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As much as I hate paying full price for things, I despise paying late fees even more – especially if I had the money to pay the bill to begin with.
Years ago, Mrs. PWDW and I got into a huge argument over a late fee she had incurred. She opened up a store credit card and completely forgot about it. Since she also opted for paperless billing, we never received a bill in the mail. By the time she remembered it, the due date had already passed and we were charged a late fee.
Determined to make sure it doesn’t happen again, Mrs. PWDW and I sat down to figure out and agree on how to best handle our bills and avoid late fees. I guess what we have been doing is working because we haven’t paid any late fees since.
Here are the things we do to avoid late fees.
1. Automate Payments
Most of the bigger companies allow you to pay your bills online as well as schedule payments.
Try to automate as much of your bill paying as possible. The fewer bills you have to pay manually, the fewer bills you have to worry about making payment.
Of course, the most important thing with automating bill payments is to make sure you have enough money in your checking account to cover the payments.
The other thing to keep in mind, especially when dealing with auto-paying credit cards, is to review the charges to confirm the charges are all legitimate.
2. Maintain a “To-Pay” List
A “to-pay” list is exactly as it sounds. It has a similar concept as a to-do list and can help you keep track of the bills you need to pay.
A good to-pay list contains just the basic details you need to know who needs to get paid and when:
- Account Number
- Billing Cycle
- Payment Due Date
You can use the to-pay list as a checklist every month to make sure you didn’t forget about any bills. As you add or close accounts, make sure you keep your to-pay list updated as well.
There is nothing fancy about a to-pay list, but it works!
3. Set Up Payment Reminders
In addition to a to-pay list, it is also a good idea to add payment due dates to your calendar.
It is actually quite simple to do since we can configure our calendars to repeat the reminders and choose the frequency, whether it is monthly, quarterly, or annually.
For bills where I cannot automate the payments, I have reminders set up to alert me 5 days before the actual due dates so I remember to make the payments.
4. Save Proof of Payment
Maintain a good record of all the payments you have made by keeping track of the payment details such as the payment date, time, and amount.
Also, be sure to save all payment confirmation emails, notifications, and numbers.
In case a company ever charges you a late fee by mistake, you have the evidence you need to dispute the charge.
5. Still Forgot to Pay a Bill? Ask for Forgiveness
Sometimes, despite our best efforts, we all still make mistakes and forget things.
If you forgot to pay one of your bills and got hit with late fees, there is one more thing you can try to do to avoid paying it.
You can try calling the company and ask them to waive the late fee. Explain that it was a terrible mistake and you will pay them immediately. If you have been a customer of theirs for awhile now and have been paying your bills on time and in full, the company, sometimes, is willing to make an exception and give you a break.
Even if you are a new customer, it doesn’t hurt to give it a try. The worst they can do is tell you no.
Do you have any other tips and tricks to avoid late fees?