mail every month, and then things that don’t “bill” you, per se, but you have to pay on a recurring basis (ex. rent).
To set up autopay for actual bills (i.e. utilities, credit card, cell phone):
Log into that bill/bank’s website and click around until you find the Bill Pay section. There should be an “autopay” option somewhere in there. Enter your bank account number, set it up to pay on a recurring basis (I usually set it to pay 3-5 days before the bill is due), and you’re good to go!
[note: Read the fine print to see if they charge any service fees-- some places charge an extra 2-3% if you pay with credit card but it’s free if you pay via checking account. This is a very easily avoided fee- just pay attention to the fine print!]
To set up autopay for monthly/quarterly payments that do not come in “bill” form (i.e. rent):
Many banks now are very fancy and will write you a check and mail it to a person/business of your choosing on a specified date and at a specified interval.
To set this up, log onto your bank's website and see if they have an e-check or transfer option. If they do, set it up to automatically pay whatever "bills" you usually send on a recurring basis. I set mine to send a rent check to my landlord 5 days before it's due. No more having to remember rent payments!
1. Since you aren’t writing each check anymore, be sure to keep a buffer of cash in your checking account. It’s easy to forget that a certain bill will be taken out of your checking account on a certain day- if you aren’t paying attention and don’t have enough to cover the bill, you could get hit with an overdraft charge, and that totally negates the time and money savings from paying bills online!
2. Keep looking at your bills!!! Just because your bill is automatically being paid doesn’t mean you don’t have to look at it anymore! Check your statement every month. If I didn’t continue to review my bills, who knows when I would have noticed that our electricity bill was 5x higher than normal the other month!
3. Keep a close watch for a month or so after you set up autopay to be sure it’s set up correctly. If any website confuses you (I’ve encountered quite a few that are NOT user friendly), just call the service/bank and ask to be sure if you’re enrolled in autopay. It’s better to spend 10 mins checking than get hit with a late fee because you thought you'd set up autopay!
And if you have any money questions like this, PLEASE email me! I'd love chatting with you... and I'd love to get more post ideas! ;)
Ashley [at] saving money in your twenties [dot] com