I love that I can pay bills over the Internet. I cannot remember the last time I wrote a check to pay a monthly bill. Many of these payments are made automatically, with an email to tell me that they are billing my bank or credit card account. Utilities try hard to get you to sign up for auto payments. It is obviously to their advantage to get most of their customers to sign up for auto payment. They can then count on receiving payment on time and avoid having to hound customers for fees owed. It is not always to the consumer’s advantage to sign up for auto payment, though.
From a customer’s perspective, the advantages for auto payment are
- You will never be late to pay a bill.
- Effortless bill payment. You don’t have to think about making a payment, which is what the utilities want. It is a case of out-of-sight, out-of-mind. Since you don’t see the payments, you don’t think about them, and are inclined to just let them continue.
Some disadvantages are
- You have to cancel auto pay if you discontinue the service. This bit me after changing our automobile insurance from one vendor to another for reduced fees. I thought our agent would cancel the old insurance, but he didn’t. We were thus billed by two insurance companies at the same time. Once I realized what had happened, I made sure to cancel the old insurance and then had to fight to get the payment refunded. I eventually got the refund, but I would have never had this problem if I had not signed up for automatic payment.
- It is difficult to contest a bill after the payment has been made.
- It is all too easy to just let the bill and service ride, even when you no longer have a need for the service.
Services that I have on auto pay are utilities that we need and are not likely to ever change, such as water and power. I would put trash pickup on auto pay if I could. Our mortgage used to be on auto-pay until it was paid off. Netflix is also on auto-pay using one of our credit cards because that’s the only way it works.
One auto-pay service that I recently stopped was a pest control company. They came by every other month, spent about 15 minutes spraying citrus oil, and then charged our credit card $85. I hired them when we had a carpenter ant infestation, but now there is no need for bimonthly sprayings.
Bills that are not on auto pay are Internet, phone, television, insurance (car, home, and umbrella), and credit card payments. In all these cases, I want to check the bill prior to making any payment.