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Staff (Retired)
Staying Green, and in the Black with CheckFree

Do you pay your bills online? I do, and I love the fact that it’s now my computer, not me, keeping up with when the credit card bill is due, how much I owe, what I paid last month, etc., etc. Instead of a “bill drawer” stuffed with envelopes containing monthly statements, I now just log on to my Wachovia account to see what’s due when and to schedule an electronic payment. It’s easy, convenient and requires no stamps. And I feel “green” knowing that no trees died to produce our family cell phone bill, formerly a multipage monster.

It never crossed my mind that the credit card company or the gas company might forget to send me a bill. (I should be so lucky, right?) Or that I might be liable for late fees if that happened.

CheckFree, the company that delivers 60.5 million electronic bills every quarter on behalf of hundreds of companies, has recently developed a system to make sure that the bills get delivered on time. Jane Damschroder, Senior Business Analyst in CheckFree’s Electronic Commerce Division, outlined the initiative Monday to participants at the Innovators' Summit in Traverse City, Michigan.

“We’re actually monitoring whether or not that bill has come into your online banking mailbox – a service that the postal service cannot provide,” she explained. And the detection process works proactively – so the missing bill can be found and delivered before it’s overdue.

The system, launched in April to replace manual processes, has received rave reviews from CheckFree’s corporate clients. Here, briefly, is how it works. Using JMP software from SAS, CheckFree creates a billing profile of every company in its client base. Statistical models indicate how many bills Company X should be sending out each day. Significant variation from the expected volume triggers an alert, which CheckFree employees review to determine whether it might indicate a process error by the biller. If so, the biller is notified, the missing bills sent out, and the customer can pay it – on time.

“Billers are extremely happy that CheckFree is being a watchdog for them,” Damschroder said. Electronic billing saves money for billers as well as payers, so companies want to expand their programs. “This is all about getting the consumer to be happy with the service so he signs up for more [electronic] bills and he gets his friends to sign up.”

As for me, I’m sold – and I’m never going back to the “old” way of paying bills. It will never be my favorite thing to do, but at least online payment makes it as painless as possible.

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