Setting Up Automatic Credit Card & Bank Activity Alerts

I still love getting my bills via snail mail. I avoid online statements because I get over a hundred e-mails a day and it is very easy for me to put it off temporarily and never remember to read the e-mail again. A paper bill will stay on my desk until pay it and I file it away.

However, I essentially got paid $50 to sign up for paperless statements when signing up for the Citi Forward® Card (see my review), so of course I did it. This month, I barely got my payment in on time, and was only 2 days away from being dinged a $30 late fee.

As a result, I’ve been gradually visiting all my financial provider websites and signing up for online alerts, which e-mail or text you when certain criteria are met. For example, with Citibank I can get alerts for:

Credit Cards

  • Current Balance (you choose frequency, up to daily updates)
  • Within $XXX of credit limit
  • Balance exceeds $XXX
  • Payment notification: A payment posted on [xx/xx/xxxx]
  • Minimum payment due on [xx/xx/xxxx]

Banking

  • Balance Alerts (too high or too low… avoid overdrafts!)
  • Deposit Notices alert you whenever funds are credited
  • Bill Payment Alerts inform you when there are insufficient funds in checking
  • Check Alerts notify you whenever checks are presented for payment
  • CD Alerts notify when your CD is about to mature.

For the credit cards, the option is under the “Account Profile” menu as opposed to under “Tools” where I thought it would be. See screenshot.

Some sites like American Express also have an alert that triggers when it is X days before the bill is due, but they still haven’t received payment, which find most useful. Another alternative would be to just set up auto-pay on the card while it was on e-statements. But if you’re like me, I just switched my Forward card back to paper statements after I got my 5,000 ThankYou points. Sorry, trees!

Comments

  1. I like the paper statements for the same reason…it stays in front of me until I pay it and file it. Another reason I need the paper statements is because I handle all the finances and if my husband were faced with paying the bills by himself he would be in big trouble without a paper statement coming in. I have tried many times to get him interested and educated in paying our bills online and transfering money to different accounts, but he has absolutely no interest! He starts yawning and saying “are we done yet” when I am trying to show him how to do it! I have written down all of our screen names and passwords, but I’m sure he still wouldn’t know how to log on to any of our accounts. I don’t like being the only one who knows where our money is, but I can’t seem to be able to do anything about it.

    Some companies are now practically forcing you to go paperless. I logged into AT&T and found out they are now going to charge $1.50 for paper statements. I guess I will start auto paying the bills if I don’t get paper statements. But, I have a reason for not using auto pay…it doesn’t give me an opportunity to contest a charge if there is a mistake. :(

  2. I’m the complete opposite. One of the first things I do with a new credit card account is kill paper statements and sign up (online, if possible) to auto-pay the total balance on the due date. When the emails come in with new statements, I download them to an encrypted volume on my hard drive in case I need to reference them later. I also sign up to receive an email when my payment is received (if the card supports it), so I can verify the auto-pay is working.

    I work hard to keep my inbox clean. Right now, there are zero emails in it. If something needs action, it sits in my inbox until I’ve acted, at which point the email is filed away. If it’s important, I add a star (gmail) when I read it. I try to clean out all starred email nightly. This system works well for me, though I probably only receive 20-30 non-spam emails per day.

  3. I am surprised that you (Jonathan) don’t use auto-payments for your CC’s. My Chase, Citi, Wellsfargo, and Everbanks Credit Cards all get paid in full on the due date automatically (each was setup at the issuer’s website). This allows me to spend on credit cards to earn rewards without ever having to worry about getting hit with a late fee that could offset monthly of rewards.

    Yes, I have to leave a little bit more money in my checking account, but I also get to earn interest on money that I’ve already spent right up to the exact due date without any effort at all. Every paycheck tops off my checking account, and the rest will go to savings.

    My Schwab CC does not seem to have an auto-pay feature, so that is annoying.

  4. Create a seperate folder in your email account. I call mine “pending”. That’s where I put stuff that has to be dealt with. Just don’t forget to check your pending folder.

  5. Rec. t-mobile bill today with notice that $1.50 will be charged for paper bills starting next month. I’m all for going green but to have it forced on you is a bit much to take. Especially since t-mobile has been including slick ads with every bill. Seems they were not so eager to go green when they had ulterior motive. (ie ad revenue)
    I am shopping for new wireless carrier!

  6. I’m completely opposite. I hate paper bill.

    In the past I got 2-3 bills/year that I accidently paid late. Fortunately I could call the credit card companies and got some of the late fees removed.

    In the last 8-9 months I started using mint.com and so far I never paid my bills late.

    Few things that I did:
    - Set up mint.com so that it will alert me few days before the bills due. Mint.com can also alert me if my checking balance is low, if my expenses is higher than usual, etc.

    - All the alerts from mint.com were sent to my gmail account.

    - I quickly glanced my emails (I also receives a lot of emails like you), and everytime I received mint.com alerts, I marked that email with STAR. You can do this with gmail.

    - In the gmail account, I enabled “Multiple Inboxes” feature, and I setup one of the inboxes as “label:starred”. All mails that I marked with STAR will appear on my top right window all the time until I unmark it.

    - After paying the bills, I unmarked mint.com’s alert.

  7. I’m the opposite too. If I get snail mail, it’ll just get buried on my desk. With email, you can flag/star it, or move it into its own folder. But I can understand how it can also get buried in email too.

    My method is to use recurring reminder on a calendar. You can use an online/electronic reminder (Outlook, Yahoo Calendar, Google Calendar, PDA, etc). It’ll remind you until you do it.

  8. I also don’t like auto-pay because that gives permission to companies to take whatever they want out of my checking account. It’s “pull” access. If they make some sort of big/weird error, it’s a lot easier to withhold payment than try to get them to send me a refund. Also, it makes me check the credit card/electricity/cellular bill each month.

    I only like to “push” money from my checking account. I have up to next-day deposit with most of my credit cards and online billpay, so speed isn’t really a concern.

  9. I thought I was the only one that still loved getting paper bills in the mail. I always keep my bills in a seperate place with my checkbook. I know if the paper bill is still there, I still need to pay the bill.

    I have alerts setup for all of my accounts that allow it but I still prefer to have a paper bill mailed to me on my credit accounts.

    For bills such as gas, power and water, I’m ok having an e-bill.

  10. I have to call at least one company per month to get a correction on my bill, or ask a question about a charge. I can’t imagine just ignoring what I’m getting charged by using auto pay. I watch my money (and care about it) too much to let one company or another screw me almost every month. I hate jumping thru hoops just to get my bills straightened out, but it’s better than giving my money away to the big corps.

  11. @Noj

    Just wanted to let you know that the Schwab CC DOES have an autopay feature. The reason you might have missed it is because you have to fill out a paper form (ironic?) and send it to them. The form should’ve came with your welcome package. If it didn’t, you can call to request one.

  12. I hate snail mail. I check my mailbox twice a week – on Wednesdays and Saturdays. Back to the topic at hand – I do sign up for statements right away on all of my accounts, however, I do not sign up for any of the alerts. I find them annoying and there is no guarantee they won’t go to your spam folder. I used to have a reminder for each of my cards in my outlook for the statement dates and on that date I would just go and download the statement and pay it off. I was spending a lot of time doing it (since I have a bunch of CC and bank accounts from AORs). Instead, I now consolidated all of those into three days – the 5th, the 15th, and the 25th of each month. I have a list of CC and bank account that have a statement closing date in previous ten days and sit down and go through all of them once in ten days. Works like a charm :)

  13. Has anyone really ever had a problem with the auto-pay feature on a credit card? (where they took the wrong amount out of your checking account)
    I can see somone’s worry about a bad charge, but I download all transactions via Quicken. I use that as my verification that I have the right charges. Of course, I’ve also never had a bad charge come thru on my cc’s in the past five years since I started using Quicken (knock on wood).
    I’ve also never had a bad “pull” payment go through. I would like to think if you’re dealing with a reputable company there wouldn’t be much to worry about. Having to log into 3-6 websites seems like it would take way too much time. My wife already comments about how much time I spend on here as it is!

  14. i dont know if you every argue late fee charges – i have had 3 or 4 in my lifetime with various CC companies, and have gotten every one waived, including any interest due because my payment was late or missed. just dont make a habit of it i guess.

    i also like electronic bills – i have monthly reminders in my palm that go off the day after the bill should arrive, so i have two things to delete before i forget to pay. so far, so good with this system. oh, and your post reminded me i had a CC bill sitting (only paper one i get at this point) here that needed paid this week.

  15. @ bprice

    dont blame green.
    when companies send out bills, its to advertise with extra junk.

    when they charge you a fee its for financial reasons. the green spin is just PR. the only thing green that impacts paper billing has a president on it.

  16. SavingEverything says:

    I’m on Jonathan’s side. I like getting snail US mail. I like getting my monthly bills and statements too on my desk to sit until I’m ready to pay online before the due date. I also use them as a comparison tool. It’s much quicker to paper sift through old bills or statements to see a trend in prices, spending, rates for credit cards and utilities statements! Can you look at your statement from 8 years ago online? I’m not sure; some only have the past 12 months, others past 3 or 6 years.

    I’m also in the boat that dont like automatic billpay. I feel it’s a lot easier to withhold payment and dispute a charge, then to dispute a charge and try to get them to send me a refund. I also always worry that auto billpay is asking for trouble to cause overdraft, insufficient funds in bank account. Another disadvantage I see is that online statements/bills require more than just a regular US mailbox. It requires me to constantly have 24/7 internet service, a computer, good security, and the time to always having to check accounts regularly online. If i had no computer or interrupted internet service, then I’d feel very insecure if i had to log in to my account using a public Internet cafe or site. Moreover, an e-statement for bank accounts; I feel that’s just waiting for potential fees or unauthorized transactions or bank errors to go unnoticed. I just rather have the nicely layout of the statement or bill in my hand without turning on additional electricity-eating machines (power surge, printer, modem, computer, lcd monitor, and lights).

  17. I have everything in the world set to autopay, although I get paper statements for everything to double check what is going on.

    Was just forced to go paperless for T-mobile. New policy of theirs to charge $1.50 for each paper statement.

    Honestly, an interesting policy by them… $1.50 was just enough to get me to switch to paper statements, but also so little that some people will pay it. They’ll probably end up saving/making money no matter what I do.

  18. Life is so crazy, there is so much credit going that it’s hard to keep track of everything. I set up alerts on all my credit cards whenever bill arrives, purchase of more then 100$ is posted and bill is paid – not into late fees or paying for someones else’s stuff.

  19. Paper????? You’ve got to be kidding man.

  20. I dont use auto-pay either. But I do get electronic statements. I think your best way to make that step is to reduce the amount of emails you get. I get about 2-4 emails and maybe 10-20 spam a day. Even if it means not getting an email each time someone comments on your blog. It’s not like you’re not gonna check your blog just because you don’t get any emails about comments.

    OR you can just get a new email account. I opened an email address at Zoho a couple months ago to use for job search related stuff and have gotten ZERO spam since then (and probably less than 10 emails total, which sadly reflects upon my lack of responses on resumes sent out).

  21. i find it easier to keep 3 emails for various uses, and check them based on their relative importance. one gets checked multiple times a day, one weekly, and the other every few weeks.
    the daily check one has only the most important stuff in it – and only family, friends, and credit cards get that one.
    the weekly gets used for various groups and social things i am involved with.
    the every few weeks gets used for all the various online crap that leads to tons and tons of spam.
    if spam catches up with my daily email (hasn’t over the past 4 years) then i will move the important stuff to a new account.
    its all about staying one step ahead of the junk. i have to wade through very little spam this way.

  22. Jonathan,

    Why not setup an email account that you use for credit card statements only?

    ccbills@mymoneyblog.com

    Send all alerts there and go paperless. Treat it like your desk but without the paper.

  23. I have alerts set up on my mine and I actually like it that way but I know what you mean about the email and not reading it if you don’t do them on the spot.

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