I live on Social Security Disability and nothing else. I've signed up for automatic payment for utilities, phone, etc., but I've had some really bad experiences! Set up your accounts to be paid on-line, but do NOT sign up for the automatic debit. I was charged twice in one month for both my electric and gas bills, and it overdrew me to such an extent that my bank charges came to $135!
So keep track of when your bills are due, go to the sites early in the month and schedule a payment for a specific date. No surprises, no anguish. Also, set up your bank account so you can see it on-line. Any "surprise" withdrawals can be spotted early and reclaiming that money is more easily handled. You'll have to call them, but it works out. I hope this keeps others out there free from the horror I experienced!
By Polly from Cedar Springs, MI
Don't know how long it has been or if the fault was the utilities company, but the bank's over draw charges should have been paid by them upon your request.
Their fault.. their price paid!
Make sure you stand up for yourself in this instance.
I've tried to warn my mother about this possibility but she maintains she would trust her bank with EVERYTHING and she doesn't want to be bothered with "opening a bunch of bills"...how many could she have anyway!! I'll pass this on to her.
I agree about the bank OR the utility refunding the bank's charges. It doesn't hurt to ask. Nothing ventured, nothing gained.
Sorry to hear about your experience, but it's true that if the utility made an error they have to cover any bank fees incurred. I've been using auto-debit for years for all my bills both at home and at the office I manage, and haven't had any errors. The system works great for me, and prevents forgetting to pay a bill on time. I highly recommend it, but I do make sure to check the bank statements every month for accuracy.
I have been tempted to sign up for automatic bill payments but I am so pleased with the bill pay that Bank of America offers that I haven't found it necessary.
At the beginning of the month I log on to my bank's web site and schedule payments on the days that I want them paid.
Have never had a problem with late payment or double paying.
Polly, you sound like one smart lady. If this can happen to you, it can happen to anyone. That's why I have only one bill set up for automatic payment, and one other is more or less semi-automatic. The company has my debit card number, but they have to have my personal authorization by phone each month.
I hang on to the majority of control over when my bills get paid because most of my income, too, comes from SSD. I have a work-from-home job, but my paycheck is small and erratic, so there's no telling if the cash will be there for automatic payments. I'd rather go online and manually make the payments. It's more work, but it works for me.
I also have a comment about online banking. It was thanks to my online access that I immediately caught on to the theft of a few old checks I hadn't gotten shredded. I reported the problem in person and kept following up until things got resolved to my satisfaction. The bank reimbursed my money and bank fees, and the culprit is now serving time.
One more comment: For those for whom scheduling payments in advance doesn't work, I've found my Microsoft Outlook Calendar works pretty well. I set reminders there, and have reminders emailed to me, too. Better too much nagging than missed payments and the resulting damage to my credit!
I don't give any creditor my bank account info -- not unless they give me something in return. My car is financed with Capital One, and they gave me a slightly lower interest rate in exchange for my agreeing to automatic debit payments. But no one else gets to auto-debit my checking account. I use my credit card for utility bills instead. That way, if the electric company makes a mistake, my money is still safe and sound, and I have a dispute process that's weighted in my favor. Plus, I'm racking up credit card points just for paying my utility bills.
I reconcile my checking account on a weekly basis, I do have some drafts for certain bills that are deducted once a month. I have had no difficulty with any double charges. We have been customers of our bank for over 40 years. If a draft does not come out as a debit at the time the bill was due, I would immediately call my bank representative and report it, but I am vigilant in reconciling my bank records.
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