The Finch Formerly Known As Gold

22 March 2004

Accounts sprayable

Brian J. Noggle has some serious reservations about paying bills online:

It's a security risk multiplied by the number of payees and middlemen. Any one of them could get hacked and suddenly, I am buying computers for Romanians.

Worse, if anyone of these entities has a mere computer glitch, suddenly my bank account is empty and all other checks, debits, and withdrawals are bouncing, and my bank is charging me an extra $20 a day to remind me that my account is still empty. I have seen enough critical defects outside the financial industry to recognize how tenuous the Web is and to put my actual information — and my credit rating — on the line.

In exchange for assuming these risks, what do my creditors and the online bill-paying industry offer me? Convenience.

I say: Not good enough.

My own experience with paying bills online has been mostly positive, but mostly is the word you want to note here: a couple of creditors actually bobbled their payments, sending them back whence they came because they couldn't figure out what to do with them. This isn't exactly severe, but it isn't helpful in the slightest, and I subsequently quit doing business with one of the offending firms. (The other one, I probably should have, now that it's possible to do so.) My bank, generally regarded as high on the Evil List, has always gone to bat for me when I've sought resolution for these issues, but if this system were as wonderful as they claim, there wouldn't be issues in the first place.

And some things — city utilities, insurance payments, mortgage — I still send as checks, just because.

Posted at 2:59 PM to Common Cents

Why? I haven't written a check for anything in months :) And I love it. It couldn't be because of having the cancelled check for proof of payment because none of the banks send them out anymore. I would dare say that they would be better at proving that they paid something for you!

Posted by: ms7168 at 6:01 AM on 23 March 2004

In the system I use, if you go down the Account Activity list and click on a check, it will give you a JPEG image of the actual check, which can be routed to a printer (or, I suppose, "enhanced" as needed).

Posted by: CGHill at 6:38 AM on 23 March 2004

Personally, I wouldn't live without my bill pay service. I hate writing checks every month, so I have the bill pay service do it for me. They write checks on my account or pay the bills electronically.

Now-a-days most utilities and creditors will gladly set up electronic payments, but most of them want access to your checking account. I'm not about to give all those people permission to automatically debit my checking account. If you've ever listened to Clark Howard, you'll know why. (There is no protection from fraud like there is with credit cards.)

Personally, I'd rather have one company dipping in there and paying everyone than every company dipping in there and taking what I owe them. It's either that or I have to sit down and write out the checks myself, which I refuse to do.

Posted by: Ravenwood at 1:34 PM on 23 March 2004

My wife pays bills online, including the credit cards that many of our regular creditors bill for various services.

When we fired our credit union (it's cleaning out its desk later this week, in fact) and handed our money over to the Slightly Lesser Satan of the banking world (the Great one owns our mortgage, so we're damned twice over), the account features not only include online bill pay, they encourage it. It's the cheapest kind of account this bank offers, if you include minimum balance rules as a kind of "cost."

The Internet transaction troubles we've encountered have had to do with our credit card, and certain e-business websites where sign-ups that should have to be authorized, somehow don't.

Posted by: McGehee at 6:16 PM on 23 March 2004