What is online bill pay and how does it work?
August 9, 2022 6 min read
Keeping track of your bills can be a hassle. Remembering due dates for rent, utilities and credit card payments and how to pay each one can be a challenge. And despite your best efforts, sometimes things can slip through the cracks.
The last thing anyone needs is to get a late fee over a simple mistake. Luckily, online bill pay can help you stay organized and pay your bills on time.
But how does online bill pay work and how do you set it up? What are the pros and cons of online bill pay? Keep reading to find out the answers to these questions and more.
- Online bill pay can be a safe and easy way to pay your bills.
- You can set up recurring or automatic payments so your bills are paid on time.
- Keeping enough money in your account to cover online bill pay can help you avoid fees or other penalties.
How does online bill pay work?
Online bill pay can make it easier to electronically manage and pay your bills using online banking.
According to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB), “You use online banking to give your bank the merchant or service provider’s information, and your bank makes the payment according to the amount and schedule you set up.” The agency also says paying bills online may be offered through a financial institution’s mobile application.
Instead of paying each bill on a separate website—or by sending checks through the mail—you can use online bill pay to manage your bills in one place.
If your bank offers it, you can use online bill pay to pay your credit card bills, subscriptions, utility bills and more. And you can set up various notifications, one-time payments, recurring payments or automatic payments so you don’t miss any due dates.
Online bill pay typically has to be linked to a checking account or debit card. That’s because you usually can’t pay off a loan with another line of credit. Keep in mind: Some types of bills—like mortgage and auto loan payments—typically can’t be paid with a credit card at all. And you can’t directly pay off one credit card with another either.
Online bill pay vs. automatic payments
According to the CFPB, automatic payments work differently than recurring online bill pay. When you set up recurring online bill pay, you’re giving permission to your bank or credit union to send the payments to your billers. And when you enroll in automatic payments, you’re allowing the company the bill is from to take payment from your account.
You can set up automatic payments with any business that offers the service. And you may be able to schedule the payments on dates that work best for you.
Automatic payments and recurring online bill pay could help you avoid late or missed payments. And consistent on-time payments can help you avoid late payment fees. Plus, having a history of on-time payments may positively affect your credit scores over time.
You can set up recurring online bill pay and AutoPay—Capital One’s automatic payment service—on your Capital One account.
How to set up online bill pay
Setting up online bill pay could save you time and money in the long run. But how you set up online bill pay might vary by financial institution. It’s usually a simple process that you can complete through your online banking account or mobile banking app.
Typically, you sign into your account, select the bill pay page and follow the steps as prompted. For each bill, you’ll likely need to enter some of the merchant or service provider’s information. So it’s a good idea to have a copy of each bill on hand when you enroll.
You can choose the payment schedule and the amount you want to pay. And you may be able to set up one-time or recurring payments. Once online bill pay is set up, your bank sends scheduled payments to the biller.
If you need help setting up online bill pay, you can contact your bank for guidance.
Online bill pay with Capital One
You can use Capital One online bill pay as an alternative way to make your normal check, automatic debit or cash payments to anyone in the United States.
Here’s how you set up online bill pay with Capital One:
- Sign in to your Capital One account.
- Once you’re logged in to your checking account, select the Pay Bills option.
- Locate the vendor name and follow the steps to set up an online payment.
Keep in mind: If you want to set up online bill pay with Capital One, you need to do so at least four business days before a bill’s due date. And if you set up recurring payments for the same bill through another bank account, you should remove that recurring payment before setting up online bill pay with a new account.
And if you want to set up AutoPay or recurring payments, simply select Payment Options in the Pay Bills section of your account. Then select Setup Recurring or AutoPay and follow the steps.
Why use online bill pay?
Here are some of the benefits of online bill pay:
- Convenience: Online bill pay lets you schedule payments in advance. You can set up one-time payments, recurring payments or automatic payments. Plus, you can pay all of your bills in one place, which may make it easier to stay organized.
- On-time payments: Setting up recurring or automatic payments may help you avoid late or missed payments. And this could help you keep your accounts—and, over time, your credit scores—in good standing.
- Sustainability: Paying your bills online can help eliminate paper waste.
- Security: With online banking, you don’t have to worry about your payments being lost or stolen in the mail. And paying online could protect you from phishing scams or identity theft. That’s because you typically use your bank’s secured website to make online payments.
Online bill pay FAQs
Still want to know more? Here are the answers to some frequently asked questions about online bill pay.
Is online bill pay safe?
Financial institutions typically have many measures in place to protect digital fund transfers like online bill pay. These measures can include password-protected login and file encryption.
The CFPB says online bill pay can also make it easier to stop unintended payments and verify a payment if a biller claims you didn’t pay. But it’s still a good idea to be cautious any time you give out your bank account information.
And if you want to know how Capital One helps you protect your money, you can learn more about Capital One’s fraud and security features.
Are there any disadvantages to online bill pay?
According to the CFPB, there are some potential downsides of online bill pay you should be aware of.
If your account doesn’t have enough money to cover your bills, you could be charged overdraft fees. It’s helpful to keep enough money in your account to cover your bills. And if you set up recurring payments and the bill amount changes, you might end up paying the wrong amount. That could lead to fees or other penalties.
How long does it take for bill pay to go through?
Payments made with online bill pay take time to process, according to the CFPB.
The time it takes to process online payments might depend on your financial institution, the vendor’s processing time and other factors.
The CFPB says that when you schedule a payment with online bill pay, most banks will show you how much time is required to process the payment. The CFPB also states that if your account doesn’t have enough money to cover the payment, it might be delayed.
Online bill pay in a nutshell
Online bill pay can be a great way to stay on top of your bills, schedule payments ahead of time and cut down on paper waste while you’re at it.
If you’re interested in opening an account to use for online bill pay, you can compare Capital One’s checking and savings accounts to find one that’s right for you.