Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Tips to Avoid Late Fees and Bill Collectors

I have never been very aware of when certain recurring bills are due. I just pay them as they come in. The problem with that is what if you miss a statement? For instance it gets lost in the mail, or you inadvertently shuffle it in to the discard mail, or the biller mishandles your payment. You probably won't catch the problem until your next statement arrives with penalties, fees and/or threats to cut off services. Unbelievably, this can happen when you are overdue just a single day.

Simple Bill tracking tools
There are many services out there, typically packaged with e-mail programs like Yahoo or Outlook, that will track recurring events and remind you when they are due. These are helpful tools, but can be rather annoying as I already have enough e-mail reminders and pop-ups in my life.

Calendar Bill
I prefer to build a simple calendar in a word document using the table tool. I locate the date for each bill and place the name of the service and the method of payment in the square. “Calendar Bill” resides on my desktop for easy reference. Many of my bills are automatically paid with credit card, but I still want to track and verify that everything is getting paid on time. A couple of the bills, my city water bill and my credit card require interaction on my part. I pay these online using a billpayer service from my bank. I make note of when I sent payment, but I also watch for the transaction to clear my checking or credit card acct before I highlight it as paid.

Bill Dating
Another approach that I used prior to automatic billpayer and electronic fund transfer options was “bill dating”. When I received a billing statement, I would write out the check, stuff it in the envelope and write the due date on the outside of the envelope. After stamping, I would stack the bills on the counter or desktop in order of due dates and mail each one 5-6 days before the due date. This simple routine helped tremendously in reducing bill mishandling problems.

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