How do you pay your bills?

I'm not sure I put this in the right place, but... Many of you are veteran travellers and some of you seem to go for extended periods-how do you pay your bills? Do you feel it's safe to do online banking while you're overseas?

Thanks in advance,
Patty

Posted by Ed
Pensacola
9110 posts

The possibilities are endless:
Have your bank to it.
Have your attorney do it.
Have a friend do it.
Have everything taken out of your checking account automatically.
Have everything put on credit cards and make one call to the cc outfits to pay the bill.
Have everything put on credit cards and have the cc paid automatically.
Call and find out what the balance is and send a check from where ever you are.
Have bills come in all at once and try to be home for a short while when they come in, then head back out.

What's online banking?

Posted by Nancy
Bloomington, IL, USA
8169 posts

I either have mine taken out of my account automatically or just pay them ahead. I rarely access my bank website, but I wouldn't have a concern about doing so over a secure connection., any more than I have a concern about giving credit card info when buying something online over a secure connection.

Posted by Ken
Vernon, Canada
20030 posts

Patty,

I try to minimize banking when travelling, so my usual method is to pre-program bill payments using the online banking system at my Credit Union. I've made a note of the "due date" for all bills that I have to pay on a recurring basis, and use those dates when I'm programming the payments. Of course I also have to schedule deposits to my chequing account, so there will be some funds there to pay bills with.

Posted by Ed
Pensacola
9110 posts

Equally important is figuring out what to do about mail.

The post office will only hold it for thirty days. Having a friend snag it daily is a bit of an imposition.
What we do is have somebody pick it up at some day in the late twenties and, when they junk it in the front door, stick a new yellow card in the mailbox.

Posted by Patty
Steilacoom, WA, USA
464 posts

Thanks for the tips. Our usual overseas trips fall in the 15 day window, but this one will be longer ( but under 30 days). Over the years financial stuff has really changed. The bill paying "windows" have shrunk, the fees have gotten higher and last longer. So, I've had to re-think previous strategies. Ken, I'm going to check out setting up payment dates for bills; I don't know if that an option my bank offers. It will be great if it does.

One of my big questions was how secure wi-fi would be from, say, a hotel lobby or Internet cafe. My 30ish daughter who used to live in Europe said she wouldn't feel comfortable using an unknown network with her banking info.so I'll set everything up before I leave.

Patty

Posted by Susan
Sausalito, California
3612 posts

I pay all my bills (I get eBills) through online banking here and in Europe. I used to pay ahead, but some of our trips are 2-3 months long and that was painful. The first time I paid via online banking in Europe I was struck by how simple and liberating it was.

Posted by Andrea
Sacramento, CA
5542 posts

I pay with the online banking my credit union offers. I already have my recurring payments (mortgage, etc.) set up to pay each month automatically. Our income is directly deposited into our account, which helps.

Posted by Joan
Gettysburg, PA, USA
301 posts

Simply put all your accounts on auto-pay and the charges will be deducted from your checking account on the proper day.
If you use direct deposit, your checking account should be adequately funded.
Have you considered hiring a neighborhood person, student, to take your mail in daily and also check on your house?.
Someone entering your house each day helps to dispel that "no one is home" aspect.
It's also a good plan to assure that if something has gone wrong, a broken pipe or an attempted break-in, this person could deal with it in your absence.

Posted by Laura B
San Francisco
611 posts

Auto-pay !! Utilities, mortgage, and credit cards (either pay-in-full, minimum payment or a set dollar amount each month high enough to cover minimum) can be set up with vendors.
You can have credit cards send email alerts for items above a certain amount and check your email at hotel wi-fi.

Posted by lmkramer85
26 posts

I have been doing "auto-pay" for years even when not traveling. Our monthly retirement goes in and all bills are set up with their respective companies. I get email alerts as to changes in rates so I can adjust the checking account. So far so good. Gives me peace of mind.

Thanks for the mail suggestions.

I use separate checking accounts for household bills and traveling, so when traveling I don't accidentally spend the household money. I've been reading these posts a lot lately as i plan our first trip to Europe and plan on using mostly cash from ATMs except for hotels.

I just learned from my credit union that the Navy credit union's ATMs don't charge high fees when withdrawing.

Laurie

Posted by Susan and Monte
Granite Bay, CA
816 posts

I have some on auto pay and others I prefer to pay myself. I just pre-pay them before I leave so I don't have to be bothered about it while in Europe.

Posted by Frank
Tresana, Highlands Ranch, CO, USA
12041 posts

I am not a big fan of auto pays simply because of the limited control that you have over the payment. However, paying credit cards via the internet through the credit card web site is easy and fairly secure. You need to be able to log into your credit card account. From there you can direct the credit card to make a one time withdrawal from your bank account in any amount that you want. Best if you do this a couple of times before you leave so that you know how it works. If you have been paying that credit card company with a check, then your banking information will already be on file with the credit card company which makes it even easier.

Paying through the credit card company is safer than running through your bank for the payment. If your login and password for your credit card account is taken, the most a theft could do would be to login into your account. Your credit card number is not available on line nor any of your banking information. The most they could do would be to make another payment on your account. We have set up all of our routine expenses - utilities, etc., - to run through a credit card. We can monitor the expenses on the credit card via the internet and make payments as necessary.

Posted by Patty
Steilacoom, WA, USA
464 posts

Thank you all for the tips. We put more expenses on our credit card now to collect all the miles we can, but it does mean being more aware of when the income arrives and the debts are due. We decided against auto-pay, as it gives up control of the actual withdrawal date. Frank, thanks for your suggestion about going through the credit card company (and to check it out ahead) and, Ray, thanks for reminding me that I do have someone at the bank that I could e-mail from overseas rather than actually accessing my account. I'm still waiting to see what my tech support friend from US Bank says about the vulnerability of accessing my account on a hotel wi-fi.

Posted by Frank
Tresana, Highlands Ranch, CO, USA
12041 posts

US Bank is our main bank and it has a pretty robust security system with the picture and the "phrase." Be sure you know the exact answers to your security questions. I would suggest you end each answer with a ? mark or a double //. That is unexpected and adds to the security of your answer. The security questions only pop up when a unrecognized computer is used or if you request a security question each time. So if your login and password were compromised, they would still need to get pass the security question. We have accessed our accounts several times from hotel wifi sites with no problem. I don't make a frequent habit of it but am not concerned when I do.

Posted by Charlie
Honolulu/Seattle, HI/WA, USA
2013 posts

We go to Europe every summer for a month. We pay our few bills each month by check. Before we leave we prepay each bill by an amount larger that we expect the next bill to be. Since we do not use cc's for very many things and have no large bills coming each month, this has always worked for us. We put a hold on our mail via the post office and then go up to get it when we return and are always surprised at the amount of junk mail that still get thru as well as the number of magazines that one of us gets. We do not do any online banking while in Europe. We use a debit card tied to a CU checking account to get local currency once we are in Europe and as we both have direct deposit into the CU, we have plenty of cushion to draw from.

Posted by David
Florence, AL, USA
2459 posts

I write only a couple of checks per month. Everything is sent by my bank's payment system out of my checking account. I transmit payment of my bills from my hotel's Wifi system on a notebook. I get my daughter to open the bills and tell me how much they are.

Posted by Zoe
Toledo, Ohio, US
4383 posts

My trips are several months long, so I use a combination of things.

Some things I pay in advance (utilities which are relatively inexpensive), a couple of bills are set up on auto-pay through my bank. Everything else comes through my email as ebills and I pay them through wifi or hotel internet while I am away. I have never had a problem.

As for snail mail at home, after a disastrous experience with USPS a few years ago, I pay my neighbor's teen to collect mail from the mailbox and put it in a bag until I get back. She can reach me via email if something unusually important shows up.

Posted by Andre L.
Tilburg, Netherlands
2338 posts

Wi-Fi networks might be a problem, but less so than third-party computers like cyber cafes (where they still exist).

.

A good procedure, if you can be bothered with it, is changing passwords for online banking after a trip abroad when you accessed your bank account over less-than-stellar networks.

Posted by leah
3 posts

I've over-paid on some bills (like utilities) to cover the next billing cycle if I know I'll be gone. That works great for me.

Posted by Lo
Tucson
1095 posts

Like many others have said here, I have had my regularly recurring bills paid by auto pay from my checking account or by having them sent to my VISA credit card for many years now. That only leaves the occasional ones, like for a few medical expenses, that might be sent while we are gone. I simply don't worry about them and deal with them when we get back. I figure if it takes them several months to bill Medicare and our supplement, they can wait awhile for me to pay.

A bigger issue for us is the mail. When we went on our first trip for 2 months, we had it boxed up and sent to some friends until we got back. Now we limit our trips to a month primarily because of the USPS's goofy inability to hold mail longer than 30 days. When we had boxes at the post office, it was no problem. We could be gone as long as we wanted. Silly me, I can't see the difference between that and holding it longer than 30 days.

Posted by Lo
Tucson
1095 posts

Thanks, Ed.

However, we live out in the desert. For years there was no one near us that we felt comfortable asking for help, partly because mail is not delivered to our houses but rather to a batch of lockable mail boxes in a central location. Each box holds about 4" of mail. Even though the online mail hold form offers the option of having it all delivered at the end of the hold time, we must pick it up at the branch post office closest to us. That branch is roughly 25 miles away. So the option you describe would work, but there would be more hoops to go through for the person who did it for us.

Fortunately, we now have some neighbors that I would feel comfortable having get the mail out of our locked box (which is right above theirs) at the beginning of our trip and keeping it at their house until we get back. They wouldn't have to come to the house and deal with the alarm to put it inside. Then I could start the 30 days later and time the end of them to our return. I plan to try this for our next trip so that we can be gone longer than 30 days.

I guess the broader point is that whether it's paying bills or dealing with other practical but picky little details of being gone from home for an extended period of time, there's always a way to work things out. It just takes planning and maybe a little creativity.

Posted by Larry
Atlanta, GA, USA
13 posts

George commented above that his home insurance requires him to have someone check on his house every 72 hours. I've never heard of a requirement like that. Maybe it's a Canadian thing? Does anybody else have an insurance policy that requires them to monitor their house periodically?

Posted by Frank
Tresana, Highlands Ranch, CO, USA
12041 posts

I have never seen that requirement or hear of it before but that does not preclude his policy having that requirement. All policies can have small differences. I know that sometimes it is hard to keep insurance on a property that is vacant. Good example is someone who moves out of a house that is for sale. Technically it is vacant and some insurance policies will limit their coverage to 30 days. It is all in the fine print. Most of us are guilty of buying insurance and not reading the fine print.

Posted by dolfinn
18 posts

In 2011 my wife and I went to Europe for 3 months (after spending 3 months in the Western US). We paid all of our bills using autopay (mortgage, utilities, etc) and our Social Security and retirement funds were deposited automatically. Once a week or so we checked our bills and balances and everything went like clockwork.

Posted by Frank II
USA
4519 posts

Here's what I do:

1) Autopay all bills. I get email notice, usually a couple of weeks before due date, of the pending bill. I can then check it to make sure there are no mistakes. I no longer receive paper bills, only e-bills.

2) Use something like Hotspot Shield (free) when using a public wifi network. That, and making sure a secure connection is "https," helps to prevent anyone accessing my computer.

3) I have a private mail box that gets my mail when I'm traveling. They will sort it out, send me an email when I have new mail, and will forward it to me if I want (when I'm traveling domestically.)

Now that I'll be traveling full time, I find these three items invaluable.

Posted by waldrons
3 posts

i'm planning my first extended solo trip and have been wrestling with this. Here's what I think will work for me:
1) Most of my bills are on autopay anyway, but I changed everything possible to autopay. My income is also automatically deposited.
2) I changed most bills to e-billing to reduce the amount of mail that will accumulate
3) I'm paying a friend to collect my mail periodically, open it and email me a photo of anything out of the ordinary (I'm leaving her a list of what to expect).
4) I downloaded HotSpot Shield, a free VPN, and have tested it. It allows me to go online and provides a secure connection even over a public network. (The danger isn't on your bank's side, but in data getting snatched off the wi-fi signal in the Internet cafe or hotel.)
I'll also take some blank checks, in case something comes up where I have to send someone money unexpectedly.
I thought about opening a small checking account with my friend as a co-signer, to allow her to deposit/withdraw money if needed without exposing my main account. Still undecided. I may leave her the amount I'm going to pay her as an emergency fund, and can replace it if needed when I return.

Posted by monteray98
2 posts

My wife and I traveled for 24 days in April 2014 to Ireland, Scotland, London and Paris. We brought a few hundred US dollars but did not exchange any, per RS suggestion. The US dollars were for emergency situations only, i.e. bank strike, bank holiday, etc. We used ATMs in every city with our debit cards. The exchange rate for the local currency is about the best you can get and fees are usually none or very small. At the end of our trip we had some pounds to exchange back to dollars and the rate at a currency exchange company was terrible with an added commission fee. Glad we did not do that too often. Before we left home we contacted all of our credit and debit card companies and let them know the location and dates of our travel. There were no problems with rejected charges during the trip. We paid for most everything with cash on the trip. It was just easier. Large expenses like hotel rooms were paid with a credit card, VISA or Am Ex. All plane, train and tour reservations were made before we left home with credit cards. We set up an alert system with our debit card company so that they sent us our balance every morning on my smart phone. We, therefore, were able to confirm any charges or ATM transactions. It worked great. Having a smart phone was a major advantage. Many apps are available which help with buses, trains, planes, all public transportation and local maps. No need to stand on a street corner with a big old paper map looking like a couple of lost tourists. Also not too safe. Set up a data and voice plan with my phone service carrier. Really didn't use the voice but racked up about $75. worth of data charges when we could not use WiFi. It was well worth it. Used the phone everyday to plan our day and get directions. In Ireland we did a nine day tour so stayed in different hotels. It worked out OK. All pre-paid. On our own in the other cities, we rented flats through VRBO, HomeAway, Trip Advisor, etc. Much cheaper than hotels if you are staying for more than three days in a city. Also had a lot more space and did not need to eat out every meal. Restaurant food is a significant expense particularly in major cities like London and Paris. Hitting a local market and getting breakfast things and other food saved a lot. But, of course, need a refrigerator to do this. Therefore, the need for an apartment. When we used an ATM we hit it for the max 300 pounds or 300 euros to minimize the number of transactions and therefore, the number of extra fees. Worked out OK. We probably averaged 30 to 40 pounds or euros per day for everything just because we did not eat out a lot. Everything included transportation, whatever food, souvenirs, small other expenses. Get an Oyster card in London for public transportation. Carnet (groups of 10 tickets) in Paris worked well. We were in each city for five days. A money belt is an absolute necessity. Don't be paranoid but pick pockets are a very real issue and problem, particularly on public transportation and where there are large tourist crowds. Just secure your valuables and always be aware of your surroundings. Losing your money or passports can put a real damper on what could be a wonderful trip. Just plan well, do your homework and enjoy.

Posted by Colette
Home Sweet Home :-)
480 posts

My regular bills are ebills that come through my bank -- no hard copy. The exceptions are the water bill & medical.

Before I leave on trips, which are no longer than 14 days) I set up future payments online before I leave for bills that I expect to come in. If it is a bill that fluctuates (say an electrical bill) I will add $10 to the last bill I paid. If the entire amount is not used, it becomes a credit against the next month's bill.

My brother or my neighbor picks up my mail for me & anything thrown into the yard such as newspapers or phone books.