Burned By Online Banking Bill Pay

Maybe my dad was right — you shouldn’t pay your bills on the computer.

I’ve been paying my bills online for years, first through Wachovia, and now through a local bank that’s been around for 100 years and has a dozen or so branches. I’ve never had a problem: I set the payment amount and date, and the payee gets its money electronically. Seems easy enough — all done with a click or two of the mouse.

In May,  Mr. Saver and I opened our joint checking account, and I took over the family finances, with his blessing. Two months later, I closed my 17-year-old account with Wachovia (counting the years when the bank was First Union and originally First Fidelity). I transferred Mr. Saver’s largest balance to a credit card with a 1.99% interest rate through February, and quickly paid off the balance of the other card. But what we forgot to do was switch his Netflix subscription charge from that one card to one of mine, which has the 1.99% balance on it. So each month, we’ve been getting a bill for the $14.97, which I’ve been paying through the online banking option.

What I noticed with our new, local bank is that there seems to be a delay in the payment-sending process. You set a “first process” date, and then you’re provided with an estimated “arrival” date. Well, this month, I scheduled the payment a week in advance, which is usually more than enough time. But we just got the bill for this credit card, and lo and behold, it said we owed $31.94 and there was a nice little note printed below that:

“Your recent payment was received after your payment due date and will appear on your next statement. As a courtesy, we have waived the late payment fee that resulted from your late payment. Reminder: To avoid a late payment fee, please pay at least the minimum payment due by the payment due date.”

Yikes.

Only a $2 “interest charge” was added to the balance.

I’ve been late with a payment ONCE in my life, due to a move and the creditor not correctly updating its records after I’d called to tell them the new address. I immediately looked at our bill-pay online statement and noticed a telltale notation below the scheduled payment: CHECK. Meaning the bank cut a check instead of sending the payment electronically. Why? I have no idea. All I know is that it delayed the creditor’s receipt of the whopping $14.97 payment.

I immedately had Mr. Saver log into his Netflix account, and we remedied the situation by finally switching the credit card used for billing.

Lesson learned: Always check to make sure your online bill payments go through on time.

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