16
Mar

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Setting up autopay for your regular monthly bills can seem like an efficient and convenient way to manage your finances. But is it really a good idea? As is the case with many aspects of your personal finances, there are pros and cons to using autopay. First, let’s consider the advantages, and then look at the possible drawbacks to using autopay.

The Clear Advantages of Autopay

  • Avoiding Late Payments

Once you’ve set up automatic payments for one of your monthly bills, you’ll never have to worry about paying late and being charged a late fee, unless the account you’re drawing from has insufficient funds. If you’re someone who’s not especially well organized, autopay can be a lifesaver, since it takes away the risk of paying a bill late because you forgot. Don’t forget, a late payment can damage your credit score.

  • No More Late Payments Means No More Late Fees

One of the best aspects of autopay is never having to pay a late fee again since your bills will be paid through autopay. Late fees can range from a few dollars to $25 a pop, so setting up autopay could wind up saving you a considerable amount of money. Avoiding late fees has another advantage as well, since it prevents your credit card issuer or other merchant from increasing your interest rate. Late fees can add up and if the interest on your fees is compounded it can raise your credit card balances, which can damage your credit score. (If you are anywhere over 30% of your credit limits, your credit utilization will lower your credit score.)

  • Autopay Helps You Budget Your Money

Having some of your fixed monthly expenses like a gym membership, your cable and Internet bill, Netflix, or a mortgage payment on autopay also makes sense from a budgeting standpoint since you can accurately track those monthly expenses and plan for them. Of course, certain expenses such as utility bills or your cell phone may vary from month to month, so you might want to pay those manually. However, for fixed, predictable expenses it only makes sense to put those bills on autopay as part of your monthly budgeting practices. There are also automatic payment apps you can get for your phone to make paying your bills easier than ever. Budgeting can get you in the mindset of keeping your finances under control potentially enabling you to pay down your bills, which will help your credit utilization rates, and therefore boost your score.

  • Stop Wasting Money On Postage

Setting up autopay has another money saving advantage as well. When you have your bills automatically taken out of your bank account, you don’t have to pay for postage to mail a check. Since first-class postage rates keep increasing year-by-year, this could save you a considerable amount of money in the long run.

  • Why Waste Time Writing Checks?

This aspect of autopay may not save you much money, but it is more efficient, time-wise, since you won’t have to devote any of your precious time to writing and sending out checks. Once you have autopay set up for your regular bills, you’ll hardly ever write checks again. You can spend this precious time working on other aspects of your finances to help build credit.

  • Autopay Is Good For Your Credit Score

Yet another advantage to autopay is paying all of your bills on time. Timely payment of bills is a major factor in the calculation of your credit score. When you never miss a payment because of autopay, it helps keep your credit score high and may even help raise your credit score.

Some of the Drawbacks To Autopay

While autopay can be convenient and cost-effective, it is not without its own drawbacks. Here are some of the negative aspects of autopay that deserve to be considered.

  • Losing Track Of The Amounts You Owe

“Out of sight, out of mind” is an old saying that has a direct bearing on bills that are set up for autopay. When you’ve got some or all of your bills on autopay, it’s easy to forget about them, but you really shouldn’t ignore them. If you have some extra money one month, you could use it to pay down balances or pay off your principal quicker, thereby saving you money on interest payments. Don’t forget about your bills; check them once a month at least. Every opportunity you lose to pay down your debts can hurt your credit score.

  • Hey — Where Did That Extra Fee Come From?

When you’re paying your bills automatically and not checking them when they come in, you may be subject to hidden fees, sudden increases in interest rates, or other changes or billing mistakes from your creditor. However, if you commit to review your bill at least once a month, then you can catch these mistakes and get them resolved before it costs you extra money.

  • Autopay Can Lead to Overdrafts on your Checking Account.

If you’re not carefully watching your money, you could find your well-intentioned autopay costing you in overdraft when your account balances do not support the payment. This can wind up costing you money, but if the overdraft charge goes to collections, this can wind up sinking your credit score. If you can’t pay the overdraft, your name will also wind up in Chexsystems, the credit reporting agency for checking accounts, and this could prevent you from opening another bank account.

  • Do You Still Have Bills You Pay Manually?

Once you’ve set up autopay on most of your other bills, why should you continue paying some bills the old-fashioned way? If possible, convert all of your bills to autopay so that you don’t lose track of incoming paper bills and pay them or late, or, what’s worse, forget to pay them at all because they’re in a stack of papers on your desk that you haven’t gotten around to yet. When it’s not possible to pay certain regular bills with autopay, there’s a simple, low-tech solution: simply mark the payment dates on your calendar so that you don’t miss them.

  • Canceling Autopay Can Be Difficult.

Finally, where there are strong advantages to using autopay, there are a few drawbacks, including the difficulty in cancelling autopay accounts. Banks and credit cards make it very easy to set up autopay, but it can frustrating and time consuming to get them cancelled quickly. In some cases you have to contact both the vendor and the credit card company separately or even notify them in writing. But when you decide to cancel an autopay account, act decisively since failing to cancel an autopay account on time can cost you money needlessly.

Related Articles:

3 Reasons to Make a Budget, and 7 Step-by-Step Tips

What to Do If You Miss a Credit Card Payment

Does Making Minimum Payments Hurt Your Credit?


Posted in Finance