Automatic Bill Pay Concerns – DFA Tip of the Week – 4/20/2009

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There are many ways to reduce costs in our every day lives, so to help do just that each Monday I will post a money saving “Tip of the Week”.

“And he said unto him, Well, thou good servant: because thou hast been faithful in a very little, have thou authority over ten cities.” Luke 19:17

This weeks tip involves…reasons NOT TO USE automatic bill payments.

Automatic bill payment can be one of the best ways to repair bad credit and is a very good thing 90% of the time.  It is the other 10% I would like to focus on today!

Do I Use Automatic Bill Pay?

You may be wondering if I use automatic payments for my bills.  The answer to that question is…sometimes, but seldom.  Actually the only bill that I have automatically taken out of my bank account each month is the payment for my 1st mortgage.  I participate with auto payment for my mortgage because I know the amount will be the same each month; not to mention the fact that I have a lot of faith in my Capital One 360 banking system (they will not take the money out unless I have it in my account – hence NO Fees!).

I have a few reasons why I choose not to be a frequent user of the auto debit bill phenomenon each of which are all most likely related to the fact that I am a control freak when my finances are involved (which is a good thing).  However, the most important reason I still pay most bills manually is because BILL COMPANIES AIN’T PERFECT. That’s right…I said “ain’t”.

What Happened To Me?

A few weeks ago my April Consumers Energy bill came in the mail, so I did like I do with all my bills & threw it in the trash.  Just kidding, though I sure would like to sometimes…what ever happened to getting hand written letters from friends in the mail???  Never mind.  After looking the bill over for just a few seconds I was surprised at the high amount & immediately suspicious.  Since March was not that cold we ran our furnace (our largest monthly cost) much less often than in February, yet our bill was more expensive.  Considering I do know utility companies will sometimes take “estimated readings” I immediately called them to give them a “more accurate reading” (the dirty dogs).  The woman assured me the reading was an actual reading, so I encouraged her check for the accuracy of the reading.  Sure enough, after a closer look she reported that there was an error in the reading and assured me it would be fix it immediately. The savings to me?  Nearly $120!

The Moral of the Story

If you use automatic bill paying features, MAKE SURE you check each & every bill for accuracy.  Though it may not happen every month, you may be surprised how many times there is a Monopoly type “banking error in your favor”.  Pass go, collect $200!

Click here to see all our past DFA Tips of the Week.

DFA is passionately dedicated to helping others break the bondage of debt using biblical principles.

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1 Lakita

Hey Matt,

Based on the title, I thought I was going to disagree with you, but I see actually agree with all of your points.

We can’t allow Autopay to become a crutch, we still have to be diligent and observe what is on our bills. Here are two things that I do to ensure I’m not paying more than I owe:

1. Use auto pay through my bank as opposed to the debtors service. This way all my bills are in a central location and easier to manage. I also set up the auto payments instead of “enrolling” in a plan, so if I have to stop a payment to settle an arbitration it is easy to do so.

2. I am trying to develop the habit (not there yet) of reviewing my bills online. Most of them are about the same from month to month so sometimes I don’t look unless there is major difference. I need to look all the time!

It’s a bit more work than complete auto payment, but I enjoy the convenience of the system with enough manual control to provide peace of mind.

2 DebtFREEk!

Sounds like a good plan Lakita. I also use the auto pay via my bank, I do not think I would trust any of my billing companies with the ability to automatically take money out of my account either!

A good thing to do is to set aside a block of time each week to review any new bill amounts that came in. For example, every Saturday after breakfast you sit down for 15 minutes and review your bill amounts. Having a set time will help you remember and be more faithful…and it may save you some money if you catch an error like I did!!

PS…your new website looks great!

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