Online bill pay is a service that allows you to manage and pay bills electronically. These can be monthly bills such as power bills, car payments, or credit card payments, or they can be one-time payments to companies or even individuals. Online bill pay services also offer the ability to set up recurring payments to a biller.
The source of funds for online bill payments is usually a checking account, but some bill pay services also work with credit cards. All bills and transactions can be accessed on the bill pay website, and many bill pay services also offer a mobile app.
What Makes Online Bill Paying Safe?
Online bill paying is safe when you choose the right bill payment service. Typically, an online bill pay service that is backed by a bank or a company that provides online banking services will be safe and reliable. Online bill paying is much safer, for example, than handing a credit card to a waiter at a restaurant.
Online bill pay services encrypt your data to keep it secure and use multistep identify verification and password protection. In contrast, a person who handles your credit card during a transaction at a restaurant can easily copy your credit card account information and potentially use it to make unauthorized purchases.
Tips for the Safe Use of Online Bill Pay
Keep these tips in mind when selecting and using an online bill paying service:
- Do not respond to or send any information to any bill paying service that asks for personal or financial information directly through email. Email is a notoriously nonsecure form of communication, and reputable services will never request sensitive personal or financial information through email.
- Do not pay bills from a link in an email. In your web browser, type in the website address yourself to go to the bill pay website directly.
- Avoid clicking on any email links that appear to be from your bill paying service. Instead, go directly to the service's website and log in to follow up on any communications or requests. Some email scams look like they have been sent from your service or financial institution and contain links to copycat sites that may look exactly like your trusted service. You are then tricked into entering your login information or other sensitive information.
- Read the privacy or security policy of the bill paying service you are considering. The policy should mention strong data encryption and other protection measures.
- If a bill pay site offers to save the username or password for your account, bypass the offer. Always enter this information yourself.
- After you pay bills online, log out of your account to prevent anyone from accessing when you leave your computer.
- When using online bill paying services, enable a password lock on your computer at the operating system level.
- Always use firewall software and antivirus software for Windows or Mac.
- Most online banking and bill paying services require you to answer some questions or to verify an image you selected earlier in addition to logging in with your username and password. This may seem like inconvenient and time-consuming, but it adds another layer of security.