Many of you pay bills - or eventually will - through online banking or a bill pay product. In fact, over the last year WSECU members have paid 1,371,440 bills online just with us alone. What does that mean to you and what is the best option for keeping your billers and payments organized? Let's help answer that question by looking at the bigger picture of paying your bills in a digital landscape.
It is important to know how we all pay our bills is changing rapidly. The days of paper bills are coming to an end, but no need for alarm; they will still look the same, just in a PDF. However, as you transition away from using paper bills and payments and move towards e-bills and ACH (digital) payments, you will notice there are several options to pay bills: directly with the biller using their bill pay, WSECU's Bill Pay in Online Banking, a third-party bill pay service like Quicken, or writing a check and sending it through the mail. Each option has its benefits over the other depending on your needs, but only a few consolidate where you go to make a payment.
There are some general things you need to be aware of. Most if not all bill paying services allow you to schedule one-time or recurring payments. Not all billers are set up to take digital payments; they may only be able to accept a paper check for now. Also, watch out for fees; it is not uncommon for billers to pass the cost of processing your payment on to you.
Going straight to your biller's website to set up your payments is really convenient and easy, assuming you have your account and routing number handy, not to mention another set of usernames and passwords to remember and a current invoice. I have done this when I had few other options, as the bill pay service I had access to was not free. This would be a good method if this was your only bill; however, if you are growing more financially independent or are head of household, chances are you have more than the one bill. Here is something else to think about: while these billers may be using the same security measures you are used too, managing all those credentials properly can get really confusing. Some billers allow you to pay with a card which is awesome, but be aware that if your card information changes, you will need to reach out to each biller to update your information.
Also keep in mind your payment is being "pulled" by the biller. I am personally not comfortable with an entity being able to access my account and potentially charge too much. The control needs to stay on the account side of the transaction, where you initiate the payments on your own terms. What are some good solutions for these problems? There are better services that keep your bills just as secure and organized but only need one username and password.
WSECU's Bill Pay
These next bill pay options are one-stop and can be connected to your account at the credit union. WSECU's Bill Pay is connected to Online Banking and unlike its counterparts; you can pay ALL of your bills in one place for free. This is not the case with Quicken Bill Pay; there is a $9.95 monthly fee. Choosing to go with WSECU or Quicken is merely a matter of preference at this point; if you conduct most of your business with Quicken or Intuit products, using their bill pay might be a better option just to keep things consolidated. Both WSECU and Quicken have you covered if your payment information changes - it is automatically updated with us and Bill Pay so your automatic payments can continue uninterrupted. As mentioned previously, this where the control occurs for the account side of the transaction, you essentially "push" the payment worry free of most biller mistakes. Behind the scenes, both Quicken and WSECU services are virtually identical, meaning the way your payments are sent out are dependent on the biller. There are basically three ways your payments can go out: paper checks - this is usually done when a biller is not set up for digital payments or if it is your first payment to that biller; corporate checks - if multiple people have the same due date and biller, one check with all account numbers and amounts are sent; and ACH (digital) payments - this comes out on the exact date specified and is generally processed instantly. Lastly, you can also pay individuals with these services; however, it is essentially writing a check. Make of that what you will.
The amount of effort you want to put into paying bills should help point you in the right direction on what to use. I can tell you it was easier to pay all my bills in one location as opposed to multiple. Regardless, the digital landscape is speeding up how you pay bills and we process payments. This should not be a time-consuming activity and technology is making that happen.