The Wall Street Journal reports that electricity consumers who use automatic bill pay actually use more electricity each month, and pay higher bills. Dr. Steven Sexton, an economics professor at Duke University, conducted a huge study in which he evaluated the electricity bills of Santee Cooper customers (a South Carolina electric company) over sixteen years. He found that automatic bill payers use between 4% and 9% more energy each month.
Automatic bill pay is safe and obviously convenient. Millions of people pay their electric bills automatically each month, sight unseen. And therein lies the problem. With regular snail-mail bills, you have to open them up, look at the bill amount, and write a check. You know how much you pay each month. If the bill seems high, you might scrutinize your energy usage and work on bringing it down.
With automatic bill pay you don’t even see the bill, so you’re not in tune with how much you’re paying each month. You end up using more each month because you’re simply not aware.
Sexton found that the biggest rise in consumption with automatic bill payers came with new customers and commercial users. The new customers are presumably young and not financially experienced.
I’m not suggesting that automatic bill pay consumers go back to using dead trees (paper bills). But you should make it a point to look at your bill online and review your electricity consumption. You might save more than a few dollars each month.