Bill Payment Problems

uafly1May 5, 2006

I bank with Citibank. I use Bill Payment to pay all my bills. Car, Gas, Electric, Cable, Telephone, Association.

The Car, Electric, Cable and Telephone get paid electronically. The Car is set up to pay for 48 months.

The Electric, Cable and Telephone may vary and I enter those in whenever I get the bill.

I choose to pay the Association fee 2 times a year vs. monthly. I've just have it set at a recurring. This is paid by check

Now to the Gas bill. The one varies consistenly so I enter it in monthly. It's paid by check also.

Back in January, I received a bill for $117. I sent up the bill pay, did not think about it. In February, I received a bill for $243. Including a late fee, because they did not receive my Januray payment. I called Citibank, stopped the check and paid the $243 over the phone for a $4.95 convience fee.

March bill comes, not only do I have a late fee, I also have a insuffienct funds fee. Because of course the check finally showed up and when presented was returned. When I made the credit card payment the lady told me that if the check did show up no problem, but it would showed stopped.

I used Bill Payment for the March Bill. No problem.

Yesterday I received the May Bill. $75.95. Including a late charge and a past due amount. My April Bill Payment has not cleared. Again I call the gas company and try to get an explantation of what in the world is going on.

Now I have a past due balance over 30 days. They report to the credit bureau after 30.

I asked how do I fix this? Make a payment for the $4.95 convience fee and that should make my account current. Wait to see if the bill payment clears.

1st problem, Citibank takes the money the day the bill is due, regardless of when it clears, 2nd they report late activity to the credit bureau.

If I were to just mail a check, it could potential get lost as well and I would still be in the same boat.

Anyone else dealt with a situation like this?

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Have you considered American Express Blue Cash card, or a Discovery card? Instead of having bills auto-debited to your bank account, you can have them auto-debited to your cash-back credit card. Then, pay off your credit card every month to avoid interest charges.

You can use your cash-back credit card to purchase groceries, gas, etc. Using such a card has two advantages. First, the more you use it, the bigger your end-of-year cash-back reward. Second, it reduces the number of entries you have to make in your checking account register. It really helps to cut down the amount of time it takes to balance the checkbook.

    Bookmark   May 5, 2006 at 12:49PM
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I actually use my debit card for everything. It's the Citibank American Advantage card. I pay a $60 annual fee to get 1 mile per $1. That works for me, in the time I've had the card I've earned enough miles for a trip to Boston and a trip to Cancun.
I have the cable and telephone set up for debit card.
The Gas and Electric company charge you to pay by credit card. It's 4.95 for the gas company and I not sure about the electric.
Hence my dilemma. I refuse to pay $60 a year to pay my gas bill, when I should be able to just send a check.

    Bookmark   May 5, 2006 at 2:02PM
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I use online bill pay (through a small local/regional bank) for everything except a few things paid-on-the-spot, like car registration.

Had a similar situation with a magazine subscription. Bill pay submitted a printed check, not an electronic transfer. After a month the check had not cleared and the magazine sent notice of suspended service pending receipt of payment. I contacted the magazine, they suggested waiting a couple more weeks, as payments submitted without an remittance coupon take longer to post (the CORRECT magazine account number was printed prominently on the check). Two more weeks, still no payment posted or cleared. The bank suggested putting a stop-payment on the presumed-missing check (at no cost to me), and resubmitting the payment. I was tired of waiting and wasn't particularly missing the magazine, so I canceled it with them. The payment posted the NEXT day after my cancelation. That triggered the magazine to send a REFUND check, which I knew I was not due because the check would be refused when presented for payment (stop-payment on it). I held the refund check without cashing it. A few weeks later I got a card from the magazine advising the payment had "bounced" and that subscription service is suspended until cleared. So I had to CALL the damn magazine AGAIN to get the situation settled. They said everything is OK from their end, the subscription shows to be canceled, and I can simply destroy the refund check.

Point is that I had properly submitted the online payment, so my bank took responsibility for the mishap in doing a stop-payment at no charge to me.

You need to get in contact with Citibank billpay customer service, outline the time-frame of your events, confirm that you have submitted the online payments correctly (assuming you DO have the correct remittance address and account number on them), and have the bank investigate why your payments are not getting posted properly to the gas company. It could be that you're setting the trigger date for the payment too close to the due date of the bill, considering the payments are being done by the billpay service mailing a printed check .... in which case that may be your responsibility, not the bank's.

By the way, I was previously with Washington Mutual, using their online bill payment service. They also deducted the payments immediately on the trigger date, for both electronic funds transfers and printed checks. The community bank now does not deduct the funds until 1) an electronic transfer actually occurs, or 2) a printed check is cleared through my checking account.

    Bookmark   May 5, 2006 at 4:07PM
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Citibank is the same as Washington Mutual, they take the money on the trigger date.
I had a problem with another company, I bought some furniture on 0% provided I pay a minimum monthly amount.
I set up the bill pay and it was electronic it arrived 1 day before the bill was do, but did not clear until the day after. The company tried to impose a late fee, needless to say 0% or not, I just paid it off.

Citibank is saying that it's not their problem because they sent the payment. They offered to call 3way call the gas company with me to explain they sent the payment. I was on hold yesterday for 1 1/2 hours.

Last time the check did not clear for 8 weeks.
So I will wait.

    Bookmark   May 5, 2006 at 5:59PM
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Will your gas company let you set it up so that THEY automatically deduct the amount from your checking account, instead of having your auto bill pay send them a check? Our electric company charges to pay by credit card, but we can set it up so that they automatically deduct from our checking account for free. Every month we get a bill showing how much will be deducted on the due date, and then on the due date it disappears from the checking account. I don't have to do anything.

    Bookmark   May 5, 2006 at 9:26PM
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When I used WaMu, I believe they had a stated policy guaranteeing the payment would arrive in time IF it was properly scheduled in advance. Is that longer the case? They suggested 5 days as the minimum lead-time, not counting weekends or national holidays.

In regards to your example of the furniture payment triggering out of your account 1 day before due, but not posting at the furniture company side until the day after, yes, that is sometimes the case. YOU have to be aware of how that works, and schedule the payment to trigger EARLIER.

It seems very odd that a check-payment would take EIGHT WEEKS to clear your account. Something is skrewy there. Are you sure you have the correct remittance address and your payee account number? Of course, I had the aforementioned magazine situation. Having your gas company trigger the payment (would be unusual if they don't offer that option -- autopay or ACH or whatever they may call it) sounds like the best option in this case to insure timely payment.

Some people are leery of allowing payment to be triggered by the payee .. but I used that method for several of my grandmother's utilities for many years and never had any trouble. After our bank (I use the same one) changed ownership twice in about three years, I got tired of having to contact the payees to change account info and quit using that method.

    Bookmark   May 6, 2006 at 2:15AM
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If I were you, I'd start sending payment myself. If the bank can't handle this transaction, you're just going to end up w/ late fees and black marks on your credit. I've never had a problem w/ my bills going astray in the mail.

I'd also contact the bank and make a fuss about said black marks and fees--if they're screwing up the bill=pay, there's no way you should be paying the price.

I'd also be looking for a new bank.

One thing I did, back when I was renting from my SIL and wouldn't get the gas bills until they were already late (they remained in her name) was to pay extra whenever I did pay. Say the bill for Jan. was $100. I'd pay $130. This way, when I paid the Feb. bill late, I didn't have a fee since I was starting w/ a credit balance.

Since your recurring payments seem to be going OK, maybe you shd set one up for the gas bill--say $50/month. Then pay whatever's left manually. At least this way you'll be on record w/ the gas company as a steadily-paying customer while you try to get the bank to get its act together.

    Bookmark   May 8, 2006 at 2:53PM
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