If you simply want to pay all of your bills automatically online, ask your bank about its online bill payment service. Most banks offer this for free with your checking account. Through your bank's online bill payment service, you can set up recurring payments. For example, if you always receive a bill for $170 from your cable company on the first of the month, you can set up an automatic payment. The bank deducts this payment from your checking account and sends it to the payee on that date. You can schedule payment for a few days after the billing date if you need more time to deposit your paycheck. Once you set this up for each regularly occurring bill, you have a free personal bill payment service. Just check the bills you receive on a regular basis to ensure the amounts have not changed.
The only time you should pay for a personal bill payment service is if a human being, not a computer, manages all of your bills for you. Such a service should not require you to participate at all after the initial setup unless it goes beyond what free services enable you to do.
Free Personal Banking
If your bank doesn't offer a free bill payment service, choose a secure online bill payment service. Consumer Search rates MyCheckFree as the top free service, but it is best to do your own research by asking your bank representative or trusted friends to recommend a service. These services can often switch you over from paper to electronic bills to cut down on your mail, although you may need to confirm the change with your payees directly. These services notify you when a new bill comes in and let you pay the bill online through your linked checking account. Free online personal bill payment services may have some limitations; for example, MyCheckFree can only accept bills from registered payees. Some paid online services offer paper mail management and payments to all payees, but you still set up the payments yourself. If you need this sort of service and your bank does not offer it for free, Consumer Search recommends PayTrust as a secure, versatile option.
Paid Personal Service
The only reason to pay for personal bill payment services is if you use a company that handles all aspects of bill paying for you, including receiving the incoming mail, adjusting the payments for billing fluctuations and letting you know if you are in danger of overdrawing your account. Setting up this type of account requires approximately the same amount of work as setting up automatic payments through your bank, but it will eliminate paper bills and daily hassle entirely, as the service will notify you only when you need to become aware of issues or changes. This is the same as having a personal accountant, and you can choose an online or in-person service. Prepare to pay this service as much as you would pay an accountant, and choose only services that employ trained accountants.
The median hourly pay for bookkeeping accountants in the U.S. was $35.70 in 2010, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Consider how much time you currently spend paying your bills each month and multiply that number by $35.70. If having those hours to use for other activities is more important to you than the dollar total of your result, then consider paying that amount for your monthly personal bill paying service. Internet-based services should charge less, as they have lower operating costs than an accountant who works out of an office building. If you know you take significantly longer than a professional accountant to pay your bills, estimate the number of hours a professional might take to do the work and use that as your guideline.
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