The Case for Automating your Finances

Automating your finances can save you time and money. I’ve heard it before, I’ve said it before, and for the most part, I follow this advice. But I didn’t set up automatic bill payments for my business credit card and it almost came back to bite me.

I just got off the phone with Discover after they called me and sent me an e-mail. “Uh-oh,” I thought when they called. What happened now? And then it occurred to me – I hadn’t seen a Discover Bill since I moved, and I certainly hadn’t made a payment. Sure enough, when I called Discover I found out that my account was over due and I was in danger of having my account suspended. That wouldn’t be a good thing, since my Discover Card is essential for my business.

How Automating Your Finances Saves You Money

I accepted responsibility for the lateness of my payment, but thankfully, Discover was kind enough to waive the late fee since this was my first late payment. They also caught it quickly enough that it wasn’t reported to the credit bureaus, so it won’t affect my credit score. Discover waived the late fee ($30+) and processed my payment over the phone, crisis averted, and a win-win situation for me. Score one for Discover Card’s customer service!

But I am reminded that this could have been avoided. We are responsible for our bills even if we don’t receive the bill on the mail. The banks, credit card companies, and other lenders do their best to ensure you receive your bill, but sometimes the mail system loses a bill, your e-mail might get kicked to a spam folder, you may be on vacation, or like me, you may have relocated. Regardless of why you miss your payment, your are still responsible for it.

Thankfully many companies will waive a late fee if you call and ask. But they may not all waive the late fee, and they won’t do it every month.





The best solution is to automate your payments. Discover offers two ways to automate your payments:

  • Automatically pay the minimum on a set date, or
  • Automatically pay the entire balance on the due date

If you carry a balance on your credit card, then obviously the first option is the best. But I would encourage you to work on paying your balance off entirely so you can avoid finance charges. The first option is also good if you normally pay your entire balance, but want to have a safety net to avoid missing a payment. This would have prevented me from missing my payment.

The second option is great if you always have enough money in your account to pay off the balance and don’t want to deal with logging into your account each month to make the payment. Since I never make a charge unless I have the funds in my account, I will choose the latter option. It simplifies my finances and reduces the amount of work I have to do each month – and it prevents a missed from occurring in the future.

I’m going to have to wait a few weeks to set up the automatic bill payment for my business credit card because I still need to open a new business checking account – the bank that I use for my business accounts doesn’t have a local presence and I need to deposit checks on a regular basis. So I need to get a new business account this week.

Your automatic payment options may vary

Many companies offer automated payment systems, so check with your bank, credit card company, lender, or other businesses you deal with for automatic payment options available to you. My mortgage company offers automatic mortgage payments, and other companies I use offer automatic bill payments, including my cell phone carrier, credit card companies, and a couple others. Unfortunately, not all of my utility companies offer automatic payment at this time (though they do offer online bill pay, which is still very convenient).




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Date published: March 1, 2011.

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Ryan Guina is the founder and editor of this site. He is a writer, small business owner, and entrepreneur. He served over 6 years in the USAF and also writes about money management, small business, and career topics at Cash Money Life. You can also see his profile on Google

Comments

  1. One more way to pay your bill is to have the automatic payments pushed from your bank instead of having Discover pull the payment.

    I use ING bank and I set up a bill pay option in ING that sends a certain amount every week to the credit card. Now I pay my card every week but you can choose to pay twice a month if you wish, it depends on what works for you.

    I do not carry a balance on my card so I never pay interest but I just think that having the control of the bank sending a payment is a little safer than having the credit card pull the payment.

    • Great tip, Lulu! Having your bank send the payment is another fail safe method, especially if you are proactive with paying the rest of your balance. You probably wouldn’t want to have a push and a pull though, otherwise you might pay too much in any given month. :)

  2. I automated as much as possible prior to my first military deployment. I never regretted it, as the one time pain has saved me and my wife countless hours of stress, missed payments, and other financial disruptions.

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