Is Online Bill Paying Safe?
- Friday, September 03, 2004
If the idea of paying your bills with your computer makes you queasy remember this: People were resistant to accept the automobile, too. There was a commonly held theory that the human body would disintegrate at speeds exceeding 35 miles per hour. And there was a time, and not so long ago, that email was a foreign concept as was text messaging and digital cameras.
Wait! Don't skip past this article. Even if you know for sure you will never trust online bill paying because you are stubborn and stuck in your ways (just kidding), read on anyway. Think of it as keeping up with the times so at least you'll be able to hold a reasonably intelligent conversation enumerating all the reasons you would never do such a foolish thing as pay your bills online.
Objection: Online bill paying is not safe. Not true. According to a recent survey online bill payers are 10 percent less likely to have their identities stolen versus those who use standard payment methods. It is easier for thieves to view your paper invoices and to steal your outgoing mail.
Objection: You have to pay all of your bills on a credit card. Wrong again. While that is an option in some cases (not a very good one for many of us) most online bill paying attaches to your checking account.
Objection: Online bill paying is too expensive. Some methods are completely free, while others charge only a nominal fee. Have you figured how much you spend on postage, checks, envelopes, gasoline and other related expenses to pay your bills now? It is cheaper to pay your bills online.
Objection: Online bill paying puts postal workers out of work. True perhaps, but not a reasonable reason to avoid the progress of online bill paying. Had that line of thinking prevailed in the past we'd still be riding horses because the automobiles put buggy manufacturers out of work.
Objection: Online bill paying limits my control over my money. Completely untrue. Nothing happens without your full and complete knowledge and approval. You decide who to pay, how much and when. Do not confuse online bill paying with automatic billing.
How it works
If you are typical, you pay between 8 and 15 bills every month. You use a pen, checkbook, return envelopes, stamps and so forth. You drop your bills into a mailbox somewhere and hope they arrive at the right place on time.
Paying bills online eliminates all of that. You log on to your bill paying site, which with your authorization connects to your checking account. You enter your passcodes, decide which bills to pay, fill in the blanks, click the mouse and your payment is on its way.
You have choices when it comes to online bill paying. For instance, you can continue to have all of your bills sent to your home. Then when you want to pay one or all of them, you go online to your bill paying site. You select the bill, type in the payee, the address, the amount you wish to pay and so forth. Most sites will remember that information. The next time you wish to send money to that person or company, you just look on your list of payees to find that particular one and select it. Or if you choose to use an intermediary you instruct your service providers to send your bills to the address your intermediary will assign for you at their location. With this option you don't open your bills anymore, but you instruct how you want them to be paid.
Pay through your bank. One-third of the nation's banks now offer online bill paying services for their account holders. While some charge a nominal fee for the service (usually a flat monthly rate of fifty-cents or so per transaction) many, including Bank of America and Citibank, offer this service completely free. If your bank charges a fee, contact them to discuss lowering or eliminating the fee. If they are unwilling, consider switching your account to an institution that does not charge fees for online bill paying.
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