Stamps are So 2011:
Electronic Bill-Paying Options

By Robert F. Bornstein, PhD and Mary A. Languirand, PhD

Many people pay their bills the old-fashioned way-by mailing a check. We must admit that for the most part we fall into that category as well (we're a bit skittish about technological change, and tend to climb aboard the bandwagon late rather than early). The traditional payment method still works just fine, of course, but there are three others you might consider. All three save you postage, and eliminate the possibility that your payment gets lost in the mail:

Set up an automatic payment plan

Most companies that bill on a monthly or quarterly basis will allow you to set up an automatic payment plan: You provide them with information regarding your checking account, or credit or debit card (you choose which you prefer), and instead of mailing a paper bill the company automatically transfers funds from your account each billing period. The transfer appears on your monthly statement (and if you have set up Internet access for your accounts you can check them anytime, 24/7, to see what exchanges have taken place, and when).

Pay bills electronically through your bank

Another, similar approach is to pay bills electronically through your bank. To do this you set up Internet access (called "online banking") for whichever accounts you like, and enter into the bank's website some basic information regarding the companies whose bills you want to pay electronically (usually the name of the company and your account number is all they need). When the bills come in the mail you go to your account page on the bank's website, pull up the appropriate company, and plug in the amount you owe. This gets transferred from bank to biller, usually within a day or two. You can use this option for all your regular bills, some, or just one-it's up to you.

Online payment via credit or debit card

If you're not comfortable with automatic payments and don't want to enter account information into your bank's website there's a third option: Each time a bill arrives in the mail you can access the company's website, enter your credit or debit card information, and authorize that the appropriate amount of money be transferred. It's a one-time authorization, so you can do it as often (or as little) as you want. Even if you prefer the traditional paper method for paying bills, this option is still useful if a bill is lost or delayed in the mail and you don't want to miss a payment deadline.


Robert Bornstein and Mary Languirand are the authors of When Someone You Love Needs Nursing Home, Assisted Living, or In Home Care, published by Newmarket Press. The second edition, revised and updated, was recently released. Here's the link: