Dedicated to Deposits: Deals, Data, and Discussion
Featured Savings Rates
Featured Accounts

Automatic Account Debits Not Good For Paying Monthly Bills

Thursday, August 12, 2010 - 9:13 PM
From Clark Howard's August 2nd Show Notes:
Too often, Clark talks to people who have allowed a company to automatically deduct money from their checking or savings account each month. It could be a utility company, a health club, a mortgage lender, a cable provider, a cell provider or any other business.

That business may continue to make monthly Automated Clearing House (ACH) debits from your account once your contract with them ends. Giving authorization to regularly draft an account is an open-ended arrangement, regardless of your contract.

And getting that money back can be a grueling process.

Ken TuminKen Tumin5,473 posts since
Nov 29, 2009
Rep Points: 125,800
1. Thursday, August 12, 2010 - 9:27 PM
I guess I'm old fashion and paronoid. I just don't trust setting up autopay, and still manually pay bills. Takes a little time, but gives me peace of mind.
tightwadtightwad27 posts since
Jun 7, 2010
Rep Points: 856
2. Friday, August 13, 2010 - 10:03 AM
I do use this process. This is one of the reasons why I like to do it from an account I can use soley for that purpose. I keep it so, when the bills are taken out, there is zero in the account, thus minimizing the possibility of wrongful withdrawals (I deposit -- generally a transfer from another account -- to the account in advance of the ACH withdrawal). I've actually been criticized for this practice in another forum posting -- people don't understand security! 

Also, if you want to, you can give a notice to your bank to deny any ACH withdrawals from a specific place. If the bank should fail to deny that withdrawal, the bank also then becomes liable. 

The original poster is right, though. If a wrongful withdrawal is taken out, you might have trouble getting the company to refund. But I note, legally, I have never seen one of these authorizations that does not limit them to taking out no more than a specified amount, typically the amount of the bill owed. So, if they were to take out more than authorized or after you canceled your account with them, they would be acting without authorization and be subject to serious legal liability, and I would think that could include punitive dames which can be substantial. But of course, no one wants to get involved in all the time and trouble of getting a lawyer and going to court. The only point is that you are covered legally; the only issue is what trouble you might have to go to.
me1004me1004374 posts since
Jan 16, 2010
Rep Points: 2,604
3. Friday, August 13, 2010 - 10:58 AM
I don't let anybody lay their hands on my checking account, period. I pay my bills electronically and do so manually or with recurring monthly billpays if the amount is the same every month such as rent/mortgage (one reason why I require a bank having a user-friendly billpay system).

I have one exception where my cell phone bill gets automatically paid by them charging it to one of my credit cards. But there's a layer of security built-in and a degree of separation so to speak since it's a credit card and not a checking account.
darkdreamer4udarkdreamer4u178 posts since
Jun 11, 2010
Rep Points: 638
4. Sunday, August 22, 2010 - 3:38 PM
I have my credit union owned credit card bill deducted from my account. I have done this for over 10 years. I charge everything I can each month for rebates on gas and groceries and prescriptions and do all my smaller purchases with a reward debit card. I have told several of my friends to at least have the minimum amount due on a credit card deducted from an account. We then don't have to worry about a lost bill, lost payment, or if we are visiting our children or in the hospital, and the one us old people all dread the most and that  is forgetfulness.  When you get old a lot of circumstances are beyond our control.
Ally6770Ally6770944 posts since
Jan 16, 2010
Rep Points: 2,748