Keep it Simple with Automated Bill Paying

by Tom Conroy, Northwest Federal Credit Union Chairman

Have you ever tired of paying bills? For some the process of ensuring your finances are sound and bills are paid can be satisfying, but for most it’s just another tedious chore. Did you know that it doesn’t have to be that way? You can have your bills automatically paid by your Credit Union using your checking account or your credit card. Payments made this way are assured of being on time and accurate with no effort by you. In fact, once established, your only task is to review bills for accuracy and to ensure you have funds to cover payments. If the bills are accurate you can go about your business knowing they will be taken care of by the Credit Union. And in the rare event that something is amiss, you will often have several weeks to address and correct the error before payment is made.  

This way of paying bills has been around for many years, but it has not gained widespread acceptance in the US. But it is widely used elsewhere around the world and it is growing in popularity here. All you need is a checking account, and a credit card if you would like to use that, and the time to contact your creditors to verify they support this service and to set it up.  

Most creditors accept this form of payment, but you should check with them directly to be sure. Some will accept credit card payments, and that has the advantage of giving you points toward rewards or travel. Others will only accept electronic debits from your checking account. Payments can be set by you to a specific amount, or you can direct that the entire bill be automatically paid. Participating creditors include all the major utility companies in our area (electric, water, gas, phone, cable), as well as department stores, insurance companies, and too many others to list.  

To establish your automated bill paying you should first compile a list of creditors that you pay on a regular basis. Gather their online web address or their phone numbers. When you contact them you will need the Northwest Federal Credit Union Routing Number (256075025) and your twelve digit checking account number. Alternatively you will need your credit card number, expiration date and CVV from the back of the card. Armed with this information, and a few hours to spend, you’ll be on your way to eliminating the need to write checks for years to come.  

As for the pros and cons of automated payments, here are several important ones. On the positive side you’ll never be late making a payment again, you’ll keep your money in your account until the due date of the bill without having to manage when a payment is mailed, you’ll accumulate points toward rewards if you use your credit card, you’ll save yourself of time, effort, and expense in writing, addressing, stamping and mailing payments, and you’ll be saving paper and the environment. On the cons side, you must ensure your credit card limits will not be exceeded when payments are made, and you must ensure that your checking account has sufficient funds to pay the bills when they come due. Finally, you’ll have to take a few minutes each month to ensure bills are accurate.  

If you invest the time to take advantage of this automated process, bill paying will be reduced to checking bills for errors and ensuring your accounts have the funds needed for payment.