Is It Ever Still a Good Idea To Mail in a Check To Pay a Bill?

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Many generations grew up sending paper checks in the mail when they needed to make a bill payment. Over the decades, technology has advanced to eliminate many needs associated with mailed checks including the ability to make payments online and utilize automatic bill pay options

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However, the practice is not entirely outdated just yet. Here are a few scenarios where you may need to mail in a paper check and safe mailing practices to follow that provide added protection.

If You Are Paying a Debt Collector

Those making a payment to a debt collector will need to write a check. Jay Zigmont, Ph.D., CFP and founder of Live, Learn, Plan, said you should not allow debt collectors to have electronic access to your bank account. In some cases, a paper check is the only way a debt collector will accept a payment and you want to create a paper trail to reference as needed later on.

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If You Need To Pay a Courtesy Fee

Some electronic payments require an additional courtesy fee. Zigmont uses the example of how paying a fee for using a credit card or an EBT card is common with payments to governmental organizations — and in those cases, you should try to avoid it.

“Some local property taxes may have a 2.5% fee for paying via credit card. In these cases, it’s best to break out your checkbook,” Zigmont said.

If There Isn’t an Online Payment Option

In the rare instance where an online payment option isn’t available for either credit or debit cards, you may need to mail in a check to pay for a bill. There is also the possibility that the company does not offer online bill payments. Generally, this is not a typical scenario but be ready to write a check in the event of this type of occurrence. 

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Some additional scenarios where one might need to mail in a check include paying COBRA and mailing checks to your former employer each month or making rent payments to landlords who do not offer online billing options.

Best Practices for Postal Mail

If you plan to send a physical check through postal mail, it’s a good idea to be extra careful when mailing the check. An increasing number of mailboxes are falling prey to mail theft. Checks stolen from mail collection boxes run the risk of identity theft and even possibly becoming accidental victims in check washing schemes. (In a check washing scheme, the signature remains on the check but the rest of the ink is removed and rewritten and later cashed.)

The best practice for safely submitting paper checks through postal mail is to take the mail inside a local United States Postal Service office. Drop it off through the mail slot provided or meet with an attendant to directly hand deliver the mail. When possible, ask if you may receive a receipt with the date you mailed the check on it.

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The Benefits of Online Pay

While there are some scenarios where it makes sense to pay with a physical check, the best method for paying bills is still online pay. 

Paying online, especially when using automatic bill payment options, means your bills are paid on time and through companies where proper security measures are in place to protect your personal information. Keep a few envelopes, stamps and your checkbook handy in the event of an unforeseen circumstance that requires a physical check, but enjoy the peace of mind that comes with the convenience and stress relief afforded by making online payments.

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About the Author

Heather Taylor is a senior finance writer for GOBankingRates. She is also the head writer and brand mascot enthusiast for PopIcon, Advertising Week’s blog dedicated to brand mascots. She has been published on HelloGiggles, Business Insider, The Story Exchange, Brit + Co, Thrive Global, and more media outlets. 

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