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Paying Bills Online More Secure Than Writing Checks

More people are going online to pay their bills. Consumer Reports weighs the pros and cons of the online payment method.

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Consumer Reports
RALEIGH, N.C. — According to a recent survey, nearly 40 percent of American households now pay at least some bills online. Many claim it can end late payment fees, saves on stamps and the process is easy.

Some use an "aggregator," such as Paytrust and Yahoo Bill Pay. According to Consumer Reports' Greg Daugherty, the aggregator collects your bills and present them to you on its Web site for a fee.

“An aggregator might make sense if you travel a lot and you're not at home when your bills arrive,” Daughertry said. “But we think most people don't need to pay extra for that service."

Another option, according to Consumer Reports, is to go directly to company Web sites that bill you every month. However, Daugherty said using an online bank account is much more convenient.

“An online bank account lets you pay your bills in one place,” Daughtery said. “Most banks offer this service for free."

Consumer Reports said it does take time to get everything set up, so you can expect to spend a couple of hours entering your account information for each bill.  But once you do that, you can type in the amounts manually or you can have your bills go electronically to your bank while you still receive paper copies.

Daugherty said there are drawbacks with paying bills online.

“Just because it's electronic doesn't mean it's instantaneous. It can take anywhere from one to three days for your bill to get paid-- sometimes even more than that."

For those worried that paying bills online may not be secure, Consumer Reports said it is actually more secure than writing a check.

Many banks offer zero-liability policies, which means the banks will replace any money stolen as a result of identity fraud. Consumer Reports warns people to make sure their bank has a zero-liability policy.

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