Worried About Late Fees? Autopay These 9 Bills to Help Avoid Them

If you have recurring monthly costs, you can save yourself some stress (and avoid potential late fees) by automating your bill payment.
Last updated Jul 22, 2021 | By Lindsay Frankel | Edited By Jess Ullrich
Man paying bills online

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Life gives us a lot to keep track of, from work meetings to playdates to doctor’s appointments. If you’re still manually managing all your bills, consider enrolling in autopay to free up brain space for more important things. As long as you’re budgeting for monthly expenses, not automating your recurring bills could be a money mistake.

Setting up autopay could even help you ease money anxiety. If you forget to pay a bill, you’ll likely incur an unnecessary late fee or interest charges, and possibly a hit to your credit score.

For bills built into your budget already, enrolling in autopay will give you better control over your finances with less overall effort. Here’s why you should consider putting these nine bills on autopay.

Mortgage or rent

The best mortgage lenders generally have a grace period, typically around 15 days after your payment’s due date. So if you forget a bill one month and don’t pay within that time frame, you could incur a late fee between 3-6% of your monthly payment. And if you’re late by more than 30 days, that late payment will show up on your credit report.

Most landlords will charge a late fee as well, typically as a percentage of your monthly rent, though every state has different laws about how much and when landlords can stick you with a late charge. If your state allows, your landlord could charge you the day after rent is due.

If your rent is the same every month or you have a fixed-rate mortgage, setting up autopay could make sense. Your jaw won’t drop when you suddenly realize the first of the month has passed, and you might avoid late fees.

Student loans

If you schedule automatic payment for your federal Direct student loans, you could take advantage of a 0.25% interest rate deduction. Many private lenders offer a lower rate for borrowers enrolled in autopay as well.

Even if you can’t save money by setting up autopay, it can still prevent you from forgetting a payment. Doing so will help you avoid late fees and a potential hit to your credit score.

Credit cards

Credit card payments are likely to change monthly, so you may be nervous about setting up autopay for the full balance in case you need to carry a balance over to the next month. After all, if you don’t have enough money in your checking account to cover your credit card bills, you might get charged an overdraft fee of up to $30. But missing payments could result in credit card late fees and penalty APRs, which could be more expensive than an overdraft fee.

One way to handle this is to set up autopay for the minimum payment every month. That way, you could prevent late fees and avoid overdraft fees as well. And as long as you manually schedule a payment for the remaining balance before the end of the billing period, you shouldn’t be charged interest.

Another option is to ensure you have enough in your checking account to cover your upcoming bills, which can be difficult without the right tools. An app like Simplifi can help by offering insight into what will be left over after you’ve paid your upcoming bills, which could help you make important spending decisions.

Read our Simplifi review for more information.

Simplifi Benefits

  • Free 30 day trial
  • Create a personalized spending plan
  • View upcoming bills and even track recurring bills and subscriptions
  • Voted "Best Budgeting App" by The New York Times

Auto loan

Like student loans, some of the best banks, credit unions, and auto lenders provide a discounted rate for borrowers enrolled in autopay. And even if your lender doesn’t offer a discount, you could potentially avoid late fees by enrolling in autopay. The timing and amount of each late fee will depend on your specific contract and laws in your state.

Defaulting on your auto loan could also lead to repossession. Although most lenders will notify you of missed payments before taking action, some contracts allow the lender to seize the vehicle as soon as the borrower is in default.

Insurance

Because your insurance premium won’t typically change from month to month, it’s a good idea to set up automatic payments. Just remember to reevaluate your budget if your premium increases after policy renewal. Some companies also provide an insurance discount just for enrolling in autopay, so you can even save some money on your bill if you sign up.

Insurance companies might not charge you a late fee if you miss a payment. However, your policy could potentially be terminated following the grace period, which varies by insurer.

Going without insurance protection could destroy your finances. For example, if you let a health insurance policy lapse and you need medical treatment, you might end up paying thousands out of pocket. And if your car insurance policy lapses, you could have your driver’s license suspended if you’re caught driving without coverage.

Day care costs

It’s hard enough to remember to sign permission slips and pick up your kids on time, so give yourself a break and set up automatic payments for your day care expenses, if possible. Every day care center has a different policy, but some will charge you a late fee if you’re even a day late with a payment. Putting this bill on autopay could give you one less thing to worry about.

Utility bills

Putting your utility bills on autopay may or may not make sense for your family. However, if you’re on a budget plan where you pay a consistent amount each month, it’s likely worth automating your payments. Doing so could help you avoid late fees, interest charges, and even shutoffs.

If your utility bill fluctuates, consider whether the degree of change could result in insufficient funds. If it only varies $20 or so from average, you might feel comfortable setting up an automatic payment for the amount due. The right budgeting apps could help you feel more comfortable with putting fluctuating bills on autopay as well.

Cell phone bill

Many cell phone plans have fixed monthly payments, and it might make sense to enroll in autopay if that’s the case for your family. Setting up autopay could help you avoid late fees or losing service. If your cell phone bill fluctuates based on usage, decide whether autopay works with your budget or if you want to handle this bill manually.

Other installment loans

If you’re making payments on a personal loan or any other loan with a fixed monthly payment, consider making your payments automatic, particularly if you’re paying a high interest rate. Installment lenders might not charge a penalty APR, but they could assess a late fee. Although some loans for creditworthy borrowers don’t come with late fees, interest charges could still pile up if you miss payments.

When autopay doesn’t necessarily make sense

If you have bills that change monthly or services you don’t plan to keep for an extended period, it could make more sense to pay these manually. That way, you won’t end up paying the incorrect amount or getting charged for something you aren’t using. For example, you may not want to put your gym membership, summer pool membership, or subscriptions you might cancel on autopay.

If you’re concerned you might already be paying some unnecessary bills, you might want to give Truebill a try. It can help you track your monthly bills, cancel services you’re no longer using, and negotiate rates on services you want to keep. Even though Truebill takes a cut of the savings on bills it successfully negotiates, the company has saved its members $100 million in the past five years.

Read our Truebill review to learn more.

Truebill Benefits

  • Automatically find and cancel subscriptions
  • Slash your monthly phone, cable, and internet bills
  • Save an average of up to $720 a year

The bottom line

Because expected expenses are typically easy to budget for, you could save yourself the stress and potentially negative financial consequences by setting up automatic payments. But remember that a single unexpected expense could throw your budget off if you don’t keep enough money in your savings account.

If you can put your bill payments on autopilot, you might have less to worry about in the day to day. You can use that extra time to plan your next vacation, spend more time with your family, or treat yourself to something new. Financial management gives you the freedom to do more.

Truebill Benefits

  • Automatically find and cancel subscriptions
  • Slash your monthly phone, cable, and internet bills
  • Save an average of up to $720 a year

Author Details

Lindsay Frankel Lindsay Frankel is a Denver-based freelance writer who specializes in credit cards, travel, budgeting/saving, and shopping. She has been featured in several finance publications, including LendingTree. When she's not writing, you can find her enjoying the great outdoors, playing music, or cuddling with her rescue pup.