CheckFree Web Bill Pay
Fiserv is a major provider of billing and payment services and products., and many of the major banks in the U.S. out source their bill payment service to Fiserv. In December 2007, Fiserv acquired CheckFree.
You find CheckFree Web via a terrible, complex URL, and one that you will definitely want to bookmark if you ever hope to find your way back. The good news is that they send you the URL link in your confirmation email after enrollment. You can tell from this URL that Fiserv is not out actively pushing this service, and prefers to send you to one of their bank customers.
Overview of CheckFree Web
CheckFree Web is a pay-anyone service, so you can make a payment to any biller or any person in the U.S.
CheckFree Web is an e-bill enabled site. For any biller that is part of Fiserv's e-bill distribution system, there is a built-in capability to receive an electronic bill from them.
Payments are made from the checking account that you provide during sign up. Multiple checking accounts can be enabled within the service, and you can instruct CheckFree Web to pay a bill using any of your enabled bank accounts.
Cost of CheckFree Web
CheckFree Web is not a site that CheckFree actively promotes, as they prefer to push you over to one of their banking partner sites instead. If you want to use this service, CheckFree Web charges $12.95 per month and allows up to 35 bill payments per month for that fee. Additional payments will cost $2.95 for each set of 10 payments. There is a free trial period in the first 3 months before they begin charging you. Once charges begin to apply, the monthly CheckFree Web fees will be automatically debited from your checking account.
Enrollment at CheckFree Web
It's a bit interesting what happens next. You are presented with a screen that informs you that the service will now attempt to verify the information provided to ensure that you are really who you say you are. CheckFree Web does this by bouncing your information up against credit reporting agency files, and the result back to you are a series of questions that you have to answer.
In my case, they asked me who I opened a mortgage loan with around March 2006, and gave me a choice of 5 mortgage companies to select from. They also gave me a range of dollar amounts and asked me to tell them what range my monthly payment to the mortgage company fell into.
CheckFree Web does offer the ability to add bank accounts from different financial institutions. This is a feature you won't find with bill payment on banking sites.
Adding Payees at CheckFree Web
When adding a new payee, you are asked whether the payee is:
- A company with an account number
- A company without an account number
If you are trying to setup a person to pay, CheckFree Web asks you for a phone number for that person. Once you enter the payee phone number, a lookup is done that returns the person's name and address, which is a nice trick and good time saver. If you don't know the phone number, you can enter the necessary information manually.
If your payee is a company, you enter the payee name and a similar lookup takes place to try to match what you enter up with the CheckFree Web database. If no match is found all of this can be entered manually.
If the biller is one that offers e-bill, you'll be prompted at the time you setup the biller to enable e-bill services if you desire.
E-bill auto pay options are available in CheckFree Web.
All of your added payees appear on the CheckFree Web Payment Center page, which is the primary page you encounter after logging into the system.
Making a Payment at CheckFree Web
Making a payment is easy in CheckFree Web, and all of the effort takes place on a single screen called the Payment Center.
Payments can be setup to be auto-recurring payments, which is nice for paying things like a mortgage bill or a car payment where the amount of the payment does not vary from month to month. When you setup an auto-recurring payment in CheckFree Web, you tell the system how often to make the payment (weekly, monthly, quarterly, etc.), and how many payments to make.
CheckFree Web allows you to schedule payments up to a year in advance, but the payments can be canceled up until the time that they enter an in-process state.
You have the ability to turn an auto-recurring payment off at any time.
Scheduled and recently completed payments are displayed on the CheckFree Web Payment Center page, which is useful for seeing a quick snapshot of your recent activity.
Because the CheckFree Web service is independent of any particular financial institution, you cannot see real time balance information for the checking accounts that you are using to fund payments.
Payment History at CheckFree Web
Transaction history at CheckFree Web includes past payment transactions and can be filtered to return only transactions that match search criteria that you enter.
Payment history is stored for 180 days (6 months) in the past. You can also view information for scheduled payments up to one year in the future.
There are links on the CheckFree Web history screen that let you view the associated e-bill, and from this screen you can also drill down on the payment status to see when the payment was delivered to the biller.
For any future dated payments that have not yet been processed, you can cancel the scheduled payment from the history screen.
CheckFree Web transaction history can be downloaded and imported into Quicken or Microsoft Money.
Other Features at CheckFree Web
CheckFree Web customer care is email based. If telephone support is offered, it is a well hidden option and not easy to locate a number to call.
Additional authorized users can be added by the account holder. These new users don't get their own login credentials, but they do get access to being able to communicate with customer care about the CheckFree Web account.
Payments made at CheckFree Web are covered by a CheckFree guarantee, which protects the user from fraud over $50 in the event that there was an unauthorized transaction generated against your account. The guarantee also covers you (up to $50) in the event that you incur any late charges due to CheckFree Web not getting your payment to your biller by the payment due date (assuming you scheduled the payment correctly and in time).
Summary of CheckFree Web
CheckFree Web is a powerful service offering from a major, trusted provider in the industry. CheckFree processes more bill payments than any service provider in the U.S., and they have a long track record of security and dependability.
In this day of free bill pay, it's a tough pill to swallow to pay $13 a month, but if it is important to you to be able to pay bills out of checking accounts from more than one bank, CheckFree Web let's you do so.
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