Question About Bill Payments

I’m always very good about getting my payments in on time (I don’t think I’ve ever had a late payment) but this latest natural gas bill is confusing me. I get my gas through the city and I always write them a check. Historically, they’ve made the deposit on the due date if not a day or two after or sometimes earlier if I sent the check the day after I get the bill. Anyway, since it just has to go to City Hall, I figure it should take no more than two days to get there by mail. So I sent the latest payment on the 29th of June (or possibly the 28th), figuring it would be there by the due date of the 3rd of July. Of course they probably wouldn’t get it processed until at least the 5th, or so I figured. Well, it’s now the 7th, it still hasn’t been deposited, and I’m starting to get a little worried because an $80 deposit is on the line here in a couple months (I wouldn’t get the money back, it’d just be credited to my account, but still, $80 is a month or two worth of gas.) I’m not worried about my credit report because I can’t believe they’d report one late payment. Of course, it’s now past the due date. What I’m wondering is what would happen if I made a payment now online before the check is cashed, assuming the check is already there and the city’s just holding on to it for some reason. Would the computer ding it as a late payment? Should I go down to City Hall on Monday (or Tuesday) and talk with the billing department if I’m still not seeing the check in my online account records? I mean, unless I did something really stupid like forgetting to stamp it or it got stolen out of my mailbox, it really should have been there by the due date.

For one thing, the 4th of July holiday slows everything down. Not just are many offices closed, but many people schedule their vacation time for the 4th*. It wouldn’t hurt any to make a call or visit to check, but I wouldn’t really be too concerned yet.

*I used to work in a vet clinic that also boarded animals. We were encouraged not to take our vacations around popular vacation times because we would be so busy then.

Ever since I got set up to pay my bills on line I’ve never used a check. Why would you? Do you ballance your check book?

I would go and talk to them. I work on such systems and they all have human override processes. A live person standing there can usually get some helps.

BTW, utility, phone, cable and other such bills are only very rarely on any personal credit report at all. The only way they could usually get there is to get sent to a collection agency which takes much more than one late payment usually. Late payments to such companies almost always never appear on credit reports because they don’t transfer data to them. They aren’t creditor companies after all. They are just selling you something and then you pay for it. Credit reports are mainly centered around true credit accounts such as credit cards and mortgages where actual credit was extended.

FWIW, my electric bill is on my credit report (in good standing of course). It’s spotty at best (as in it seems they only report here and there, not every month), but by phone, cable, water etc… have never been.

Actually, I could pay the gas bill online and did once when they didn’t bother to read my meter and gave me a $200 bill (the previous year’s, and previous tenant’s, bill) that I didn’t have the cash for, so I paid that one online with my credit card. I now can pay the electric bill online as well, but that just started in like the last month. Similarly, I can pay my credit card bills online as well, but I normally only pay those online. As for why I don’t pay the utilities online, there’s no real reason. It’s actually slightly to my advantage to pay online with my check card as I get a 0.25% rebate each month on purchases. I just write the checks instead. This is the first time anything like this has come up.

The only other place I routinely write checks these days is at places like Sam’s Club or Costco, where I don’t have the kind of credit card they do take so it’s write a check or use a debit card. As for balancing the books, I use Quicken 2004 for everything. I haven’t balanced a paper book in, well, I think my entire life.

I wouldn’t worry about it at all. If they never recieve you check, you’ll just get a double bill next month and maybe a very small late penalty. It’s not going to affect your deposit in any way. Before I had automatic payments, I would usually pay my bills every three months and it was never even an issue. Utilites are much more forgiving of this type of stuff than credit card companies.

That is very true. I used to pay utility bills when I felt like it when I was single. It never caused a problem. Even in the very off chance that this company does send info to the credit bureaus, their definition of late doesn’t start until the payment is more than 30 days past due and that is usually extended even more by a secret grace period that the company gives everyone. You can pay all of your bills <30 days late every month and it will never affect your credit score although some companies like credit card companies will still punish you on their own.

I guess I wasn’t too clear that I’m not worried about a credit thing. After all, I’ve been told several times already that the only reliable way for something like a utility bill or a phone bill to show up on a credit report is if your account is in arrears and they send it to collections. No, what worries me is having to eat the deposit. After all, $60 bucks is still $60 and that is at least two months worth of gas payments at the rate I use it at this time of year. I could have sworn, but I can’t find it in my documentation, that the deposit would either be applied or be refunded after 13 months of having an account in good standing, which I assumed also meant no late payments.

Ah, I found it in the municipal code. “All deposits required by this division shall at a customer’s request be refunded or applied to the customer’s account after 13 consecutive, prompt monthly payments. Where a deposit has been refunded and the customer is subsequently delinquent for two consecutive months, a new deposit shall be required.” That’s worded rather vaguely.