In the very hectic lives that we lead, having to pay the monthly bills is a just another chore that sucks up our time. To make it easier, there’s automatic payments — my preferred method of taking care of those monthly bills. But, there are drawbacks, like when I unknowingly overpaid on my cellphone bill for two straight months.
For the months of January and February, I was paying $230 for the family’s mobile phone plan when I should have been paying $180. I hadn’t noticed until I took the time to review my transaction history through Mint.
Having missed bill payment due dates on several occasions, I decided to put my financial life on autopilot. All my bills (cellphone, Internet, gym membership, etc.) are automatically paid with my cash back credit cards, which are automatically paid with my checking account.
Apparently, when my mom renewed her contract for a new phone through an authorized dealer, she was “erroneously” signed up for a high-tier data and texting plan. After receiving an earful from her, the authorized dealer corrected our phone plan and credited the overpayments to the account.
If I hadn’t spotted the extra charges, I would have paid an additional $600 over the course of a year. It also may have been much more difficult to get a refund if the charges went unnoticed for a long period of time.
The ordeal has been the biggest reminder that automatic payments — with all of its conveniences — come with its flaws. It’s nice to not have to worry about the stream of bills that usually come in a staggered fashion, because each bill has a different due date. But, after some time, it’s easy to become complacent to this “set it and forget it” approach.
Many other consumers may cite my experience as a reason for not using automatic payments and instead resort to the online bill pay services offered through their banks. Others simply do not want to give billers the ability to charge whatever they want.
While those are valid concerns, I’m still a major proponent of automatic payments. The convenience and the cash back I earn are just too good to pass up.
To avoid future instances of bill payment oversight, I’ve made it a habit to check bill payment amounts through Mint.