The turn it on and forget it nature of automatic payments can create “zombie billing” cycles that go on without being reviewed or challenged, even after the product or service you pay for is no longer of value.
Here are some ideas to keep this from happening to you.
- Create a list. Make a list of the companies you authorize to use automatic bill payment. Include the account number each company uses, as well as payment amounts and frequency. When there’s a change in a card or bank account, you can consult the list to find the companies you need to notify.
- Watch for fees. Make sure the bill-payment system you’re using is low-cost or no-cost. Some companies will charge you a fee for automatic payments. If your biller wants to charge you, pay them with a traditional check. Consider consolidating all your automatic payments within one bill-paying service. Your bank may even offer online bill payment with no fee.
- Review underlying bills. Automated billing usually means you’re not getting paper copies of your bill. If you’re not receiving a physical copy, changes to your service may go unnoticed. If possible, opt to continue receiving email or paper billing statements. Review statements monthly to verify that your payment has not changed and there are no additional fees or errors.
- Drop underused services. Periodically review all automatic payments. Drop products and services that are no longer of value.
Automatic billing is meant to simplify your life, but if you allow it to turn into zombie billing, it will have the opposite effect. Take care to review your accounts and statements to protect yourself and keep your finances under your control.