Search “money stress” in Google Images and you’ll get pages of stock photos all showing a similar scene: a person or a couple staring anxiously at a mess of bills spread out across the kitchen table.
Paying bills is stressful, and while automatic bill pay doesn’t make your monthly obligations any cheaper, it can make getting them paid on time a whole lot easier.
Everything Organized All in One Place
Most of your lenders and service providers let you set up autopay over the phone or directly through their websites. It’s a nice service that lets gets you off the hook for writing checks or making individual online payments every month the way people always had in generations past. When payments are withdrawn automatically, you’re less likely to forget one and incur a fee. According to Forbes, autopay is available for most monthly bills including:
Auto and student loans
That’s certainly a step up from the bad old days of paper bills and balanced checkbooks, but it still leaves far-flung bills with different due dates scattered across different websites with different passwords. Bill pay through your bank, on the other hand, offers the same easy automation with one huge benefit — it consolidates all your bills in one place, on one site, with one password for quick access and easy viewing.
It’s a Free Service Provided by Just About Every Bank
Every major bank and credit union now provides automatic bill pay services that are free to use for bank customers with active checking accounts. The rules and protocols vary, but the process is always similar. Find your bank’s bill pay link, or if you don’t feel like perusing the website, just Google “[bank name] bill pay.” Gather all your bills and account numbers — you’ll only have to do this once — and follow the prompts to add all the pertinent information, like:
How much to pay (the minimum, the full balance, etc.)
The payment date
Whether it’s a one-time payment or a recurring payment
You might also do it piecemeal, paying one bill at a time when it’s due until all your bills are entered into the system.
It Often Comes With Extra Perks, as Well
You won’t always be able to include every bill. If you pay a small business for a recurring service — like pool cleaning or landscaping, for example — a local company might not be equipped to receive automatic payments. In those cases, your bank might offer the option of sending a paper check on your behalf every billing period, just as it would make an electronic payment. If your bank does offer that service, you can shred your checkbook if you choose.
Another benefit is that you can schedule alerts so you’ll get reminders and/or confirmation emails directly from your bank instead of individually from all your scattered services and lenders. Many banks will also send you e-bills upon request.
So, yes, in nearly all cases, it’s almost always easier to take advantage of your bank’s automatic bill pay service than it is to spread out your paper bills across the table once a month like those poor saps from the stock photos. It’s even easier than setting up autopay through your individual lenders, creditors and service providers.
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Last updated: Sept. 3, 2021
This article originally appeared on GOBankingRates.com: Is Bill Pay Through Your Bank Easier Than Just Doing It Yourself?