Just about every bill can be paid online these days; if all of your monthly bills are payable online, you may not even a checkbook anymore. Whether you’re looking for ways to make online bill paying more efficient, or you’re just beginning to pay your bills online for the first time, the following tips can help:
Make sure your connection is secure
While there may not be a completely foolproof way to avoid having your financial information compromised when paying bills online, you can take proper precautions by ensuring you are on a secure connection. Always make sure you are on a password-protected Wi-Fi network and don’t use unsecured networks that are open to anyone within range; ideally, you’ll want to stick your own, at-home Wi-Fi. Whether you’re using your Internet connection at home or you’re using another secured network on the go, you’ll want to make sure the actual sites you’re using are secured as well. You can do this by checking the address bar on your web browser, and looking at the prefix of the web address. Make sure that before you enter in any sensitive information, including your login information, that it begins with an https, rather than just an http.
Create unique usernames and passwords
Protect the accounts you log into by ensuring your usernames and passwords are impossible for anyone to guess. You’ll also want to remember that hackers often use very sophisticated methods for cracking passwords, so avoid using real words or phrases that a program can eventually decode. Instead, pick random, jumbled up phrases and made-up words. Use both upper and lowercase characters, numbers, and punctuation as well. Avoid picking a username that is related to your identity as well, and just pick a nickname or other unique username. You’ll also want to change your passwords frequently.
Stop paper statements
If you’re switching to online bill paying entirely, ask the credit card companies to stop sending you paper statements and to just send you electronic statements. Doing so offers an array of benefits: it’s eco-friendly, you’ll have less clutter in your home, and you’ll be more likely to remember to pay your bills before the deadline. Paper statements could arrive well before the payment due date, whereas receiving your statement via email (and while you’re already online) can be a much more convenient reminder that your bill due dates are quickly approaching. Additionally, your electronic statements can make it much easier to track purchases and see where your money went during any given billing period. If it’s a credit card bill that you’re looking through, for example, looking through a paper statement can be daunting—especially if you use that credit card for a lot of your every day spending. But with your electronic statements, finding a specific transaction or purchase—even a really old one—can be done in a matter of seconds.
Sign up for text alerts
Are you overlooking those payment reminders in your inbox? When it comes to paying your bills online these days, you could also usually sign up to receive text alerts when your due date is approaching. Even if you prefer to pay some of your bills the old-fashioned way, receiving these alerts straight to your cell phone can be extremely convenient.
Use mobile apps
Paying your bills online is very convenient, but if you have a smartphone, paying bills can be even easier by taking care of them on the go. Most banks and other financial accounts offer easy-to-navigate apps for users, and with just a few swipes on the screen, you can easily pay your bills for the month. This can make the process much simpler, especially if you aren’t at a desktop computer much.
Check for credit card fees
If you are paying for any of your bills with a credit card, you’ll want to make sure you aren’t being charged an extra fee to do so. Many bill paying websites will charge extra if you’ll need to use a credit card, but may be able to get this fee waived if you’re using a debit card. You’ll also usually be able to avoid these fees completely if you’re linking to a bank account directly, and avoiding debit and credit cards altogether.
Consider setting up automated payments
Once you set up your accounts online, one of the easiest ways to ensure your bills are paid every time each month is to enroll in automatic payments. You’ll usually have this option with just about any bill payment service, and there are a lot of benefits to consider. You’ll never to worry about manually logging in each month to pay your bills, since the payments will just automatically deduct from your bank account. This can save you a lot of time and also ensure that you’re never late with your bills again, which can help you save money by avoiding late fees and other negative repercussions, such as service interruption.
Avoid links from emails
You’ll sometimes receive emails for your various accounts when payments are due, and these emails often will include links that prompt you to log in and pay. Avoid clicking these links, however. Even when the emails look authentic, they might not always be. Hackers have gotten very clever at replicating these emails, and even the sender’s email address can look legitimate. Because you can never know for sure where the email came from, avoid signing it with the link provided. Instead, open up a separate browser window and manually type in the URL you need to go to.
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Nothing above is meant to provide financial, tax, or legal advice. You should meet with appropriate professionals for such services.