Have Your Bills Set to Autopay? Don't Make This Mistake

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  • Many consumers set up their bills so they get paid automatically.
  • If your autopay system glitches, you could wind up with late payments on your hands.

It's a blunder that could get you into trouble.

As a full-time working parent, I tend to be pretty busy. And so I try to do what I can to eke out as much time savings as possible. That means outsourcing certain types of home maintenance tasks, like lawn care, so I don't have to spend hours cutting grass myself. It also sometimes (er, often) means falling back on takeout meals when I run out of hours to cook.

For many years, I employed another easy time-saving tactic -- having my bills set to autopay. Basically, I arranged it so that certain bills of mine would get paid automatically out of my checking account without me having to lift a finger.

It was the perfect system -- until it hit a snag. And I've since changed the way I pay my bills.

When things don't go according to plan

Technology can make our lives easier, but it's also not perfect. And I learned that the hard way a few months ago.

Previously, I had set up my electric bill to get paid automatically so I wouldn't have to worry about it. And for many months on end, my bill did, in fact, get taken care of. Until one month it didn't. And then it didn't get paid the month after that.

I happened to be searching through my checking account for details on a specific transaction when I noticed that it had been a while since I'd seen any sort of sum debited for my electric bill. So I did some digging, and for some unknown reason, that bill had ceased to autopay.

I called my bank and they didn't know what had happened. I called the electric company, and they, too, were clueless. However, they also wanted their money.

I was able to make a catch-up payment on the spot, and thankfully, that did the trick in helping me avoid a late payment penalty. And also, I thankfully caught the issue before reaching the point where the electric company would start threatening to shut off my service.

But I learned a very important lesson from that experience, and it's that technology has its limits. And it's something we should only rely on to a point.

A new approach to paying my bills

These days, I don't pay most of my bills automatically. Instead, what I do is get bills emailed to me so I can pay them manually. Doing so is a little bit of extra work, but that way, I can make certain those bills are being taken care of.

Also, it's not a bad idea for me to manually pay bills that fluctuate from month to month, like my electric bill. That way, if I see my energy usage spike unexpectedly, I can investigate the cause.

If you're going to sign up to autopay your bills, make sure to go in once a month and make sure the payments you expected to go out actually did. You never know when an automated system might hit a glitch, and the last thing you want is a headache on your hands due to accidentally falling behind on your bills.

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