Utility bills cover essential household services such as electricity, sewer, water, trash pickup, phone, internet and gas. The bills can add up — a GOBankingRates study found that 30% of Americans pay $201 to $300 per month in utilities and nearly 12% of respondents pay over $500 per month.
In addition, most utility providers aren’t consolidated, meaning you’ll likely have a multitude of bills — and due dates — to manage each month. If you’re wondering when is the best time to pay utility bills, this guide will explore many of the factors to consider when deciding when, as well as tips on how to simplify the process.
Everything You Need To Know About Utility Bill Due Dates
Utility bills typically have a due date, which is the deadline for payment to avoid late fees or service disconnection. It’s essential to know these due dates to schedule your payments. By paying before the due date, you can avoid late fees and maintain a good payment history with your utility providers.
Due Date vs. Grace Period
You may notice that your utility bill displays both a due date and a grace period.
It’s crucial to understand the difference between the two. The due date is the official deadline for payment, while the grace period is the timeframe you can pay your bill that leads up to your due date. Be sure that you pay your utility bills no later than the due date to avoid late fees, interest charges and potential disconnection.
Utility Billing Cycles
Not all utility companies bill you on the first of each month — some companies bill on a monthly basis, while others bill bi-monthly or even quarterly. Knowing when to expect your bills can help you plan your payments.
Nearly half of Americans struggle to pay their utility bills. It’s essential to get your household budget under control. Once you know when your utility bills are due, examine how the amount fits into your monthly budget. By including utility payments in your budget and setting aside money specifically for them, you can ensure that you always have the necessary funds available when it’s time to pay without incurring late fees or insufficient fund charges from your bank.
Does Your Utility Bill Due Date Align with Your Paycheck Schedule?
Once you know when each utility bill is due, you can forecast whether it aligns with your pay dates so the funds are available when the utility bill is paid. If you receive your salary or income at the beginning or end of the month or every week or two, you can plan to pay your utility bills accordingly.
By synchronizing your bill payments with your income such as direct deposits, you ensure that you have the necessary funds available to cover these expenses without creating financial stress.
Can You Change Your Utility Bill Due Date?
If you find that the bulk of your utility bills are due during a time in the month when your cash flow is tight, you may be able to change some of your utility bills’ due dates to better align with your paychecks, while easing your budget. It’s important to note that not all utility providers offer the flexibility to change due dates and the extent of that flexibility may vary. While the process may vary depending on the utility provider, here are the general steps you can follow to change your utility bill due date:
- Contact your utility provider: The first step is to get in touch with your utility company and speak to a customer service representative to request a billing cycle change. In most cases, you can specify a specific date, such as the 15th or 21st of each month.
- Provide identifying information: Be prepared to provide your account details, such as your account number and personal information, to verify your identity and account ownership.
- Review terms and conditions: It’s crucial to understand any terms and conditions associated with changing your due date. Some providers may require you to commit to the new due date for a specific duration, so make sure you’re comfortable with the terms before proceeding.
- Confirm the change: Once you and the customer service representative have agreed on a new due date and you’re satisfied with the terms, request written confirmation of the change. This could be in the form of an email, letter or a confirmation number. Keep this documentation for your records.
- Update payment method (if necessary): If your change in due date affects your payment method, ensure that your account is updated accordingly. This might involve adjusting your automatic payments (if you have them set up) or changing your bill pay schedule with your bank.
- Pay your last bill on the old due date: In many cases, it may take one or two billing cycles for your due date to change. Continue to make payments according to the old due date until the change is confirmed and effective. This ensures that you don’t miss any payments during the transition.
- Monitor future bills: It’s important to monitor your future utility bills to confirm that the due date change has been implemented correctly. If you encounter any issues or discrepancies, contact your utility provider promptly to resolve them.
Certain utility bills, such as gas, water, cooling or electricity can vary in amount seasonally. It’s essential to adjust your payment strategy to accommodate these fluctuations. For example, you might budget more for heating bills in winter and electric/air conditioning bills in summer.
Some utility companies may offer equal payment plans that estimate your annual utility bill and create a monthly payment plan so you know what to expect to pay each month. This could work if your electric bill is $250 per month in the hottest three months of the year and $50 the rest of the months. Your provider may divide the $1,200 per year you’re expected to pay into $100 per month payments to prevent bill shock.
Types of Utility Bill Payment Options
Utility providers typically provide several methods to make payments. You could always mail a check or set up a bill payment directly from your bank. However, some of the most common ways to pay your utility bills include:
Many utility providers offer auto-pay options, allowing them to automatically deduct the bill amount from your bank account on a specific date each month. Auto-pay can be a convenient way to ensure that your bills are paid on time without manual intervention. You may even receive a small discount from your utility company.
However, many suggest that variable expenses such as utility bills shouldn’t be scheduled as auto pay in case a utility bill is significantly higher than expected. Some utility companies allow you to set a limit to the auto-payment amount. If the utility bill is higher than your limit, the amount won’t deduct from your payment method.
Online, Phone and Mobile Payment Options
Many utility companies provide online and mobile payment options, allowing you to pay your bills from the comfort of your home or on the go. These platforms often offer flexibility in choosing the payment date. By using online or mobile payment methods, you can make payments closer to the due date while ensuring they are received on time.
Credit Card Payments
Most utility companies allow customers to use credit cards for payments. If you need a little extra time to pay your utility bills, using a credit card could help. Some companies charge a small convenience fee to use a credit card, but the nominal charge may be worth it when you consider that if you time your card payment at the right time, you could give yourself as much as another month to pay your card’s statement balance.
The Bottom Line on Utility Bill Payments
The best time to pay your utility bills depends on your financial situation, pay schedule and the due dates specified by your service providers. It’s essential to plan your bill payments to avoid late fees, maintain a good payment and credit history and ensure that your essential services remain uninterrupted.
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