Manilla.com Review: The End of Paper Bills?

Most people still elect to receive paper bills, even though almost every vendor is pushing paperless. Why? Personally, my e-mail inbox is so much more cluttered with crap compared to my post office mailbox. It’s very easy for me to forget about a short e-mail saying “you have a bill waiting” with 86 other unread e-mails shouting at me. But then again, I do end up paying the bills online, so perhaps there is a better way? This is where Manilla.com comes in.

Making Paperless Billing Better

All your bills are organized in one central place. You give Manilla your login information*, and they handle the rest. If you need to look up an old bill, you don’t need to open the filing cabinet or reset your password (again) to that archaic water department website designed in 1995. You can just view or print out the .PDF from Manilla. They promise to store your bills for free, forever. I do wish there was a way to download all your stored bills at once, perhaps in a .zip file.

You may find that Manilla may not list some of your local vendors, although you can suggest future account providers for them to add. I couldn’t find my local water utility. You can also add magazine subscriptions, frequent flier mileage programs, and hotel rewards programs.

Easy-to-manage bill reminders. You can request e-mail or text message reminders to 7 days, 3 days, and/or 1 day before the due date. I need these repeated reminders, and it’s nice that they turn off automatically after they see that the bill has been paid.

Autopay? One of the initial annoyances when I tried the service was that it kept reminding me to pay bills that were on AutoPay. I know it hasn’t been paid yet! However, you must simply change a setting that tells them that the bill is set to Autopay which stops those reminders.

Paying bills. If you like to pay bills at the actual vendor website, Manilla tries to make it easier with auto-login using your stored username and passwords. If you’re like me and use your bank’s online billpay interface, then you’ll still have to do that yourself. Most of my bills are on autopay now, so the main benefit is the stored bills for easy access.

How Manilla stays free. Paperless billing saves money for vendors. But people like paper bills. Manilla tries to make paperless billing more palatable for you, and when you sign up for paperless billing then the vendor (i.e. Citibank, Comcast) pays Manilla a little something each money. In turn, the service is free to you.

Quietly signing you up for paperless bills. One thing that should be made clear is that whenever you add a vendor, Manilla will automatically convert you to paperless if it can, whether you like it or not. I would personally like to have both for a while (paper bills and Manilla .pdf). From their FAQ:

When you link accounts that Manilla partners with, those accounts will become paperless automatically. That means you will not receive physical postal mail. Instead, you will receive your bills and statements at Manilla, where they will be instantly organized and stored for you. You can even print a copy. If you’re already paperless, great! You can still use Manilla to keep all of your accounts organized.

In the end, I have been using Manilla for a couple of months now, and my favorite feature is the easy access to past bills. I have signed up all my recurring utility-like bills (cell phone, internet, electric, sewer, garbage, auto insurance) and I expect to keep using Manilla to manage those (most are on AutoPay as well). However, I am keeping my credit card accounts separate because I still like the feel of going over a physical credit card bill and mentally re-approving all my purchases from last month. Does that make me sound old and crotchety? :)

(*Yes, Manilla is yet another private 3rd-party that wants your usernames and passwords. I have trusted a few companies with this personal data of mine, but is this one worth it? Well, Manila is a legit company owned by Hearst Magazines with official agreements with big companies like Citibank and DirecTV, and seems to have all the standard security protocols like SSL. Also, Manilla doesn’t actually handle money transfers, so I am comfortable using it.)

Comments

  1. Stephen says:

    Sounds great but I still woild have an issue with passwords. Smarter companies than Manila have benn hacked

  2. I still have utilities (water) that charge “convenience fees” for paying on line (or was that “convenient fee”???). That is like getting a guaranteed late fee for paying early :-/. If they rebate those, I’m in. DMV car registration is another “convenience fee” user ….

  3. I might have to try this out. Currently, so as not to lose those emails with my statement balance due amongst my emails from family and coupons from stores, I just dedicate a separate email address for dealing with each. It means I manage more than one email account, but they’re instantly filtered and not interfering with each other. (Filtering and tagging has improved, so technically this could all be done in one account, too.)

  4. I agree with you as far as going over a physical credit card bill and matching up the charges.

  5. Could someone please explain how this differs from Mint.com? I haven’t used either and I’m trying to understand the difference. It looks like Mint is more about account balances and budget and Manilla is about bill reminders.

  6. Thad, could that be because of an option to pay with a credit card, or are they charging that fee even if you pay via direct bank transfer? Both utility companies I use (for natural gas and electricity) do exactly the same – charge a fee for paying with a credit card, but not for direct bank transfer or check payment. This is understandable since credit card companies charge them many times the cost of a postal stamp for each transaction.

  7. This looks real cool. I try to search on the web site if they have app or not, but no luck. Do you by chance know if they have mobile app for this ?

  8. Thanks for the review. As are these sites, I have also been working on going completely paperless personally and this site definitely fills a need for me. In my perfect world they would merge with Yodlee so I didn’t have to log in and load all of my account information to multiple sites, but even as a stand-alone, this greatly simplifies the process of logging into 20 different sites to download PDF statements.

  9. Nice concept; but low adaptation. Big players (cell companies; big banks etc) jump in real quick. It’s the tail (local utility companies) that takes a long time. My water company, electricity company are not in there yet. Natural gas, garbage service companies are enrolled.

    Thanks for the review. I hope more utility companies adapt it soon.

  10. Good concept and I would love to go this route, IF we get over our rubber stamp society style of work. To give you an example, recently I was at DMV (NY) and it needed proof of residence. Even now all my bills are electronic so I got a print out from online account. They wouldn’t accept it and want a copy sent to me by mail. Now NONE of my bills are delivered by post. They would not even accept a bank statement with bank’s stamp on it !!!

    At that moment, all I could do was curse at the lawmakers..

  11. Yes, there is a Manilla app for Apple and Android.

    It would be kind of nice if Mint and Manilla merged. Maybe Intuit will buy them someday, although I suppose it shouldn’t be that hard to add the appropriate functionality to Mint if they wanted to.

  12. I was very psyched for manilla.com, but now I feel kind of like I got a bad deal (even though it’s free.) They advertised support for my electric (PEPCO) and gas (Washington Gas) but once I added these accounts they say they store no documents for these particular accounts. I wouldn’t have sacrificed my paper statements if I knew it would result in NO RECORDS for these accounts!

    The gas account doesn’t even offer PDF on their website, so you could say I should have known about that one, but the electric offers PDF and manilla won’t store it! I want my paper statements back!

  13. I know nobody likes big banks anymore, I guess I’ve been mostly OK with them. (hint: I’m not the 1%).

    BoFA has a great bill pay interface, and I think it does the same thing as this site does.

    Now the Bill Pay feature is probably one of several reasons why switching out of BoFA would be difficult but how would this be different from a Bill pay service being offered by your Bank?

  14. Those who use credit card extended warranties know that they need to submit a statement with the purchase on it, but if since then the credit card has been closed – it requires calling and one time the credit card couldn’t find my statement. So having statements together archived is nice.

    Also it would be nice if I can see all the offers I get in the mail from my credit card companies (often attached to the envelope with my Amex) – but while there is a tab for “Offers” & “Coupons” I couldn’t find anything there for any account, had you?

  15. Thanks for the article. I have been thinking about refinancing my house, but wasn’t sure if it would be a good move for me. This article helped clear things up for me, and now I plan to refinance.

  16. Hi there,

    My name is Sarah, and I work at Manilla, where we take your security very seriously. All your account information and documents are protected using bank-level physical security and SSL 128-bit encryption.

    Manilla differs from Mint and Yodlee in a lot of ways. The main difference is that you can manage a lot more of your accounts on Manilla, which has access to more than 1,400 providers, such as Netflix, Groupon, all major cell phone carriers, all of the nation’s largest regional and national banks, most major credit card companies, nearly 200 utility companies and more.

    We do provide documents for several accounts that you link to Manilla. However, if we are unable to provide the documents for an account, we will NOT change that account to paperless and you will continue receiving paper documents from your provider.

    Manilla also differs a lot from bank bill pay in that Manilla is able to provide full account documents (for the accounts that offer them to Manilla), whereas bank bill pay only provides a summary of the account document. Additionally, you can manage more of your accounts on Manilla than you can with bank bill pay.

    I would be happy to answer any other questions about Manilla. Leave a comment here or reach us at any of these places:

    Twitter.com/manilla
    Facebook.com/mymanilla
    http://www.manilla.com/blog
    Email support at support@manilla.com

    Look forward to hearing from you!

    Sarah

  17. Hey Jonathan,

    I know there are a lot of Manilla reviews out there, yours included (a great one by the way), but I felt compelled to write my own.

    Have you run into any other solid reviews that would help people understand what Manilla has to offer and whether it’s right for them?

    If you’re interested, you can see the review I published today at my site, Value of Simple. http://valueofsimple.com/manilla-review/

  18. Hi Sarah,

    Thank you for the clarifications and offer to answer additional questions. It’s been a couple of months, not sure how soon you’ll catch this post, but I had a question I thought might be of interest to other blog readers so I’ll try asking here first.

    A few days ago, I logged into my Fidelity account, and before I could do anything Fidelity made me respond yes or no to a pitch to go paperless, saying I could download not only PDF statements but also prospectuses from their website. I quickly weighed the benefit of getting rid of all that paper mail against the responsibility on my part to download all of these documents myself, and decided to tell Fidelity no for now and see if Manilla covers Fidelity and hopefully even maintains the PDF collection for me.

    After logging in to Manilla, I see the site does connect with Fidelity, but I wonder, is Fidelity one of the sites for which Manilla maintains a collection of PDF statements, and also is there any chance Manilla also maintains for users a collection of prospectuses too? I know if there’s one thing I’d like to stop receiving in the mail and filing, it’s prospectuses – if Manilla does this, I think it could have the potential to draw in a lot of new users.

  19. Hi Dan,

    Thanks for writing in! I am checking with our tech team to see if Manilla supports prospectuses and will get back to you shortly.

    Best,
    Sarah

  20. Hi Dan,

    I’ve checked with our tech team, and unfortunately, under our current document architecture, we are unable to pull these types of documents. However, it’s a great idea and I’ve passed it along to our product team to consider further down the road.

    Let me know if you have any other questions about Manilla.

    Thanks, Dan!

    Sarah

  21. Now that Manilla is closing the service by June 30, anyone know good alternatives? I especially liked how manilla downloads and stores all documents like statements.

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