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MARCH 3, 2009   

Paying bills online

Detail of email payment acknowledgement from ChaseFor someone who spends as much time online as I do, I'm reluctant to pay bills that way. Doesn't make a lot of sense, I know, but for the most part I still write checks at the end of every month. Actually, I don't write the checks, I print them from my computer using Quicken, a piece of software that's made my life so much easier I can't imagine going back to the old way.

I'm one of those people who wants the checkbook to balance every month, and I remember spending hours and hours working backward through the check register to find a mistake. I used to dread the day that the bank statement arrived. Now it's just another little chore to be done. Balancing and reconciling the checkbook with Quicken is almost painless. Quicken is also my friend when it's time to pay bills, automatically filling in all the information on the check. All I need to do is enter an amount, print them, and sign them.

For the past few months, though, I've been paying my credit card bills online instead of mailing a check. Two things pushed me in this direction: a huge late fee when a payment check didn't arrive before the due date, and an extra charge to pay by phone in order to avoid the huge late fee for a check that has no chance to arrive on time.

With online payments I have a record of the payment being made before the due date, and there's no extra fee, not even the cost of a postage stamp. One credit card does tack on $12 to make the payment the same day, but even that's a lot less than the late fee.

Since this is working so well for credit cards you'd think I'd switch to online payments for everything, but I have the feeling of being more in control when I put the check in an envelope, seal it and put a stamp on it. Strange.

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2009 MARCH