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New online tool revolutionizes bill-paying

Updated: May 3, 2013 12:15PM



The shopping is done, the feasts have finished — and now you’re left to prepare for the bills that will arrive in the New Year. Well, I’m about to show you a bill-paying system that will absolutely change your life — freeing you from mounds of paper and getting you financially organized in a way that never existed before.

The U.S. Postal System estimates that businesses mail nearly 48 billion account notices, statements, offers and bills to their customers every year. Online bill payment cut into the volume of mail, as we’ve all learned to click and pay. But here comes the next step: online bill presentment!

It all starts at Manilla.com — a new, free service that collects and organizes your bills — everything from credit card and mortgage payments, to student loan debt and auto payments. It’s better than scurrying around the Internet to find the companies that already post your bills online at their website. Now all the bills come to you in one place — electronically.

Signing up for Manilla.com marks the end of most paper bills, return envelopes and all those annoying bits of paper stuffed into the bill. Instead, your bills will be presented to you online, in your secure account at Manilla.com, and on your phone with a free Manilla smartphone app.

This is truly the next step in the paperless economy — saving millions of trees, and even more money for both you and the companies who no longer have to pay to send all that paper through the mail. In fact, that’s why the Manilla.com service is free — because the billing companies pay for it, still saving money over sending out paper bills. And they can post important notices like required privacy forms or billing practices online for each customer to read in his or her own account.

No more going to your mailbox or post office box, or risking late payments because you were traveling. Now the bills arrive in your Manilla account, where you can see the exact bill that would have arrived in paper form. You can see the exact details — even more than many billers send in the mail. And you can reach out to contact the biller or dispute a charge, just as if you had received a paper bill.

Manilla will notify you when bills are coming due, so all you have to do is click and pay securely. And if you have several bank accounts (for business and household, for example), you can choose which account to pay from when you are paying your bill.

There’s a handy calendar on your secure home page, showing you regular monthly bills that you receive and the date by which they must be paid. Plus, Manilla will send you reminders by text or e-mail when regular bills are scheduled to arrive — or if you’ve failed to pay a bill on time.

The Manilla.com service started in early 2011 and already has all major banks, credit card issuers, cable companies, department stores, and utility billers available, with the numbers growing monthly.

The venture funding for the company comes from the Hearst Corp., which has made a huge commitment to its success.

No more file folders

Manilla.com is about more than current bill payments; it is about free records storage.

If you save every paid bill for years — as I admit to doing — this new paperless process will be revolutionary. Yes, you might want to look back at yearend to see how much you spent in various categories. And you can do that online, since Manilla securely stores your paid bills for years. In fact, it allows you to search bills faster than going through a stack of rubber-banded envelopes.

It can track all your financial accounts, including credit cards and bank loans. Amazingly, it can even keep track of your travel rewards at various airlines and credit card issuers, so your points or miles never expire worthless! And it tracks expirations dates of all your subscriptions.

Your home page becomes your own searchable file box — dividing accounts into various categories: Household, financial, Subscriptions, Travel & Reward points.

It’s never too late to try something new, so why not start with just one or two companies, perhaps receiving your cable bill and credit card bills at Manilla.com. I’m guessing that you (and I) will expand our usage to many more billers.

No, Manilla.com won’t make your credit card balances go away! But it will make your credit card bills a thing of the past! That’s a step in the right direction. And that’s The Savage Truth.

Terry Savage is the Chicago Sun-Times’ nationally syndicated financial columnist and a registered investment adviser. Post personal finance questions on her blog at TerrySavage.com and blogs.suntimes.com/savage.



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