Zombie Payer - Keep Your Automatic Payments Under Control

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Aug 01, 2017

When it comes to paying bills, many people cannot imagine returning to paying and sending bills via the U.S. Postal Service. But, the “turn it on and forget it” nature of automatic payments can create zombie payers where the details and amounts of bills are no longer reviewed or challenged. Here are some ideas to keep this from happening to you.

Create a list. Make a list of the companies you authorized to use automatic payments to pay your bills. Include in the list the card or account each company uses for the automatic payments, as well as payment amounts and frequency. If you use credit and debit cards to pay companies, record the expiration dates, in case you need to update any company that has your card on file. When there is a change in a card or bank account, you will be able to consult the list to find the companies you need to notify.

Watch for fees. Make sure the bill payment system you are using is low cost or no cost. Some companies will charge you a fee for automatic payments. If your biller wants to charge you, pay them with a traditional check. Consider consolidating all your automatic payments within one bill paying service. Your bank may offer online bill payment with no fee.

Beware of price creep. Paying for a product or service automatically can create a situation where you do not notice when your price changes. Monitor your ongoing payment amounts so you can question any price increase or discontinue service (if applicable).

Review underlying bills. Along with automated bill paying is the vendor’s desire to stop sending hard copies of your bill. However, because you are not receiving a bill, you may be unaware of changes. If possible, opt to continue receiving email or paper billing statements. Review statements monthly to verify that your payment has not changed and there are no additional fees or errors.

Automatic bill pay is meant to simplify your life, but if you allow it to turn into zombie paying, it will have an opposite effect. Take care to review your accounts and statements to protect yourself and keep your finances in your control.