Is It Safe To Use Autopay?

Monthly bills are a pain. Many companies offer an automatic payment, or autopay, option to pay your bill each month. You’re probably getting a lot of requests to sign up to make those payments without ever getting a bill.

This can be a safe and convenient way to pay your recurring bills without needing to write checks, make in-person payments, log in to a website or call a phone number. But make sure you do it in a smart way.

What is autopay?

Autopay is a customer service option provided by many companies with regular charges—monthly or quarterly or annually. Instead of sending you a bill every month, the company automatically charges to a credit card, debit card or bank account. These payments might be for utilities, internet connectivity, loans, online subscriptions, home maintenance services, tuition or insurance. We don’t recommend using autopay when you have an account that fluctuates every month—like a credit card.

Be smart about using autopay

In general, using autopay is considered safe. Follow our guidelines:

  • Explore your autopay options. Choices include whether you can use a credit card or just a bank account, and whether you still wish to receive an online invoice or paper bill in the mail. You may also request notifications through your email or a smartphone app to know your billing date and when your autopay statement goes through. Ask whether the company gives you a discount for not receiving a paper bill or for using autopay.
  • Sign up for autopay with companies you know and trust. You’ll want to only enable automatic payments with companies that you trust. Utility companies, internet providers, online storage and similar businesses may fall into this category.
  • Make sure the company encrypts your personal information. Any reputable company will only ask you for your bank account or credit card information through an encrypted connection and then store it securely. They’ll use your information only to process charges you’ve agreed to in advance.
  • Use secure passwords. Be sure to verify that any website or app where you provide personal information is actually affiliated with the company it claims to represent. If you receive a suspect email, call or text message, it’s best to go to that company’s website directly or give the company a call to avoid the risk of scams.
  • Know your legal protection if there’s an error. You also have legal protections if your autopay amount is incorrect or charges go through that you didn’t authorize. Contact the company that you’re paying and share any issues. If you aren’t satisfied with their response, contact your bank or credit card issuer to dispute the charge. You can also tell your bank or credit card company you don’t want to authorize future automatic payments.

Autopay and your credit rating

Using autopay doesn’t directly affect your credit report. However, paying bills on time is beneficial to your credit score, and using autopay can be a good way to ensure you get payments in on time.

To activate each autopay setup, sign up with your service provider, then make sure your bank account or credit card is ready to actually make the payment. Keep enough money in your bank account, or a big enough credit limit on a credit card, to cover charges. You may want to select a particular account to use for autopay to make this easy.

If you change banks or get a new credit card, remember to update your autopay settings with all users. If you’re not sure of the full list of companies, you can check your bank or credit card statements to see which charges have gone through in recent months.

Sign up for autopay notifications

Just because you’re using autopay doesn’t mean you shouldn’t check your account activity. Sign up for the option to receive an email or text message when your bill is issued and another notification when your automatic payment goes through. These notifications help let you know of any surprise charges. And, of course, you should be able to see all charges on your monthly bank statement.

Companies will generally send you some kind of notification if there is a problem with your autopay. Verify these messages are legitimate by visiting the company website or giving them a call, as scammers will sometimes send fake messages like this.

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