If you are looking for an easy way to organize and pay your monthly bills, it may be time to consider a bill payment service. Many banks and credit unions offer some form of bill payment through their online banking portals, but for people with tens of bills every month, a more comprehensive solution may be necessary. Paying bills online is only half of the answer; receiving bills online and eliminating paper statements at your home is the most critical step for complete organization. Imagine an uncluttered mailbox, with all your bill and payment records in one place on the web. If paperless sounds like your style, consider a third party bill payment service.
Third party bill payment services have some benefits over the more limited offerings of individual banks. For example, if you bank at more than one institution or if you suspect you may switch banks in the future, using a third party service is the best way to ensure continuity under one umbrella.
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You may be wondering what this kind of solution looks like. Instead of logging into your bank’s website to see your checking account and pay individual bills from a paper stack, you’ll be logging into a separate website that already contains images of your bills. Short of hiring your own personal accountant, the Intuit company (makers of popular Turbo Tax and Quicken software) provides the best bill payment service: PAYTRUST. This remarkable website, supported by a financial services company called Metavante Corporation, blows its competition out of the water.
For under $15 a month, Paytrust offers what they call “complete bill management,” meaning that they will collect your bills for you, display them online, and allow you to pay them from any United States checking accounts you choose. You can then view your payment history, create reports, and even order secure year-end CDs.
Curious about the details? It all starts with enrollment, when you add your checking account information and your payees. The next step is to start receiving images of your bills electronically. For some companies, Paytrust can use usernames and passwords to securely retrieve bills directly from payee websites. For example, if you have a Verizon Wireless phone, they can use your login information at the Verizon website to “pull” your monthly bill into Paytrust electronically. Pretty sophisticated!
For the times when Paytrust can’t obtain a bill from a payee’s website, you are assigned a special PO Box where paper statements can be received by mail. Whenever Paytrust receives a piece of mail at your box, they will scan it and place the image in your bill center. Between electronically retrieved bills and scanned paper bills, Paytrust allows you to drastically reduce the influx of paper at your home. The bills go directly from your payees to Paytrust!
Depending on the person or company you are paying, Paytrust will either send a payment electronically or mail your payee a paper check. When they send a payment on your behalf, you either see a check number (which will eventually clear at your bank) or they will indicate that the payment was made electronically (which will show up as a debit to your bank account). If there is ever a problem with a payment, the 24-hour customer service center is available by phone and by email to provide assistance. In some cases, they can even contact your payee to advocate for you, provide documentation, etc.
The Paytrust service has a few other notable features:
Ã?Â· Email notifications: You can choose when to receive emails about your bills and payments. They’ll even tell you if no bill arrives when one is expected – or when duplicate bills appear during the same billing cycle.
Ã?Â· Automatic and recurring rules: If you want Paytrust to pay bills according to rules you specify, the service will follow your instructions. You can even order Paytrust to pay just the minimum or the full amount due every month. If you don’t like the idea of automatic payments, then just leave all your payees at the default “manual” option.
Ã?Â· Year-End CDs: If you are worried about record-keeping or want to give your tax accountant an easy way to track your finances, you can order a year-end CD that even includes images of each bill Paytrust receives.
It is essential to note that, even with a comprehensive bill payment service like Paytrust, your monitoring and attention is crucial. The process is largely automated, but it cannot totally serve your needs on autopilot. Rather, the service is designed to make bill management easy and efficient. You as the user still have to establish payees, look at your bills, make sure the money is in your checking account, and READ YOUR EMAIL to be assured everything is running smoothly. The company does an excellent job of sending email alerts, so don’t disregard them. Above all, remember that Paytrust is NOT your bank and does not know all the details of your checking account – they simply retrieve bills and send out payments based on your instructions.
If you commit some extra time at the beginning learning how Paytrust works and setting it up properly, you will be rewarded manyfold when the service later runs like a well-oiled machine. Paytrust is very popular with people who travel extensively for work, spend time abroad, or simply pay scores of bills each month. To learn more, you can visit their website (www.paytrust.com) and take a Flash tour.