Greg Curry: ‘I used to use CheckFree. It was easy to use and integrated well with Quicken. But I still had to go into Quicken and write out the virtual check. About a year ago, I switched to PayTrust. I pay $9.95 per month, and they receive and pay all of my bills. I now have most of my regular payees set up so that the bills are automatically paid if the amount due is under a pre-set amount. For those few that aren’t paid this way, I get an e-mail when the bill arrives, and I go and pay it (takes about 1 minute). Every week I download a file and import it into quicken (takes about 2 minutes). I’ve been very pleased with PayTrust, and plan on staying there for the foreseeable future.’
Chuck Smith: ‘I stayed with MYM dos version 12 until this year when I switched to Quicken Deluxe 2001. I had two main reasons for switching. One being lack of support for DOS by Microsoft in their latest releases and the other being the question of how long CheckFree will support input from MYM. I am happy with my decision, as Quicken has excellent Internet interfaces with my bank and securities institutions. I make my payments electronically to merchants (CheckFree is still a transparent third party) and update my statements on a daily basis, all without per-transaction or monthly fees. So why would I pay a fee to receive a bill and make a payment? These services are free (my bank likes me), even if I should want to receive the bills electronically. I took the PayTrust tour and, for me, it fails the cost/benefit test.’David Maymudes: ‘I feel that online bill payment should be free or better. I figure that printing and mailing the bill, and processing the check they get back from me, probably costs them at least $1.00 per bill. So I won’t sign up for online bill payment unless companies are willing to pay me at least 25 cents or so per bill. (I do sign up when individual companies offer to let me pay bills with a credit card; it saves them the same costs in paper processing, and I at least get the frequent flyer miles.)
☞ A man after my own heart.
Peter Reilly: ‘I was an MYM user who finally switched to Quicken. I used CheckFree at both. I was pretty happy with CheckFree, even when they raised the price on us a couple of years ago from $4.95 to $9.95 per month; though they gave us more transactions. However, I have discovered that Fidelity gives free CheckFree services to its USA clients. It is web based, not send and receive out of Quicken or MYM, but it works just as well, actually one day faster, 4 days instead of 5, and saves about $120 per year. By cutting and pasting from Quicken into the Fidelity web site, I minimize the chance for errors between the two.’
Joel Williams: ‘Why not use Waterhouse Bank? Bill paying is free, and they also give you interest on the money in your account. Besides that, since they have no ATMs of their own (but you can use just about any one in existence) they pay you $1.00 for the first 3 times per month you use an ATM. So when I take money out at Fresh Fields, where the ATM is free, I actually make $1.00 on the transaction. How’s that for a good deal?’
John Lemon: ‘I use an Internet bank called everbank.com. As long as I maintain a $1,500 balance, they pay relatively good interest (presently about 3.25%) and, more importantly, pay any bill for free, as long as you provide them with the address and phone number of the payee. I’ve been using them for about 18 months with no serious problems.’
Eric E. Haas: ‘Speaking of online banks, I believe the best of the bunch to be pcbanker.com. Their e-checking accounts currently pay 4.1% APY interest – FDIC insured! Also, they reimburse up to four $1.50 ATM transaction fees per month and they have FREE on-line bill-paying. These terms are not only superior to most banks, but nearly all money market funds as well!’
Ed Shoben: ‘I pay all my bills through First Internet Bank of Indiana – ‘First IB’ as they call it. I’ve been very pleased with them and particularly with the interest rate they pay on checking (still over 3%) and with their customer service people. The lack of any fees is wonderful.’
David Penfield: ‘I used to use CheckFree, but a few years ago authorized all my regular bills (mortgage, electric, credit cards, and phone) to be paid by automatic withdrawal from my checking account. This works much better than CheckFree ever did and I have never had a problem, whereas I did have some problems with CheckFree payments getting posted late. With automatic withdrawal, the companies take the money out on the day the bill is due, so I get the full benefit of the float and never have to worry about late fees.’
☞ Bob Fyfe goes that one better. Instead of having the payment hit his bank account on the due date, he has it hit his credit card – which then gives him another month or more of float. He writes: ‘I auto-charge all of the bills that accept credit cards in order to get the miles, the convenience, and the ‘float.’ The few bills that haven’t been charged to my airline-sponsored Visa (such as the Visa bill itself) I pay using my bank’s on-line bill-paying website.’ If you follow Bob’s lead, just be certain you’re someone who always pays his Visa balance in full within the grace period.
David D’Antonio: ‘You might want to (again) point out what a GREAT deal most credit unions are. Having worked for Digital Equipment Corp (now Compaq, soon to be Hewlett-Compaqard), I have access to the Digital Credit Union which gives me bill-paying services (and a lot more) for free. Very convenient. A good way to be frugal, yet get great service!’
Sreenivas I. Rao: ‘I was as surprised as the other reader of your column at your suggestion of PayTrust. I currently use Patelco, the big credit union, and they pay my bills free. For every bill I pay, using this service I save 34 cents. That is actually equivalent to earning 50 cents, in my tax bracket.’
David Frankel: ‘A note for Adam about going into the vending machine businesses. Not too long ago, the Federal Trade Commission was pretty active in bringing fraud cases against promoters who made highly unrealistic earnings claims to potential investors in such businesses. I’d advise extreme caution. At a minimum, Adam should conduct a search of the FTC‘s web site. While the FTC does not reveal the names of people or firms under investigation, he can read about past cases to see if the facts are similar to what he’s hearing now.’