What is the Best Way to Pay Your Bills?

With so many bills to pay in order to run a household, let alone any added bills for subscriptions and services, it can be easy for them to just pile up. Furthermore, in the digital age, many receive their bills by email, making it hard to keep track of them in your busy inbox.

However, it is essential to stay on top of our bills to keep our lives running smoothly, as falling behind can lead to debt and can affect your credit rating. In this article, we run through the various methods available for you to pay your bills, and the best methods to make the process as simple and effective as possible. We also address ways that will help make sure you pay your bills on time and the best thing to do when you are struggling to keep up.

How to pay your bills

In order to make it easier for you to pay your bills, most providers offer a range of payment methods that will allow you to choose the most efficient method for you.

Some of the more traditional ways to pay bills are to pay by post or at the post office. These methods are still available, and although not always the fastest or most convenient methods, they are there for those who feel more comfortable using them.

Paying by post means that you can pay your bill by sending a cheque to the address provided by the business. This method will take longer due to the postage time, and the five days that cheques take to process – meaning those hoping to pay by post will have to be more organised.

Paying at the Post Office entails paying your bill at any Post Office using cash or a card. However, this service often comes with an added fee.

Direct Debit is one of the most commonly used methods for paying bills today, and usually the easiest for paying up on time and avoiding any late payment charges. The lack of fees also makes direct debit one of the most cost-effective options.

Paying online or with phone banking offers a method to make a transfer or pay a bill easily through your phone. An internet connection will allow you to transfer money directly from your bank account to the business, or make a transaction via the business’ online payment service. You can also pay a bill by phone call using the number provided by the business. One downside to this method is that it is up to you to remember to pay on time.

A pre-payment meter offers a way to pay directly for your usage, loading up a card at local shops before using it to top up your meter at home. This is one of the most expensive methods to pay for your energy and can be inconvenient when power unexpectedly cuts out.

How to pay on time

When it comes to paying your bills on time, the first step is choosing a payment method to suit you. Out of all the payment methods discussed previously in this article, some make it easier to pay on time than others. Direct debit is not only the cheapest way to pay but also the easiest as the transaction happens automatically. Explore the options that are available and settle for one that you are most comfortable with doing each month. Should any emergency bills arise then you can either dip into any emergency savings you have or look at an emergency loan to cover the unexpected costs.

As bills from different providers pile up, it can be tough to keep track. Try and keep track of them by using handy organisational tools. If you receive paper bills, organise them into a folder, or if you receive digital bills, create a computer file to store them in. Then make a note on your calendar for when each bill needs to be paid.

Read all your bills in order to get to know the rates and charges, making it easier to spot rises and falls in costs, as well as any potential mistakes. Then carefully choose a day for your bill to be due each month, so you can make a note and set reminders.

Compare rates and make sure you aren’t paying too much money, which can affect how quickly to can pay up each month. Make the most of the resources online that compare utility providers, helping you find the most cost-effective options.

Acknowledge when you’re struggling, as when bills begin to get on top of you, they can snowball and become a much bigger problem. When you are struggling to make bill payments, the best thing to do is quickly inform your provider as they may be able to let you make smaller repayments until your financial position improves. Also, remember that debt advice organisations such as The Debt Advice Foundation and Step Change. These organisations are available to inform you about any arrears and help you navigate the situation.

What Are Your Options if Things Go Wrong With Your Pension?

You’ve spent your whole working life putting money into a pension for your retirement, only to discover that your nest-egg might not be everything you’d hoped it would be. If things go wrong with your pension, there are organisations that can help you.

In this guide, we explore your options if things go wrong with your pension.

Your State Pension

If something goes wrong with your State Pension and you wish to make a complaint, your first point of contact is The Pension Service who will respond to you within seven days.

However, if you have a complaint relating to your National Insurance contributions, you will need to contact HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC).

If your complaint is still not satisfactorily resolved, you can go through the relevant tribunal.

If your complaint concerns any other form of pension, you’ll need to direct your enquiry depending on the nature of the issue.

Badly administered pension schemes

If you have a complaint regarding how your pension scheme is being administered or managed, in the first instance, you should contact the pension company through which you joined the scheme. That could be the pension provider or a professional financial advisor.

If you can’t resolve your complaint in that way, you should contact the Pensions Ombudsman who provides a free service that’s aimed at settling this kind of dispute.

Incorrect selling and marketing of pensions

If you think you were given incorrect information about your pension or were wrongly advised at the time you signed up for it, you should pursue your complaint through the pension provider or the financial advisor who sold you the product.

If you’re not satisfied with how your complaint was handled, you should contact the Financial Ombudsman Service (FOS). Common complaints that are dealt with by the FOS include instances where someone was advised that a personal pension plan was their best option when they should actually have joined their workplace pension scheme.

What if your pension provider goes bust?

If the company from which you bought the pension plan goes bust or goes into insolvency, meaning that it cannot pay you the money you’re entitled to, you should contact the Financial Services Compensation Scheme (FSCS).

Occupational pension schemes

If you belong to an occupational pension scheme, your employer must, by law, have a formal complaints procedure. So, if you have a complaint about your workplace pension scheme, your first step should be to consult your HR department on what you need to do.

If the event that your employer is unable to resolve your problem, contact the Pensions Advisory Service. Failing that, take your complaint to the Pensions Ombudsman.

What if your employer goes out of business?

If you belong to an earnings-related, final salary, or other defined benefit pension scheme and your employer goes out of business, there may not be enough money left in its scheme to payout. In these circumstances, you may be able to get help through the Pension Protection Fund (PPF).

Note that the amount of compensation you receive will depend on your circumstances:

  • If you are retired, are already drawing a pension, and are beyond your scheme’s usual retirement age, the PPF will usually continue paying you the same pension you are already receiving.
  • If you took early retirement and you’re currently drawing your pension, you’re entitled to claim 90% of your pension, subject to a yearly “cap.” The amount of the cap is dependent on the date the company went out of business and on your age. Current cap rates are shown on the PPF website.
  • If you haven’t begun drawing your pension when you attain the normal retirement age for your scheme, the PPF will provide 90% of the income you would have been entitled to through your pension, using a cap as outlined above.
  • In every case, your pension will rise in line with inflation for contributions that are made from 5 April 1997, currently subject to a maximum of 2.5%. Any part of your pension that is based on contributions made prior to that date will remain unchanged.

    Complaints about financial advisors

    If your complaint relates to a financial advisor, you should first try to resolve your grievance directly with them. If you are unhappy with your financial advisor’s response, you should escalate your complaint through the Financial Ombudsman Service, who will help you.

    If your grievance relates to money that you lost because of bad advice, but your financial advisor is no longer in business, contact the Financial Services Compensation Scheme for further help and advice.

    In conclusion

    If you have paid into a pension scheme and things have gone wrong, or if your pension was mis-sold to you or you were given bad advice, you may be entitled to compensation. In either case, don’t despair; there are organisations available to you with the systems in place to make sure that you are not out of pocket once you’ve left work.