Keep Online Bill Payments Secure

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With a new study out by ComScore that says 64% of Web users pay their bills online, it’s a good time to review some tips on bill payments via the Internet.

First the ComScore study, which underscores the pervasiveness of online bill payments in the second decade of the 21st century. Here are some key specifics:

  • About 64% of Internet users told ComScore they now pay at least one of their bills online. That’s up 19% from 2009.
  • Of the 36% of Internet users who don’t use online payments, the most common reason cited was "security concerns."
  • Customer satisfaction with big bank online payment systems declined from 2010 from 2009 — but only slightly (71% to 70%).
  • Credit card online payments fared even worse. Only 60% of online bill payers approve of credit card online payment systems — that’s down from 62% in 2009.
  • For banks, the attraction of key benefits drew more people online. About 67% of survey respondents said that free checking was a big factor in turning to Internet bill payments from banks.

Of course, there are other benefits to paying bills online. The process goes faster, you’re not licking envelopes and hustling out to the mailbox or to the post office to buy stamps. It’s also much easier to see when payments clear with electronic payments. Frequent travelers are especially appreciative of online bill pay. If you schedule your payments online, you’ll never miss a monthly payment when in Seattle or St. Louis on business.

But as the ComScore study says, the drawbacks to online payments — and there aren’t many — usually come down to security. To minimize the potential of having your personal financial data when you’re paying a bill online, try these tips:

Check for SSL. Most bank online systems have a different Web page header — "https" instead of "http." That tells you banks are using ultra-secure secure socket layer (SSL) technology. You may also confirm an SSL-secure site with a “lock” icon or logo displayed on the Web page.

No credit card risks. Only give your bank ID number or credit card info out to trusted, secure bank and credit card company Web sites. Only use the secured pages and never give your card info out via e-mail or by phone.

Keep good records. You can easily track your payments online, and have that information ready to go if there is a dispute — or worse, a security breach. Keep good records in case the worst happens.

It may look like the whole world is turning to online bill payments, but that doesn’t mean you should run with the herd — not unless you secure your personal financial data first.

—For the best rates on loans, bank accounts and credit cards, enter your ZIP code at BankingMyWay.com.

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