Pay bills. That’s what us humans do. With so many utilities (electricity, cellphone, internet, TV, streaming services, insurance, rent…), so many different timelines and so many ways to pay them, it can be very hard to keep track. That’s probably why a recent study shows that American households pay on average $127 per year in late payment fees. We’ve all been there, and this year, probably more than usual for many of us. So here are a few tips to help you stay on top of your bills and avoid fees you don’t need to pay.
Create a schedule and set up reminders
Some bills are always the same amount (Internet, insurance premiums…) Some vary from month to month (electricity, water…) Some are due monthly, some are due quarterly, some are owed only once a year…. How does one keep track?! By creating a calendar and setting up reminders for about a week before the bill is due. Don’t make the reminder for the exact day the bill is due! You may need time to come up with the money and process the payment on time. Another method is to select one day every week where you pay any outstanding bill.
Set up auto-payments
Automatic payments are the safest way to ensure your bills always get paid on time. Almost every utility company will let you set one up. You can set auto-payment with a debit card, a credit card or by providing your account details. All you need to do is provide your card or account info to the provider and set up a monthly payment date. You can spread them throughout the month or combine them all on the same day, depending on what works best for your personal situation.
But be aware, some providers will charge you a fee if you pay with a credit card, more rarely with a debit card. Most card companies charge sellers a fee for every transaction, and some utility companies will pass on that charge to the consumer. That charge is not always entirely transparent and some providers will actually offer you a discount on your plan if you chose to pay with a debit card instead of credit. So make sure to call and ask if there are any fees or discounts available based on your payment method. It’s also a good idea to turn on account notifications so you’re made aware when the autopayments go through, so you can always know where you stand.
You can also pay each month by processing one-time payments, usually with your debit or credit card. Paying your bill manually helps you stay in touch with your balance and, especially for credit card debt, allows you to adjust and increase payment when you can. But it also makes it easier to forget. So don’t forget to create these monthly reminders.
Pay with a paper check
This one is the classic – almost vintage – option. Make sure to give your checks time to arrive. More often than not, the money must be in your provider’s hands on the day the bill is due. Note that if the check gets lost in the mail, you don’t have any way to prove you actually sent it on time, which makes it a bit riskier than paying with an electronic method that comes with a clear timestamp on the transaction.
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