Apr 152014


By Mohammed Waseem

We have discussed bill payment services, predominantly of the US market, so lets now see services available in other parts of the world as well. In this article, I will talk about the electonic bill payment service available in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. The service is called SADAD and was established by the Saudi Arabian Monetary Agency (SAMA), with an aim to streamline bill payment process in the Kingdom.

SADAD was launched to facilitate Electronic Bill Presentment and Payment (EBPP) through the banks in the Kingdom. It was launched in the year 2004. The banks through which customers can make payments include Al Rajhi Bank, National Commercial Bank (NCB), Saudi Investment Bank, Saudi Arabian British Bank (SABB), Samba Financial Group, Arab National Bank and Saudi Holland Bank to name a few.

SADAD PaymentPayment can be made to almost all utilities. The list of supported billers can be accessed here. All the banks’ channels can be used to make payments, including branches, ATM, SMS, Online Banking, Phone Banking and Mobile Banking with some banks.

The process involves billers sending bill information to SADAD at a predetermined schedule, which is then validated and uploaded into the system. In case of a discrepancy, the biller is informed and asked to make the required change. Customers then request bills from the banks’ channels and when they are fetched a customer selects a bill and pays it. The customer’s bank account is then debited and confirmation is sent to SADAD, after which, the database at SADAD is updated. At the end of the day, they settle the transactions through Saudi Arabian Riyal Interbank Express (SARIE) and a report is sent to each biller mentioning the transaction details.

It is very convenient to be able to pay bills from all the channels of almost all banks in the Kingdom for almost all utilities across the country. This service can be accessed by everyone residing in the country.

Apr 102014

By Mohammed Waseem

Bill payment has become so easy today that with a few clicks in a few seconds, we can pay our bills while at home or on the go. Billeo, a leading online shopping and bill pay service provider works towards simplifying and speeding up online and mobile payments. They have association with leading banks and financial institutions, over 20000 billers, 1500 merchants and have over 1.5 million customers.

Their services include XpressBuy and XpressPay. XpressBuy is meant for online marketplaces, and it enables them to drive easy and instant purchases directly from their website or from the customer’s phone or tablet. It offers a fast, simple and secure checkout service across a variety of merchants. This works with a “Buy” button which the merchants add on their websites. XpressBuy supports many of the top 500 merchants, such as Nordstrom, Kohl’s, Sears, Target, and Buy.com. They are continuously working on adding more merchants to the list. The service also works with wallets used by the merchants, and Billeo offers its own wallet as well. They also offer customer solutions such as use of social media in creating business

Billeo Online ScreenXpressPay is meant for bill payment and delivers a simple, instant card-funded bill payment service across a variety of billers. It enables a bank to drive instant bill payment with a bank-issued debit or credit card right from the bank’s existing bill payment tool. XpressPay looks up the amount and date due of a bill and completes the bill pay process in just a few seconds, from any online or mobile device. A bank enables XpressPay by placing a “Pay Now” button next to a supported biller. The customers click this button and are redirected to the payment gateway, without leaving the bank’s website.

Billeo’s XpressPay and XpressBuy solutions are available to customers through merchants and financial institutions. They also offer a browser app which works with Internet Explorer and Firefox as a browser add-on to help manage online financial transactions in a faster and more organized way. Billeo’s Bill Pay Assistant allows users to pay bills from more than 11,000 sources, like water delivery, rent, taxes and medical bills. It also includes reminders for due bills.

Billeo’s services are good for financial institutions who intend to engage better with their customers, and for the merchants who want a simple checkout process.

Apr 032014

By Mohammed Waseem

UK mobile operators have come up with a service to enable their subscribers to charge their phone bill or prepaid credit for online shopping. The service is called Payforit and it provides a common framework for mobile billing. All major UK mobile operators including the MVNOs (Mobile Virtual Network Operators) support the service and many retailers accept it as a method of payment.

Payforit is a trusted safe and simple method of charging consumers for goods and services bought through mobile sites or the web. This service does not require the users to sign up or fill any form, nor does it require them to enter bank account or card details, all they have to do is click the “Pay Now” button.

PayforitPayforit is available for use on mobile phones, as well as on computers. On a computer, when users click on ‘Pay Now’, they are requested to enter their mobile number. A unique code is then sent to that number by SMS, which is supposed to be entered on the website to complete the payment. Mobile users only have to click on one button to complete the payment.

Many retailers have opted to use this as a method of accepting payments because it is quick, easy and official. In addition, the potential of mobile payments is very high; according to predictions, they could even replace card payments in the future. Payforit presents the correct rates according to the rate regulator, PhonepayPlus. So, there is no chance of extra charges appearing on the phone bill.

A disadvantage of this service is that it is not password protected, which means that anyone can make transactions if they have the phone, causing the charges to appear on the phone owner’s bill. In addition, anyone who uses the phone’s internet data connection via tethering can make transactions while the charges are applied to the owner’s bill. This can be avoided by appropriately locking the web services to be used only by the owner and not sharing the phone’s internet connection, except when necessary for personal purposes. Otherwise, Payforit is a great initiative which is not just official, but also convenient.

Apr 012014

By Mohammed Waseem

We must have heard about Fiserv, a global provider of e-commerce and information management systems for the financial industry. They offer an excellent bill payment service called MyCheckFree which is available for individuals.

MyCheckFree, as the name indicates, is a free service and a quick and easy way to pay bills online. They have an extensive list of companies to whom bills can be paid. Each time a user adds a payee, the mascot dog names ‘Scout’ retrieves the bills for that payee; and each time a user logs in, the dog waits with their bills in its mouth, waiting for a command. This is an interesting feature apart from being free and may attract pet lovers. Using the website is like communicating with Scout; for instance, the link to sign up says “Go Scout! Enroll“.

MyCheckFree from FiservaWhen a payee has been added, most of the billing information is already there in the payment center. All the user has to do is choose the amounts, date of payment and the account from which they want to pay, and then pay the selected bills. Users can sign up for electronic bills to be received directly on their online account, instead of paper bills sent to their mail.

When a user schedules a payment, Fiserv starts processing the payments 2 days prior to the date scheduled, in order to make the payments reach on the scheduled date. It the scheduled date falls on a holiday or a weekend, the date is automatically adjusted to fall on the previous business day. Payments can be made from checking and money market accounts, or major credit cards where accepted by the biller.

Every payment a user makes has a 100% guarantee. If the bill fails to be paid on time, i.e. is paid after the due date, Fiserv would bear the late-payment charges up to $50, as long as the bill was scheduled properly to reach on time. Payment can not be made to anyone using this service, unlike many other services. The list of supported billers can be accessed here. Emergency payments can also be made to selected billers and some billers may charge a fee for this service.

MyCheckFree ranks 6th on TopTenReviews with a 7.63 rating on 10. It is a great service for the fact that it is secure, reliable and free, but users can pay bills only to billers on their list. Many companies allow even individuals to be added as payees, which this service lacks; otherwise, it is a good service.

Mar 192014

By Mohammed Waseem

ProfitStars, a leading software, solution and technology innovator has a bill payment solutions for retail banking customers including small businesses. They are a Jack Henry Company, operating as a diverse, global division of the latter.

More than 4000 financial institutions already use their solutions called iPay Solutions which are meant for online bill pay and mobile bill pay. There are 5 different products offered under iPay solutions. There is Consumer Online Bill Pay which is meant for individual consumers, there is Biz 2.0 for businesses to make payments including payroll, there is BillSimple for billers. TheWayIPay for person-to-person payments and Mobile Bill Pay for iPhone and Android users.

iPay SolutionsThey also have iPay OneClick, which supports single or recurring payments with other web banking providers and Andiamo, which provides a single view of aggregated data from multiple financial institutions in a mobile application. All of their solutions are available for businesses and not for individuals. So, if individuals use their services through their online banking accounts.

iPay Online Bill Pay offers several options such as single, recurring and automatic payments when it comes to paying a bill. Recurring payments can be setup weekly, monthly, annually or at any other frequency. Single payments can also be made to individuals on their email address or electronically or by sending them a check.

The payments calendar displays all the past, pending and future bills for the better convenience of the user. Reminders can also be setup in order to avoid missing a due date. When a payee has been added and a bill is being paid, the amount of the last bill paid is displayed on the screen and it is displayed every time a user pays a bill, so that they don’t have to go elsewhere to check this information.

Notifications can be received by email or text message or both, as chosen by the user, which includes a report of bills paid. E-bills can be received directly on the online bill pay account for supported billers. E-bills history for 18 months can also be viewed online.

iPay Solutions is a comprehensive solution for businesses which includes all services which a good bill pay service should have. Many American companies already use their services, and the customers can access online bill pay from their online banking accounts or their mobile phones.

Mar 162014

By Mohammed Waseem

Fast and secure online bill pay has become a requirement of many US citizens. Banks and other companies have recognized this need well and have been coming up with new services. As the competition increases, every other company is coming up with a service, one better than the other. As customers try to make choices, companies continue to innovate an
look for their share of customers from the market. But as we know, only some services win early adapters.

Few companies allow bill pay for a few categories of billers while others allow even individuals to be considered as billers. A company of the former league called ‘Official Payments’ allows payments to billers among utilities, educational institutions, etc.

Official PaymentsPreviously known as Choice Pay, which indicated that the billers are limited or chosen, Official Payments allows customers to pay bills for a limited number of service providers. They also allow customers to pay Federal personal taxes. They have partnered with governments, utilities, education providers and other ‘official’ payment collecting organizations across the US; this includes over 300 universities and over 3000 municipalities.

Payments are accepted by credit cards, debit cards or by electronic check. Apart from the online payment service, they also offer IVR (Interactive Voice Response) and POS (Point of Sale) payment services. For businesses, they offer bill presentment (electronic billing) solutions. They also allow automatic payments for recurring bills and payment reminders in order to avoid missing the due dates. Taxes can be paid even without signing up on the website. Payments can be scheduled to be paid up to 30 days in advance.

Their centralized payment system indexed by zip code is very good. It allows customers to select billers that are geographically relevant. They have a Fee Calculator in the Payment Center, which provides bill-specific fee details which may differ geographically. Every customer has an e-wallet assigned, where they can store multiple credit card and bank account numbers in a secure environment. This leads to convenience, as the customers do not have to remember or note down these numbers or look at a credit/debit card for copying numbers. The e-wallet service is an optional service which can store up to 10 bank account profiles and up to 10 credit/debit card profiles.

In order to pay bills, one has to sign up and follow a simple 6 step procedure: selection of the service (Federal, State, Local and Education), entering the amount, providing the details, confirming the details and finally, receiving the digital receipt.

Official Payments is a convenient bill payment service which ensures payments are officially made quickly; in some cases, on the same day. This service is ideal for those who have a small number of bills to pay; but for those who have a large variety of bills to pay, this service is not the right choice.

Mar 122014

By Mohammed Waseem

Bill pay services offered by banks are preferred by many customers as it is not a separate service and is offered like any other add on service to online banking. Like many banks, BBVA Compass, a US financial institution offers bill pay service to their online banking customers.

The benefit of bill pay service offered by banks in that one does not have to remember another username and password as they can access bill pay service from their online banking account. It is not difficult for banks to add a bill pay service to their additional services, considering the similarity of their operation with how online bill pay works.

BBVA Compass Online Bill PayBBVA Compass offers an outstanding bill pay service which lets customers pay bills quickly and easily. How they differentiate themselves from other services is that all bills can be paid from one screen. Users can schedule payments for a later date and can access same day payment service. Users can also get the history of each bill automatically while paying it.

Like other services, reminders can be setup in order to avoid missing due dates. Users can choose to receive bills in the electronic form instead of physical paper bills, which are more convenient. When a bill is received, users can immediately schedule a payment, days, weeks and months in advance.

In order to use the service, users need to login to their online banking account and choose “Bill Pay” from the “Payments & Transfers” tab and click on ‘Activate Services’. After confirming the account, payees can be added for different payee groups.

The major drawback of this service is that it is dependent on the online banking service. Non-customers cannot access the bill pay service as a standalone service; instead they will need to open an account with BBVA Compass and activate the service. The bill pay service is offered free for most account holders and is a great service with a lot of features, but only for members.

Mar 102014

By Mohammed Waseem

Few banks in the US offer online banking with bill pay services. I discussed about Wells Fargo few days ago; today, I will discuss a service offered by another American bank – PNC, which is the 6th largest bank in the US. It has over 2700 branches across 19 states.

PNC offers online bill payments services with focus on convenience, control and encouragement to go paperless. They also focus on being one-stop bill payment service, without the users having to remember passwords for different websites. They are also a free service, as it is a service offered along with their banking services.

Online Bill Pay by PNCOnline bill pay service is available to the residents of the US to pay bills in the US and the users need to have a checking account or a savings account. With this service, users can manage household finances, business accounts and their investments. They also offer the users choice between paper bills and ebills for participating billers.

The online bill pay service is extremely easy to use and very convenient. Management of bills is very easy because users can track unpaid bills, verify past bills, check status of current bills and modify payee list with ease. Users can pay anyone who they would normally pay by check, individuals and businesses. Manual payments can be made for one-time bills and recurring bills with different amounts each month. Automatic payments can be setup for recurring bills with same monthly amounts. Payment can be scheduled up to one year in advance.

Most payments made are delivered the next business day, but if payment is sent by check, it may take a few more days. When the user enters the amount, the system automatically displays the earliest date of payment delivery which can be changed for scheduling payment at a later date. Payment calendar helps the users determine dates they can select for making the payments. Users can also check the status of their bills from their account. Additionally, users can pay their bills using their PNC Bank Visa Debit Card or Credit Card.

When users open accounts and sign on to online banking, they are automatically registered for bill pay. Reminders can be setup for due bills and custom notifications can be setup for a number of options.

They have an online demonstration for this service, which I found very interesting. It can be accessed here. TopTenReviews rated them 8.32 on 10 which places them 4th in the ranking. It is a great service for members, allowing them to pay all their bills from one place with ease.

Mar 052014

By Mohammed Waseem

We know many bill pay services offered by banks and other leading companies. The tech giant Microsoft also has a bill pay service under the brand name MSN. It is not directly offered by them, but by CheckFree Services Corporation which lets users to pay through MSN Money and thus, the service is called MSN Bill Pay.

Users can pay anyone in the United States that they would normally pay by check or automatic debit, even if they do not receive bills from the payee. MSN Bill Pay allows receipt of some bills online and payment can be made for all bills. The bills can be viewed online at the Payment Center, which is where bills are paid from. Automatic payments can be setup for recurring bills and one time payments can also be made.

MSN Bill PayUsers can review bills for a period of 24 months and can also transfer money from one payment account to another. Payment accounts include checking account and money market account. Savings account can be used for transfers if the option is available. A user can use multiple accounts for paying bills.

In order to pay, users need to add payees, after which the bills for those payees are added to the account. Users can pay as many as 30 bills at the same time from the Payment Center. Notifications can be setup for bills due, in order to avoid missing a due date. On entering the amount, an earlier date biller receives the payment is displayed, which can be changed to schedule a payment at a later date and for some billers, expedited payment is also supported for overnight check delivery.

Their website does not have the fee details for the service, but it is not a free service like many others. However, I found that they charge $5.95 per 15 transactions and $0.50 for every additional transaction or $2.95 per 5 transactions a month and $1.50 for every additional transaction.

They rank 2nd in the top ten reviews with a rating of 9.43 on 10. According to them, MSN Bill Pay is very versatile and is a good way to make sure all your bills are paid on time.

Mar 022014

By Mohammed Waseem

Financial corporations offering services which banks offer is not something new, but when they begin competing with the banks, that becomes interesting. Fidelity Investments, an American multinational financial corporation offers this interesting cash management service which can be used for savings, investments, etc.

One of the accounts available for customers is the Fidelity Cash Management Account. No fee is charged for maintaining this account, nor is there a minimum balance requirement. Account holders are also offered debit cards and other innovative services such as mobile check deposit. Users can scan and deposit checks using their iPhones, iPads or Android devices. Additionally, users can manage their cash from one secure place and access electronic fund transfers and automatic investments. Users can also create their own alerts with the Cash Manager tool.

Fidelity Cash Management AccountOne of the services available for this account is Bill Pay, which is a free online service which lets the users manage bills from anywhere and pay them on time.

The bill pay option is also available on mobile devices on the Fidelity Mobile apps, available for Android and iOS. The service allows the users to receive and pay electronic bills from the participating billers. One time payments can be made and automatic payment can also be setup for recurring bills. Reminders for due bills can also be setup in order to avoid missing the due date.

No fee is charged for using this service, because it is a part of other wider services, which are the Cash Management Account and the Brokerage Account. In order to use bill payment, users have to sign up for an account with Fidelity Investments at their website by choosing ‘Open an Account’ from the upper right hand corner of the page and then choosing the appropriate option. Signup process is just a few easy steps, after which Bill Pay service has to be added from the ‘Manage Account Features’ option within Customer Service page.

Bill Pay is also available for other Fidelity accounts such as the Health Saving Accounts to manage qualified medical expenses and the 529 College Savings Accounts to manage college savings and paying college or other tuition fees.