One advantage of using Bill Pay to send a physical check in addition to not having to pay postage is that your bank account number is not exposed to the payee (or worse, a mail thief). The check is issued by and drawn from the account of the bill pay service provider (in my case, Fiserv).
FWIW, I’m treasurer for two small non-profits. A disadvantage of bank BillPay systems is that they usually send checks in very nondescript envelopes that frequently are mistaken for junk mail and discarded by recipients who are not used to receiving such checks.
When the recipient is a business or well established organization, they usually are familiar with such checks, so they generally do open the envelopes and cash the checks.
When paying individuals, I’ve found a high enough rate of uncashed checks when using BillPay that I’ve switched to using manually written checks delivered in our organizations’ stationery envelopes. When I do that, the checks almost always are cashed.
I’ve found this discussion very interesting. Here in the UK, I pay nearly all my bills - utilities, mortgage, membership subscriptions, magazine subscriptions, credit cards and so on - by what we call direct debit. I give an authority to my bank to allow periodic debits to be made from my account by the other company, which involves supplying that company with my name, account number and sort code (6-digit code identifying the bank and branch) and signature. In theory it’s insecure, in that the company could withdraw huge amounts of money (if I had huge amounts of money); in practice, a request for a larger-than-usual sum provokes my bank into requesting my authorisation.
I make nearly all other payments by obtaining the payee’s account and sort code and transferring the money. I haven’t written a cheque since April 2020, and apart from buying ice-cream from the travelling van, I haven’t paid for anything in cash for a couple of years. We were moving in that direction anyway but covid gave us a huge push.
I’m fascinated that the setup in the US seems to be so much more involved.
Same with my banks, but I can’t remember a time (even during COVID-19) when the check wasn’t deposited by the receiver the day or within a working day or two after it was supposed to arrive, and I always have the checks arrive exactly a week before the due date. Honestly, though, I have only one regular bill that is sent this way these days.
I have an account with BoA (it’s no longer my primary bank) and I looked - they have, in fact, charged me for checks in the past. I always get the basic checks, though I also get the ones with carbon copies so I have a receipt of the check. But I just checked my account, and I can get free basic checks now, but I think only because we are now private banking customers. In fact, I just checked the schedule of fees, and it looks like checks are free only for certain high-level accounts like mine. See https://www.bankofamerica.com/salesservices/deposits/resources/personal-schedule-fees/?request_locale=en_US BofA
Our primary bank does also charge for those checks, but also reimburses me for out-of-network ATM fees, which BofA never did/does.
So, anyway, for me it does save that extra few cents per check.
Yes, this discussion has been sort of mind blowing. I didn’t know anyone still used cheques at all, aside from a relative sending a gift through the post. But the fact that in addition US banks are manually writing cheques to another bank instead of transferring electronically!
And of course you are completely protected by the direct debit guarantee, so if some organisation did debit your account for more than it should, the bank would cover it.
To be clear, US banks absolutely prefer electronic transfers instead of writing paper checks. In general, when banks offer consumers “Bill Pay” services, they will use electronic methods for recipients that are in their electronic databases/networks and only use printed checks for recipients that aren’t.
That said, it is a little annoying that many (most?) US consumer bank accounts do not include support for direct entry of ACH payment info (roughly equivalent to SEPA/SWIFT info) for payees not already in their networks. Some US banks charge will charge extra for that service.
We still use a few…but about 98.64% (remember the Ivory Snow ads?) of our financial transactions are via Apple Watch to our Visa card or direct debit (cable and utilities) to the same card…which we pay off in full each month. The credit union has never made a dime of interest from us for the card…for us it isn’t a credit card but a bill consolidation service. We still do our church contributions by check even though they keep saying we should set up a direct debit but we travel some and want to donate during those travels to whichever local parish we are attending that week…and there are still the odd things where a check is the only thing that will work, like our upcoming choral tour trip to the UK…the choral group director collects the trip fees and writes a single check to the tour organizer and he only wants checks.
I have never heard of a legitimate financial institution asking for a client’s credentials to another financial institution. Sounds and smells like fraud( or the potential for same ) and it would be wise to stay clear of this and NOT give your bank’s credentials to another bank. As others mentioned, ACH transfers via online bill pay are common and ubiquitous. All major and regional banks employ ACH.
Plaid is for real. So real that Visa was going to acquire it until anti-trust regulators objected. But yes, there could be some risk in providing Plaid with your log-in info (which is discussed in a few posts earlier in this thread).
Most importantly, though, it is always a good policy to never do something involving online accounts that makes you feel uncomfortable or suspicious. There certainly is no harm in using the traditional test-deposit-verification method to link accounts between two institutions.
Sorry if my post was the source of this. Let me clarify. US banks will certainly not write a check directly to another US bank. Their bill pay systems, however, will write a check to “Joe Blow,” and mail that check to the address you provide for Joe. How does this happen? When you set Joe up as a payee, your bank will scour its ACH database trying to find out if there is an entity whose RTN and account number they know named “Joe Blow.” They’ll even suggest the closest matches to you in hopes that one of them is the one you want. But if you say “no, none of those are my Joe”, then they are left with no other option than to mail him a check.
This has been my experience too.
I have used PNC Bank’s bill payment service since 2001, first with Quicken and later with Moneydance. I schedule my mortgage payments 6 months in advance, and I’ve never had any bill-payment check clear more than a day or two after the scheduled date, and 98% of the time on the estimated date (occasionally a day early).
Until USAA started losing my insurance payments in October 2020 and every month ever since. It’s infuriating! All my other bill-payment checks clear timely. I send the checks so as to be received 20 days before the due date, but USAA reports that I’m late. I am convinced that they are receiving the checks in a timely fashion, but that they’ve bungled their check-processing and are failing to timely credit my account. Sadly, USAA is unresponsive to the problem. Anyone else?
I’m old school and tend to continue doing things that I KNOW work! So I pay my local bills and credit card statements by personal check but I do have a few subscriptions that I pay by credit card via PayPal. The only time I had a problem was in 2020 & 2021 when I sent in my tax return (via certified return receipt mail) with the included check attached. The IRS cashed the check but 6 months later in both years said they had never received the return! But at least my taxes had been paid on time.
I can report that now my mortgage institution has actually added a manual entry protocol for banking info (routing and account) previously unavailable, which avoids the need for supplying log in credentials for the paying bank.
Also, recently, the mortgage institution changed it’s direct request for the other bank’s login data to opening a login page at the other bank website.
As to a recent poster’s IRS follies
A couple of years ago I watched the tracking thread of USPS delivering my State return to the IRS who proceed to send back toward the State revenue agency, which then USPS re-delivered back to the IRS 500 miles away. I then received my state return back to my residence … mailed to me by the IRS in an outer envelope containing may tax return in a mangle state. but I digress
I found out the Synchrony, I guess in an attempt to be paperless, scans in all checks received and then immediately destroys the paper checks. Then they process them electronically off the scans. So if your check doesn’t go through the way they want it to electronically, your whole payment is bounced and they don’t have a Plan B.
In contrast, for my own clients we run checks through a check reader machine and if the check is unable to go through that, we just bring it to the bank like the old days.
I wonder if USAA is trying to process the check in a way that is not working but they do have a Plan B which just takes longer.
With the availability of ACH, that seems like something created by a bank employee who is clueless, and came up with the least secure option for automated payments, because that was the easiest solution (for them) that they could come up with.
You should write a letter to management and explain to them that their IT department is not staffed with professionals, based on their proposed solution to auto payments.
“They can’t help it. All those [corporate lawyers], they’re all alike. They say they’re working for us, but what they really want is to rule the world!”
Similar in Australia. I have direct debit for my utilities. I also have direct credits. For magazine subscriptions and similar they are regular credit card. I don’t think they have direct debit, but giving a 6 person company in the suburbs of Sydney access to my account doesn’t seem wise, although I expect that the bank has software to identify fraudulent behaviour.
As to cheques, I bought a property 2 years ago and cheques aren’t an option any longer. Instead you have the fun of making direct deposits into the solicitors trust fund, involving several hundreds of thousands of dollars. Process is that solicitor sends e-mail telling amount and bank account. You then ring solicitor to make sure their e-mail hasn’t been hacked, and details are correct. As bank won’t allow this amount using online banking, go to bank, luckily local branch hasn’t been closed yet, bank employee then makes sure that you have verified the details, makes you fill in a form and sign stating that you understand the risk. I really can’t understand why someone hasn’t worked out a system that is safe and easy.