May 112015
 
Power lines

Automatic bill payers consume more electricity.

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.

Aug 232014
 

By Mohammed Waseem

Mobile money operator, Telenor, which runs the mobile money transfer and service called Easypaisa also offers bill payment through the same product. It is a hassle free and secure way to pay all utility bills including electricity, gas, telephone, water, and internet bills. Bills can be paid at any of the Easypaisa shops, Telenor Sales & Service Centers, Tameer Microfinance Bank Branches, Telenor Franchises and others.

Users can pay at any time and from anywhere and complete security is guaranteed. The network of supported payment locations enables the users to pay from anywhere. Easypaisa is available 24 hours in a day and 7 days a week, so they are easily accessible.

EasypaisaAll transactions happen in the real time and instant notification is sent to the user on payment of a bill. The service supports around 25 utility billers across Pakistan and more billers will hopefully be added with time. No additional charges are applicable for paying bills through Easypaisa shops. However, paying bills from the Easypaisa Mobile Account has a fee applicable.

The system is automated and secure, coupled with automatic and instant payment. Anyone can pay a bill by visiting an Easypaisa outlet, but payment from an Easypaisa Mobile Account is only allowed for the subscribers.

In order to pay a bill at an Easypaisa outlet, users need to bring the bill and the amount in cash at the outlet on any working day between 9 AM and 5 PM, provide their mobile number for notifications and collect the stamped bill which carries the transaction ID and the agent ID. With Easypaisa Mobile Account, users can pay bills on the go, at any time and from anywhere.

To pay a bill using a mobile phone, Easypaisa Mobile Account subscribers need to dial *786# and select “Pay Bill” before selecting the bill category and the biller. The customer number printed on the bill has to be entered then, to get the bill details. In order to confirm, the PIN has to be entered and the payment is released. An SMS is immediately received with the confirmation, amount, fee charged and the Easypaisa Account balance.

The service is good for avoiding queues and enabling on the go payments, but a lot can be done to improve and innovate in this area.

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.

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 212012
 
Young woman paying bills

Make scattered bills a thing of the past by paying and storing your bills online.

Would you like to free yourself from paper bills altogether? How about being able to see and pay all your bills on one website? Not to mention saving trees, and cutting down on the 48 billion paper notices and bills sent by the U.S. Post Office every year.

A new service called Manilla.com claims to help you collect and organize your bills — everything from credit card and mortgage payments, to student loan debt and auto payments.

Manilla.com also has a free smartphone app, so you can see and pay your bills on the phone.

Best of all, the Manilla.com service is free to the consumer. It’s paid for by the billing companies, since they save money not having to send out paper bills. And they can post important notices like required privacy forms or billing practices online for each customer to read in his or her own account.

Terry Savage of the Chicago Sun-Times writes:

No more going to your mailbox or post office box, or risking late payments because you were traveling. Now the bills arrive in your Manilla account, where you can see the exact bill that would have arrived in paper form. You can see the exact details — even more than many billers send in the mail. And you can reach out to contact the biller or dispute a charge, just as if you had received a paper bill.

Manilla will notify you when bills are coming due, so all you have to do is click and pay securely. And if you have several bank accounts (for business and household, for example), you can choose which account to pay from when you are paying your bill.

There’s a handy calendar on your secure home page, showing you regular monthly bills that you receive and the date by which they must be paid. Plus, Manilla will send you reminders by text or e-mail when regular bills are scheduled to arrive — or if you’ve failed to pay a bill on time.

In a way, Manilla.com is also a records storage service, since it saves all your paid bills for years. It also has a search feature to search through past bills quickly.

I haven’t personally tried Manilla.com, but I’ll check it out. If you have used it, please let us know how it’s working out for you.

Jan 172012
 
Frontier Communications

Frontier Communications is a U.S. telecommunications company headquartered in Stamford, Connecticut. Until 2008 it was known as Citizens Communications Companies. Frontier is one of the USA’s biggest rural local exchange carriers. They offer local and long-distance telephone service, broadband Internet, and digital television service to residential and business customers in 27 states in the U.S.

Frontier’s online bill pay home page is here:

https://www.frontier.com/billpay/login.aspx

Frontier’s billing and payments FAQ is here:

http://frontier.com/billing/faq/

Frontier Customer Complaints:

In 2009 Frontier purchased 4.8 million Verizon landlines across several states.  Many customers have complained that after Frontier took over, their rates went up. There have also been complaints of poor customer service, and excessive and unexplained charges on the bills. If you check out the reviews of Frontier’s service at ConsumerAffairs.com, it’s rather shocking. There are scores of customer reviews, almost universally bad.

As far as online bill pay with Frontier, George of Madison, Wisconsin writes:

I always paid my bill online with Version but, according to Frontier’s customer service, they had a problem with their web site and were unable to process payments on line. (Really? An internet provider with a faulty web site). It took at least six months to resolve that problem and during that time I had to watch my bills carefully as my account was not always credited with my payments. I had to call almost every month to call attention to their errors.

Another customer from Morganville, Illinois writes:

1. Because Frontier bought out Verizon in my area, we have to go through hoops just to pay our Frontier bill online (as they want to charge $2 to pay it over the phone). We can’t use Frontier’s homepage to pay the bill, every month I have to get my account information sent to me in an email just so I can get the proper link to pay the bill. I would have thought they’d like me to pay my bill on a timely basis.

2. The correct Frontier billing page almost always never loads properly. I can click it 30+ times before it will pop up without an error.

Frontier Online Bill Pay Pros:

  • Frontier’s online bill pay service is free.
  • It’s also secure (i.e. uses the https protocol that encrypts your payment information).
  • You can view your bill online from any internet device.

Frontier Online Bill Pay Cons:

  • Many customer complaints of overcharging, poor customer service, and and difficult-to-use website.
  • By signing up for automatic payments through Frontier online bill pay, you give them access to your bank account or credit card. You won’t necessarily have a chance to review your bill before paying, which could be a problem if you get overcharged.

Conclusion:

Based on consumer comments I don’t think I’d sign up for Frontier if I had any alternatives.

Dec 302011
 
A Verizon Wireless store in Washington, D.C. Verizon Wireless has angered customers by announcing that it will begin charging $2 to pay bills online.

A Verizon Wireless store in Washington, D.C. Verizon Wireless has angered customers by announcing that it will begin charging $2 to pay bills online.

On the heels of poor network performance this month with three separate data outages, Verizon has angered customers further by announcing that beginning January 15 2012, it will charge customers $2 to make one-time online bill payments, or to pay by telephone.

The company called it a “convenience fee.”

The fee won’t apply to electronic check payments or to automatic credit card payments set up through Verizon’s AutoPay system. Paying by credit card in a Verizon store will also be free, as will mailing a check.

The move was met with heavy criticism. Consumer blog Engadget said charging customers to pay was “downright ludicrous.” Cnet.com said the move “made little sense.”

Verizon Wireless spokesman Thomas Pica tried to justify the online bill payment charge, saying, “The fee is designed to address costs incurred by us for only those customers who choose to make one-time bill payments in alternate payment channels (online, mobile, telephone) and who choose not to use the other options available to them ….”

However I personally find this charge to be outrageous. I have been a Verizon wireless customer for over two years, and although I’ve only paid my bill online once (I usually pay cash using the payment machine in the Verizon store) I would consider switching providers over this. I’m a customer, not a personal ATM machine for Verizon to pad their profit margins.

Verizon Wireless rivals AT&T Inc and Sprint Nextel Corp said they do not charge their customers for any bill-payment options.

Mar 302008
 

Via the Stockton Record (Recordnet.com), By Harley Becker, Record Staff Writer, March 21, 2008:

Electronic payment is slowly replacing snail mail as the preferred method for paying utility bills in San Joaquin County’s five major cities.

Lathrop, Tracy and Stockton have been offering some form electronic bill pay service since 2004 and 2005. Manteca joined them last year, and Lodi will be on board in the next 60 days or so.

The cities’ motivations for offering such service generally fall along the lines of providing greater customer service or acknowledging that today’s young adults are tech-savvy and expect their communities to be up to date, too.

But, as a side benefit, people who use electronic bill paying may be saving their city significant money. And the cities would prefer that method whether it saves money or not.

The most costly way for a city to receive payment is when someone walks in the door at City Hall and hands over cash, explained Tracy Finance Director Zane Johnson.

The process: Bills are mailed to each customer. When the person arrives at City Hall with their payment, someone needs to be standing at the counter to take the money and write a receipt. At the end of the day, someone has to count the cash and balance out the register. Extra procedures follow to protect against fraud. Finally, an armored car company picks up the money and takes it to the bank.

Johnson said the city has never stopped to count up the total, but it is definitely more costly than when an electronic bill is sent to the customer’s e-mail address and, with a few clicks of a mouse, the payment transfers from a credit card to the city’s bank account. In some cases, customers sign up for automatic withdrawal of funds, he said, but most of the time, they go online monthly to pay.

While Stockton would prefer to have bills paid online, Stockton Revenue Officer Kathy Whitman said she does not see the service as saving money, since the city must pay the costs involved in electronic transactions.

The article above comes from the Stockton Record, so it deals only with the nearby cities within California’s Central Valley. I’m curious to know what percentage of cities nationwide have instituted online bill pay for utilities.

Feb 222008
 

Great article on TheStreet.com yesterday about paying bills online. I’ve summarized it here:

Say it ain’t so — you’re still writing checks.

After all this time, only around 28% of Americans pay their monthly bills online. If you’re still putting felt pen to safety paper, you’re missing out.

Online bill payment can help you to manage your budget, protect yourself from identity theft, declutter your life and protect the environment.

Here are five reasons you should sign up for online bill pay:

1. It’s Free

At most banks, there is no charge for using online bill pay.

2. It’s Easy to Use

You can pay anything using online bill pay — credit cards, mortgage payments, even the babysitter (as long as she accepts checks).

3. It’s Secure

Online banking is safer than traditional paper banking. In fact, just 2% of identity thefts occur online — and 53% of identity thieves know their victims personally.

4. It Makes Record-Keeping Easier

Moving your bills online will drastically cut back on the amount of paper you’ll have to file.

Better yet, you’ll have easy electronic access to your records — which is much more convenient than digging through paper files.

You’ll still get your monthly statements, as well. Some banks will mail you the paper statement. Others will give you the option to view it online. If that’s the case, follow your bank’s instructions to save a copy on your hard drive.

5. It Helps the Enviroment

If every U.S. household switched to paperless bill pay, the ensuing reduction in emissions would be equivalent to taking 355,000 cars off the road.

For more details, see the full article at TheStreet.com. These are all great reasons to make the switch and start paying your bills online, if you haven’t already. I’ve been paying all my bills online for about three years now, and I don’t miss all that paper at all. And I like knowing that I’m doing something for the environment.

Jun 012007
 

Corporate developments at BellSouth Corporation, services offered by BellSouth, and BellSouth bill payment options.

Latest Developments at BellSouth: the Takeover by AT&T

If you look at the BellSouth company website you’ll see that the AT&T logo is displayed prominently, and a slogan at th top of the page announces, “BellSouth is now the new AT&T.” What’s up?

Continue reading »

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