First, do you want to get your bill in the mail or online? If you live by yourself, check email frequently, and can stay organized, you can save the paperwork and choose to receive bills online (and some providers might reward you for this, since it cuts down on their costs). But some people need the reminder of a physical bill to keep the payment on their mental calendar. If you’re splitting bills with one roommate (or more), meanwhile, it may help to get a paper copy so that all roommates can check the bill.
Each utility provider will have a different level of online service. Some utility companies will allow you to pay online, using a credit card. Some will allow you to pay online but require you to provide a bank account number.
Paying through mail
If you plan on paying your bills by mail, make sure you understand your provider’s regulations about mailed payments. Some utility providers will take a check, but charge a service fee if you want to use a credit card. For those which require a check, plan in advance, since you’ll want to mail the check well before the due date to avoid risking late fees or service shut-offs.
Some service providers will offer the option of debiting your account every month. The advantage to this is that you never have to worry about being late — you don’t even have to think about paying your utility bill. The disadvantage is that if there isn’t enough money in your bank account when the automatic debit gets applied, you could get hit with nasty overdraft fees. If you decide to pay your monthly utility bills automatically, do it to with credit card rather than a bank account.
Paying bills with roommates
If you’re splitting the bill with roommates, there are several strategies you all can use. One is to have each person mail his or her payment separately. This is the fairest, but if one person forgets, you could all end up losing phone service or power. Another is to designate one bill-payer who gets reimbursed. This can work if the bill-payer is responsible every month, and doesn’t end up falling short and resenting the other roommates. Yet a third option is to see if the service provider will automatically bill a fraction of the payment every month to multiple credit cards or accounts. Make sure you agree before any bills come in as to whether you’ll all be splitting the bill equally every month, or adjusting it depending on who uses the utilities more.
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