spending

Make Bill-Paying Almost Painless

Setting up automated payments can save you time and money.

Paying bills will never really be fun. But making payments electronically makes it easier. It cuts down on clutter, gives you an electronic history of your payments, and saves you from buying stamps.

Bill-paying through your bank is a handy way to manage all of your bills in one place. (It’s often free, but Wells Fargo, for example, charges $3 per month if you don’t meet certain criteria.) Just sign up through your bank’s Web site and list regular payees. Even if a payee doesn’t accept e-payments, the bank will send a paper check. You may have a choice of making one-time payments or automatic recurring payments on the dates and in the amounts you choose. Check whether you can set up notifications of available e-bills and upcoming due dates, or when funds in your checking account are low. Some banks also let you pay bills through their mobile apps.

Or, you could sign up with each payee to make e-payments. Unless you set up automatic deductions, you’ll have to visit several Web sites to pay your bills. But you may have more flexibility in how you pay. For example, your bank may require you to debit your checking or savings account, but the payee’s site may give you the option of using a credit card. If you use this a la carte approach, link your accounts to a tool such as Manilla.com.

Paying bills online doesn’t mean you can set it and forget it. Review your statements for errors or suspicious activity, and see whether due dates have changed. Don’t forget to keep an eye on your bank-account balance. If an account from which you make automatic payments changes -- for example, you lose a credit card and have to get a new number -- you’ll have to update all of the serv­ices you pay.

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