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Online bill pay can be a safe and convenient way to manage your finances, and paying your bills online can actually be more secure than paying them in person or through the mail. But there are ways you can make it even more secure. By following a few simple guidelines, you can feel confident using online bill pay without worrying about your information being compromised. Read on to learn how to safeguard your data while using online bill pay.
What Is Online Bill Pay?
Online bill pay is a convenient way to pay your bills electronically through a website or app without having to go through the hassle of mailing in your payment, calling customer service or paying in person. Banks and credit unions typically offer online bill pay, or you may set up online bill pay services with individual providers and merchants.
You can use online bill pay to cover various bills and services including utilities, medical bills, insurance payments, credit card payments and even rent and mortgage payments. Online bill pay works by transferring money from your account to a service provider. Typically you use money from your bank account to pay bills, but some services allow you to pay bills online using your credit card.
Pros and Cons of Online Bill Pay
There are many advantages to paying your bills online. Perhaps the most obvious is that it's more convenient than other methods. You can do it from anywhere with an internet connection and don't have to worry about postage or making it to the bank on time. But, of course, there are also some downsides to paying your bills online. Let's look at the pros and cons of online bill pay.
- You can typically set up recurring automatic payments, so you don't have to worry about being late or forgetting to pay a bill, thus avoiding fees and penalties.
- You can usually view and manage all of your bills in one place, which can be helpful if you have multiple bills to keep track of.
- Many banks and credit card companies offer discounts or rewards for online bill pay customers.
- You can often view your payment history online, which can be helpful if you need to dispute a charge or track your spending.
- It can be more secure than paying bills with a check, as your information is typically encrypted when you enter it online.
- You might be charged a fee by your bank or the company you're paying to use this service.
- If you forget your login information or get locked out, you may not be able to access your account to make a payment right away.
- There is a possibility that your information could be hacked (though this risk can be minimized by choosing a reputable platform)
Is It Safe to Pay Bills Online?
Banks and financial institutions have been using encryption for years to keep customer information safe and secure. Any information you enter on the website, such as your username and password, is concealed so that it can't be read by anyone else.
Additionally, banks and credit unions take other precautions to ensure customer information is safe. For example, they might use multifactor authentication to verify a customer's identity or fraud prevention technology that flags unusual account activity.
And when you consider the many things that could go wrong with paying by check—like the check getting stolen, lost in the mail or not getting to the payee in time—online bill pay definitely has an advantage.
Because there are other online bill services besides banks and credit unions, it's worth it to learn how to tell if you're using a trustworthy site:
- Look for trust marks and security seals.
- Ensure there's a security certificate before entering sensitive information into a website. A security certificate means the company has been vetted by one of these organizations and its website is secure. (You can usually find this by clicking on the padlock icon on the URL.)
- Check for proper spelling and grammar.
- Look for reviews about the site from other sites or forums.
Following these simple tips can help ensure your personal and financial information stays safe when paying bills online.
How to Make Online Bill Pay Safer
While online bill pay can be convenient, it's important to take precautions to protect your identity and avoid being scammed. Here are some ways to help you do just that.
- Don't respond to suspicious emails from an online bill pay service; instead, call the service directly to ensure the inquiry is legitimate.
- Don't click links in emails sent to you claiming to be from an online bill pay service.
- Use unique and secure passwords for every account.
- Don't write down your account information anywhere it can be easily found. A password manager is the best place to keep important passwords.
- Choose a billing service that offers multifactor authentication.
- Make sure the website you're using is encrypted.
- Keep an eye on your account activity and status, and report any suspicious activity immediately.
- Use a credit card instead of a debit card for online bill pay to dispute any fraudulent charges that may pop up.
- Don't use public Wi-Fi when accessing your account.
- Keep your computer's security software and operating system up to date.
The Bottom Line
Online bill pay can be a great way to manage your finances—but only if you take steps to ensure your information is safe and secure. Just be sure to choose a secure payment method and make sure the websites you use are secure. By taking these precautions, you can rest assured that your personal and financial information will be safe when paying bills online.