Find out How Safe It Is to Pay Bills Online

dad working on a laptop while daughter kisses and hugs him
••• Yellow Dog Productions / Getty Images

Online bill pay is a service that allows you to manage and pay bills electronically. These can be monthly bills, like power bills, car payments or credit card payments, or they can be one-time payments to companies or even individuals. Online bill pay services even 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, or through a mobile app if the bill pay service offers one.

The Safety of Online Bill Pay

Online bill pay 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. Compared to common transactions people take for granted, such as handing a credit card to a waiter at a restaurant, online bill paying is far safer.

This is because online bill pay services encrypt your data to keep it secure and utilize multistep identify verification processes and password protections. 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 Using Online Bill Pay Safely

Keep these tips in mind when selecting and using an online bill pay service:

  • Do not respond to or send any information to any bill pay 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.
  • As a matter of fact, avoid clicking on any email links that appear to be from your bill pay service; instead go directly to the service's website and log in to follow up on any communications or requests. This will help you avoid being scammed by emails designed to look like they're from your service or financial institution, but have links that take you to fake sites that may look exactly like your trusted service but trick you into entering your login information or other sensitive information.
  • Read the privacy or security policy of the bill pay service you're considering. The policy should mention strong data encryption and other measures used to protect you.
  • 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 it if you leave your computer.
  • When using online bill pay services, it's a good idea to 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 pay service 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 can slow you down a bit, but it adds another layer of security.