August 17, 2017 | Posted in:

Are you a ‘Zombie’ Payer? How to Keep Automated Payments In Control

When it comes to paying bills, many people can’t imagine returning to paying and sending bills via the U.S. Postal Service. But, the “turn it on and forget it” nature of automatic payments can create zombie payers where the details and amounts of bills are no longer reviewed or challenged.

Here are some ideas to keep this from happening to you.


Create a List

Make a list of the companies you authorized to use automatic payments to pay your bills. Include in the list the card or account each company uses for the automatic payments, as well as payment amounts and frequency. If you use credit and debit cards to pay companies, record the expiration dates, in case you need to update any company that has your card on file.

When there’s a change in a card or bank account, you will be able to consult the list to find the companies you need to notify. “This is especially important if your credit card information changes suddenly or unexpectedly, such as if the credit card company notices potential fraudulent charges and cancels or freezes your card for your own protection,” advises Associate Partner Julie Strohlein, CPA.


Diligently 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 offer online bill payment with no fee.

“A fixed monthly payment with a specified duration like a car loan is a good example of when to set up an automated payment in a bank’s bill payment system,” adds Julie.

“Sometimes you can authorize a biller to automatically take the amount due out of your bank account, which might be more convenient than entering the bill in the bank’s bill payment system each month.  A bill which varies each month, like a utility bill, might be a good candidate for direct debit.”


Watch Out for Price Creep

Paying for a product or service automatically can create a situation where you do not notice when your price changes. Monitor your ongoing payment amounts so you are able to question any price increase or discontinue service (if applicable).


Review Underlying Bills

Along with automated bill paying is the vendor’s desire to stop sending hard copies of your bill. However, because you’re not receiving a bill, you may be unaware of changes. 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.


Automate Business Bill Payments, Too

Julie, one of Alloy Silverstein’s Cloud Coaches, has advice for business owners that want to bring the convenience of automated electronic payments to their business processes, too.

“Businesses that want to take advantage of the convenience of electronic payments should consider using a product such as Bill.Com for the processing.  The appropriate party approves each payment and can review the underlying documents very easily and from any device, even from a cell phone.”

Julie is a certified advisor in both Xero and QuickBooks Online accounting platforms and can help business owners begin the process of automating their accounts payable and recurring bill payments.

Automatic bill pay is meant to simplify your life, but if you allow it to turn into zombie paying, it will have an opposite effect. Take care to review your accounts and statements to protect yourself and keep your finances in your control.


Contact us for guidance and application to your individual situation →

The information contained in this newsletter is of a general nature and should not be acted upon in your specific situation without further details and/or professional assistance. For more information or for assistance with any of your tax or business concerns, contact our office at 856.667.4100.


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