Should You Pay Bills Online?

Online advantages could make check writing a thing of the past.

By Ed Shanahan

Online advantages could make check writing a thing of the past. This year, for the first time, online bill payments topped paper-check payments among households with Internet access, according to a survey by Harris Interactive and The Marketing Workshop. If you’re reading this, chances are your family pays at least one of its bills via computer (three out of four families do).

If you’re not completely in sync with this trend it may be time to swap licking stamps for clicking your mouse. After all, paying your bills online has several benefits.

  • By setting up a regular schedule for settling each of your bills, you can ensure timely payments. That means no late fees (which, over time, can undermine your credit rating).
  • Cutting down on paper bills and checks cuts down on clutter—always a good thing.
  • Considering that many identity thieves ply their trade by Dumpster diving for personal data printed on bills and statements, advances in online security software mean that making payments online can often be the safest option.

To get started, contact your financial institution (in person, on the phone, or, of course, by visiting the website) to get information about how to set up online bill paying. Learning how to do it is much easier than in the past. One caveat: Learn what kind of fees your financial institution charges for online bill paying. Some are free; others aren’t. And switching to a more convenient form of bill paying shouldn’t have to cost you more than you’re paying now to use checks.

For more info, sites such moneycentral.msn.com and money.cnn.com can be helpful.

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