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Wally
Wally SuperDork
6/19/08 11:56 a.m.

Some of you may remember from other posts that alot of my mail gets rerouted to Alabama to the people that used to own my house. We can add my electric bill to that list. I have not seen my last two bills(four months) and out of sight out of mind, didn't pay for the last four months. Tuesday when my wife came home she found us powerless. When she called and made the payment, she also found out that turning deadbeats back on is not a priority. So for the last two days we were without electric. This also meant we were without water because we have a well and without a phone because we only have a cordless. She has always wondered what it was like to live like on little house on the prarie. Aside from fetching water at A&P instead of a well, I've made another wish come true. Sadly my step towards living off the grid and saving the world went completely unappreciated but now we have yet another one of those stories we can look back on with laughter. Her with her new family and I in some dark institution.

Dr. Hess
Dr. Hess SuperDork
6/19/08 12:11 p.m.

Get MS Money and set up the bills in it on the bill calander. Then you just click on Bills and you can see what's due and never miss one because the post office screwed up again.

I've come up with a great way to solve global warming. See, Albert Arnold Gore Jr. says there's just too much carbon out there. So, I'll make carbon fiber car parts and sell the carbon offsets to stoopid people who buy such things. Feeling guilty about useing 10% more electricity this year than last (Mr. Gore?) Well, all you have to do is give me money so I can make a CF hood for the AE92. I'll take pictures of the CF stuff I make and that way the stoopid people will have something to verify that their carbon offsets are being safely stored. I could wind up with a CF Europa, like that one in Japan.

billy3esq
billy3esq Dork
6/19/08 1:03 p.m.

Even if you don't use MS Money or Quicken, just mark all your recurring bills on a calendar (assuming you can't set it up for auto draft from your checking account).

Don't feel too bad, though. I learned this the hard way, too. I just got done waging war on my HOA because they didn't bother to send me a statement for my yearly assessment (or it got lost in the mail), but were happy to send me a certified letter telling me that they had reported me to the credit bureaus and were going to start foreclosure proceedings in 15 days.

Unfortunately for them, their actions failed to comply with the various Texas and federal consumer protection laws, including the FDCPA and FCRA. In the end I agreed not to sue them into oblivion if they would refund half the late fees and withdraw the negative credit report. I really wanted all of the late fees, but they weren't budging off half, and I didn't really want to sue them over $50.

I also mark HOA dues on my calendar and my wife's calendar now.

Nashco
Nashco Dork
6/19/08 2:11 p.m.

95% of our bills are automated. Bank of America is notified of what the bill amount is (using FM technology) and automatically pays it with funds withdrawn from the checking account. We still get the paper bill in the mail to confirm we were correctly billed, but at least the payment part is automated so we can't screw that up. So far the only bill that isn't automatically paid is the garbage bill, since they're stuck somewhere in the 20th century with no form of automated payment whatsoever, and my credit card bill which I choose to pay manually. I have a reminder set up in my calendar to alert me when my credit card payment is due just in case I forget (with a 20something% interest rate, I'm not about to start paying interest!).

Bryce

Jensenman
Jensenman SuperDork
6/19/08 3:03 p.m.

We had something similar happen with a water bill several years ago. Pregnant women are NOT pleased when the water won't come on when it's time to take a shower.

I am a technological Luddite in some ways and automated bill pay is one of them. I absolutely and unequivocally refuse to allow anyone automated draft access to any of my bank acccounts, I got screwed once and never will again.

Our bills go into a wooden slotted holder, each slot has a date. The bill goes in the slot for 10 days before it's due; if it's due on the 25th drop it in the slot for the 15th. Works great.

Dr. Hess
Dr. Hess SuperDork
6/19/08 3:20 p.m.

I, too, do not like automated drafts. I only have one, a Fed student loan, and that's because they gave me a point off for setting it up. Anything else, I wanna see a paper bill and go over it. I've had to battle the phone companies many times over them just slipping in an extra charge. Alltel was a good one: I didn't want texting. They gave it to me anyway, then let a text spammer send me a text message and charged me ten cents for it. I don't think so. If you don't watch that stuff close, they'll get you. With my bank, I can set up an online payment for anything, including bills that have no online receiving. My water company is a Co-Op, also firmly entrenched in the last century, and I have it set up so that I just clicky-clicky the amount and the bill pay service mails them a check. My postage went from 5-10 letters a month to 1 letter out every 2-3 months.

poopshovel
poopshovel Dork
6/19/08 3:20 p.m.
Jensenman wrote: We had something similar happen with a water bill several years ago. Pregnant women are NOT pleased when the water won't come on when it's time to take a shower. I am a technological Luddite in some ways and automated bill pay is one of them. I *absolutely and unequivocally* refuse to allow anyone automated draft access to any of my bank acccounts, I got screwed once and never will again. Our bills go into a wooden slotted holder, each slot has a date. The bill goes in the slot for 10 days before it's due; if it's due on the 25th drop it in the slot for the 15th. Works great.

I'm with Jensenman on this one. I haven't read your other posts on the subject. Is the question "WHY THE F*&K AREN'T YOU GETTING YOUR BILLS?" out of line? I mean, government employees are generally really smart, efficient, customer service oriented, and considerate, right? Did you get your postal carrier a bottle of whiskey for xmas like a good little citizen?

Jack
Jack SuperDork
6/19/08 3:40 p.m.

Wally,

You need get those utility folks the right addresses. This is going to seriously mar your credit rating. late bills stay on it for three years!

Sidebar: I hate folks "taking" my money driectly out of an account too. I'll give it to you, thank you!

We have a few businesses/services that really want to pull from our account, or that give us a nice discount for this privilige, so we have one account where we allow it. This is also the Paypal registered account. We only keep a few hundred dollars in there so our risk is fairly low.

Jack

Nashco
Nashco Dork
6/19/08 4:24 p.m.

You guys must have had some really crummy customer service to worry about automated billing. Our local bills (utilities, etc.) are all pretty low amounts and in the event of any billing issues they just credit our account for the upcoming bill. I haven't had to resort to holding my money as ransom for a long while, heck even Comcast hasn't screwed up for a while. Now, way back in the day of AOL or with a big purchase with Dell, you're damn right I wouldn't pay until the last second. I still get the paper bills and confirm all is well.

To clarify, automated payments and automatic withdrawals are not the same thing. We use automated payments. Like Hess was mentioning, the bank gets (electronically) notified of the amount, then the bank writes a check (either a paper one in the mail or electronically). Unlike Hess, when I got charged ten cents for a text spam, I didn't bother calling it in.

Bryce

Dr. Hess
Dr. Hess SuperDork
6/19/08 4:44 p.m.

Well, the first time they did it, I called, made sure the service was turned off and spotted them the twenty cents. Then next month, there was another charge. That's it, I got the whole amount refunded and "texting" killed in no uncertain terms. They haven't been messing with me lately. Now they got sold to Verizon.

You have to really watch them: Bandits. Like cell phone insurance. $5/month. So, my phone breaks. Oh, well, we don't have that model phone anymore, but we can give you this total POS phone instead. I don't want a POS phone, I insured a good phone, I want a good phone. Sorry, only this POS phone on your insurance plan. But that POS phone is only ten bucks if I walk in off the street. Yeah. So, I've been paying $5/month "insurance" for a ten dollar phone, right? Uh-huh. Well, stop that too.

carguy123
carguy123 Reader
6/19/08 5:01 p.m.

Insurance companies are the worst about double and triple billing if you use an automated billing service.

My sis in law is the VP at a bank and she says she'd never use automated anything after seeing how many issues the have at the bank.

Me check it and decide to electronically transferring something is another animal altogether.

MrJoshua
MrJoshua Dork
6/19/08 6:04 p.m.
Dr. Hess wrote: You have to really watch them: Bandits. Like cell phone insurance. $5/month. So, my phone breaks. Oh, well, we don't have that model phone anymore, but we can give you this total POS phone instead. I don't want a POS phone, I insured a good phone, I want a good phone. Sorry, only this POS phone on your insurance plan. But that POS phone is only ten bucks if I walk in off the street. Yeah. So, I've been paying $5/month "insurance" for a ten dollar phone, right? Uh-huh. Well, stop that too.

You apparently havent collected insurance on an Alltell phone lately. "Oh the antennas tend to break of on that model? Well then we dont cover antennas anymore!" "What? That model stops wanting to take a charge? Well we will give you a new phone-without a new battery. (because constantly running a battery full dead doesnt shorten its life, noooooo)" "The most common cause for return is water damage? Well we dont cover that anymore" "Oh you somehow managed to find the 1 situation where we will replace your phone under warranty? Well that will be a $50 deductible please to get our cheapo model" Yeah, I really dislike Alltell.

You guys need to find a way to pay all of your bills online. I have an account with my mortgage company, my power company, my cable company, credit card companies, my bank, etc... Takes about 5 minutes once a month to pay bills. Its made checks almost obsolete. I write maybe 6 a year.

stuart in mn
stuart in mn Dork
6/19/08 6:40 p.m.

Virtually all my bills are paid automatically, except for my credit card. Been that way for probably 15 years, all of them are set up directly with the individual company/utility, no third party setup. Not a single problem in all that time.

billy3esq
billy3esq Dork
6/19/08 8:43 p.m.

^ same here. Everything but the water, lawn service, and credit card is paid automatically. The water district and lawn service are luddites, and I just like paying the credit card bill manually (but still electronically) because it is so different from month to month.

In all my autodrafts, I still get a paper bill, about two weeks before the draft in most cases. I look over it, if everything is fine (which it always has been), I don't do anything. If it isn't (which has never happened to me in several years) I call and complain to the biller. If that didn't work, I'd call the bank and cancel the automatic privileges of that biller.

I used to share the concerns expressed by Jensenman and Dr. Hess, but I'm over it now. In modern times, just about anybody you write a check to can convert it to an ACH anyhow, so there really isn't much difference. If they screw that up it still hits your account for the wrong amount.

Heck, this year I even let Uncle Sam draft my income tax payment automatically. I like living on the edge.

David S. Wallens
David S. Wallens Editorial Director
6/19/08 10:17 p.m.

We were in Wally's boat this afternoon. One of our porch lights has been finicky, and when I came home I noticed both were out. Oh well, guess it's time to replace both bulbs. Nope, all of our power was out. We had storms this afternoon. Power came back on while we were out a baseball game.

Lesley
Lesley Dork
6/19/08 10:40 p.m.

I have a tendency to be somewhat, um, preoccupied when it comes to boring stuff, like finances. On several occasions, I've paid the gas twice, and forgotten the utilities, until they send out a nastygram. But once I started paying bills online a couple of years ago, I've had no problems whatsoever. The only automated withdrawal is my insurance, everything else I just pay through online banking as soon as the bill arrives. It really sucks not to have power, and the phone company can be the biggest shiny happy people around.

oldopelguy
oldopelguy HalfDork
6/19/08 11:18 p.m.

My bank (credit union actually) has an excellent online bill pay program where I tell them how much to send and they take care of it either electronicly or with a paper check and I never set pen to paper. I can change any payment right up until the day it gets sent out, but by now I have even the electric and water on auto-payments of slightly more than my average bill. Been using the system now for a couple years and it's pretty sweet.

Best feature, though, is that by sending a fixed amount to everyone every month I can fully utilize my company's paycheck EFT plan. I have the amount required to pay all the bills sent to one account every payday and the extra above and beyond that goes to another account for play $. If I have it in the account, I can buy something, if I don't, I can't, and I never worry about the bills getting paid.

wreckerboy
wreckerboy SuperDork
6/20/08 5:35 a.m.

Wally, you are still relatively new to this home owning thing, right? Right about now it just seems like there lots and lots of them, but it gets better. After a while you'll get a feel for when bills are due and what is missing. It takes a little time.

Just like many of you, I am a technological Luddite when it comes to my finances. I absolutely, positively refuse to let any Evile automated set of electrons anywhere near my money. The day any automated bill pay happens around here will be the day my wife writes the checks for my funeral.

I write checks by hand the old fashioned way, and even keep them in an oversized ledger, not one of those small wallet thingies. I do keep a spreadsheet that tracks it and our other expenses. I mail 'em out in envelopes and spend money on stamps and stuff. I find it comforting, somehow.

Needless to say, this drove my wife, the IT person, slightly batty at first. The rule is that we get to do the finances my way as long as there are no problems. If there is a problem we go back to doing things her way. She's a red head. The incentive to do things right and to keep a check from being made out to a funeral home is a powerful motivator.

Jensenman
Jensenman SuperDork
6/20/08 8:22 a.m.

What I do NOT like is the 'fine print' that'll getcha.The one that nailed me: if the due date for a automatic draft falls on a holiday, the payment date can be moved. This will NEVER go forward to the next day after the due date, only back to the previous day.

Like the Doc, I had a loan which had a discount for automatic draft. I had a payment that was due on a Monday which happened to be a 3 day weekend. I did not have automatic deposit, so I had to go by and make my deposit. I got to the bank at about 1:30 PM, which meant the payment was not credited until the next business day, which was Tuesday. In the meantime, my account was drafted on Friday morning. This meant the payment bounced. I got hit with overdraft fees, below minimum balance fees and in addition two other checks bounced and I got hit for those as well. The bank refused to refund the fees (which totaled probably $125) for about two months and in addition the two checks that bounced cost me another $25 in fees from the places they were returned to. berkeley 'em. Never again.

Nashco
Nashco Dork
6/20/08 11:59 a.m.

Jensenman, FWIW, most banks post deposits the same day now if you deposit before X time. I know with my bank (Bank of America) all deposits made up to 8 pm will post that same day. Some smaller banks are still 4-5 pm (typical banker's hours closing times). I don't understand how automated drafts would need to move because people are on holidays, isn't that why we have computers doing this stuff???

Bryce

Jensenman
Jensenman SuperDork
6/20/08 4:34 p.m.

That's what I thought, too and the bank I was with at that time touted it as 'computer draft', all I had to do was sit back and enjoy life while they took that nasty job of writing a check and stuffing an envelope off my hands. The whole moving the draft day thing made no sense to me, either. Regardless, I will no longer take that chance.

The bank I am with now (Wachovia) posts all deposits made before 1:00 PM the same day and after 1:00 PM on the next business day. I had that reinforced a couple of months ago, I made a $1700 cash deposit to my checking account at 2PM, transferred $1500 to my savings that night (~11:00PM) via computer banking and was hit with a $10 insufficient fund fee because the deposit still hadn't posted. They did refund it, though.

Recently, there was a Wall Street Journal article that pointed out that overdraft and other fees have become one of the banks' largest sources of income.

billy3esq
billy3esq Dork
6/20/08 5:54 p.m.

Some banks also post checks largest to smallest and/or before deposits so that as many as possible will bounce.

MrJoshua
MrJoshua Dork
6/20/08 6:06 p.m.

With some banks (Compass) the local location is just for taking and dispensing of money. The official deposit, withdrawal, etc... is done after midnight at some corporate location. So whatever the receipt you get says means nothing. Its what the corporate guys do thats official.

About the bank bill pay plans. I dont know if its still like this, but when I looked into it a few years ago, they were just mailing checks for you. It seemed ludicrous to me so I went the pay at each debtors homepage method and havent looked back.

Josh
Josh Reader
6/20/08 6:44 p.m.

All you luddites are shooting yourselves in the foot. So you send everyone checks in the mail, right? Because that's safer. So you know how all those automatic withdrawals work, right? You give them your check routing numbers, which (duh) are printed right on the bottom of the check. So If you send them a check, they have everything they need to get money out of your account. Even worse, you send the check in the mail - anyone who has access to the mail now has the potential to get your money. I personally trust the evil electrons to get where they are going without being intercepted more than a little paper envelope.

Jensenman
Jensenman SuperDork
6/20/08 7:20 p.m.

Josh, I have one word for you: hackers.

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