Tips for paying bills on time
With all the responsibilities each of us have, it's easy enough to let the time slip away without making sure our various bills get paid on time. By the time we get around to going online or mailing in a check, our account may have already been penalized with a late fee.
Although the late fee itself may not add up to much, being consistently late or even delinquent altogether on account payments can be a very expensive mistake. In fact, forgetting to pay your bills on time could even leave you with bad credit.
The reason is that making on-time payments is one of the ways that consumers show they are capable of being responsible with borrowed money. And, under universal default, credit card issuers can increase your interest rates if they see you have been irresponsible about making utility, car loan or other payments.
To prevent yourself from ending up with a bad credit history (to say nothing of avoiding those pesky late fees), take note of the following tips for paying bills on time:
- Make sure charges on your bills are correct. When you first receive them, you should compare the statement you receive with any credit card receipts, previous statements, etc. to make sure the latest bills is accurate. If not, you will want to make sure the lender or company is aware of anything that needs to be corrected.
- Write the payment due date on the front of the envelope. This allows you to store the bill and any other related forms you were mailed together, with an easy-to-see reminder of when the payment due date is approaching.
- Put your bills in a safe place. Choosing a safe spot to file all your bills will make sure you don't lose track of them. You can also organize the envelopes by date, so that you make sure to pay the bill that is closest to its due date.
- Choose a time for bill payment. Depending on your schedule, you may want to look at your bills each day, or perhaps you have one day each week when you can sit down and flip through them. By taking a regular look at your bills it will help ensure that payments are mailed in enough time to get where they need to go.
- Check that you have enough funds to make the payment. Depending on how you make payments, you could end up over-drafting your checking account or going over the limit on your credit card account if you do not have enough money on hand to pay the bill you have due next. Check account balances in advance online, at an ATM or by phone.
- Pay bills using auto-pay or by going online. Whenever possible, setting up an automatic payment online through your bank or by going online to pay electronically can help ensure regular payments get where they need to be on time. You may want to find out of there is a fee for such payments, and if the payments are not immediate, when they will post to your account.
- For bills without a regular reminder, keep a list. This could mean noting on a calendar or somewhere else you look frequently when things like rent and insurance payments are due. This can also help you keep track of bills that are set to pay automatically from you account on a regular schedule. You may want to use an electronic calendar on a home computer that e-mails you reminders.
- Ask to have bills sent via e-mail. Especially if you make payments online, having the lender or company send you a bill via e-mail can save you the step of looking at a paper statement.
- Keep a record of when bills have been paid. By making a note to yourself or writing it down in a checkbook, knowing that a bill has been paid can help you avoid mistakes that come with forgetting if and when a payment was sent.
Taking these simple steps should help you avoid late fees, as well as bad credit and the resulting higher interest rates that come with it. Steering clear of bad credit can help you prevent having to pay even bigger bills in the future.
Published: July 10, 2007