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How do you pay the bills during extended travel?
Old 08-16-2008, 09:26 AM   #1
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How do you pay the bills during extended travel?

For those who travel or are away from home for an extended period of time, how do you pay your bills while you are away? (I am referring to the regular monthly bills at home, as well as any bills or expenses that you incur while travelling, such as hotel, food, transportation, etc) Obviously if you are away from home for less than 30 days, you can still keep up with the regular monthly bills at home by making sure they are paid up before you leave, and the next month's bills will not become due until you get back. But, if you are gone for several months, how do you pay the monthly bills, like electricity, telephone, water, cable, credit cards, insurance, homeowner's dues, mortgage, yard maintenance, etc.? Obviously I know that you can use online billpay and electronic banking from anywhere with a computer and an internet connection. I also know that regular monthly bills that are the same amount every month (like a mortgage payment or the cable bill) can be set up to be paid automatically every month using online billpayment offered by most banks and credit unions.

How do you handle bills that vary every month, like electricity or water? Are you concerned about accessing your financial accounts from public computers to make bill payments? Do you take a laptop with you? Do you prepay your credit card before you leave so that you don't expect to have a bill before you get back? How many credit cards do you take? How do you access cash? Do you take precautions in case you lose your wallet or purse? Are there special concerns when you are in a foreign country? If you take large amounts of cash with you, how do you secure it? Do you purchase foreign currency before leaving the country? Do you use travellers checks?
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Old 08-16-2008, 09:40 AM   #2
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I have all my utilities automatically billed to my credit card when possible, or taken from my credit union account as a second option. I keep a surplus in my credit union account to make sure that it covers any surprises. At least one of my credit cards allows an option to automatically deduct the full CC payment due from my credit union account prior to the due date. The other credit cards have an option where I can schedule a payment on line, with notifications of amount due via email. I don't write one check a month.

I haven't taken a trip over 3 weeks in a long time, so I'll pass on your other questions.
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Old 08-16-2008, 09:43 AM   #3
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Satellite TV, Phone and Internet is billed to my Visa. Gas, electric, and water are debited to my bank account. Gas, dining, and RV Park fees are charged to my Visa, and I pay these off online every few days with electronic bank transfer. I prefer to use my Visa as much as possible in order to earn airline miles. DW and I just had free round trip airfare to Hawaii in June compliments of my Visa. By the way, we've never paid a dollar in interest to Bank of America for this privilege.
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Old 08-16-2008, 09:43 AM   #4
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Most of our bills are handled with auto-pay, either directly through the biller and our CC/checking account or through Fidelity BillPay with eBill, which receives the bill and pays it on the due date. That includes bills that vary in amounts.

I have 2 CC bills that don't have a way to automatically pay themselves, that's it. I guess I would have to stop using them or pay online if I was away for a long time.
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Old 08-16-2008, 12:06 PM   #5
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Some of our bills are automatically paid by credit card. Some are automatically ebilled and paid through the bank. The rest are set up through the bank. Insurance and income taxes are done through bank withdrawals.

We have our computers, and we have a Verizon aircard for internet access. It works almost everywhere - it's been well over a year since we've been somewhere with no signal.

We use our credit cards for most purchases/payments on the road. Credit card is billed and paid electronically through bank. We bank at Bank of America, so we have access to ATMs in towns all over the country. Don't pull out cash very often - every 3 months perhaps at most.

I manage investments via online and do any fund transfers are needed electronically.

A family member collects and forwards our mail about once a month.

I don't know how we'd handle things if we were overseas, but all this works great when traveling in the USA. You do need to have a computer with you and occasional internet access.

Been doing this for 3 years straight!

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Old 08-16-2008, 12:47 PM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by JustCurious View Post
For those who travel or are away from home for an extended period of time, how do you pay your bills while you are away?
All of our utilities (gas, water, electric, telephone, internet, Dish) are set up for auto-pay with the utility providers. I pay my CC, and car & home-owners premiums online (using my laptop when traveling). Our insurance (health, life, LTC, etc) is set up for 'auto-pay' as well.

Quote:
How do you handle bills that vary every month, like electricity or water?
I set up 'auto-pay' with each of the individual utilities....at their website, and they deduct whatever amount the bill happens to be each month....not a set amount.
Quote:
Are you concerned about accessing your financial accounts from public computers to make bill payments? Do you take a laptop with you?
I NEVER access any of my personal accounts (or anything else that is private or personal or could be put in jeopardy) from a public computer! NEVER! I always take along one of my laptops...either my full-size ACER wide-screen, or my handy little ASUS Eee, and use the hotel's high-speed internet......I'm not into internet cafés at all.

I'm always cautious, but never paranoid, when using my computer and a hotel's internet service....same as when I'm at home. I've never experienced any security problems in my many years trekking about.
Quote:
How many credit cards do you take? How do you access cash? Do you take precautions in case you lose your wallet or purse?
I normally carry 1 or 2 regular CC's and my bank Credit/Debit Card with me. Cash wise I usually take a few hundred bucks with me on trips.....put some in my wallet...some stashed in my laptop case.....some stashed amongst the underwear in my suitcase.....and occasionally (but seldom) I'll wear an 'under the clothes' money belt. I normally use the CC for EVERYTHING possible, and only use cash when I'm unable to use a CC, and therefore I usually return home with almost as much cash as I started out with....even on long trips!
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Old 08-16-2008, 12:58 PM   #7
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The only checks I wrote last year was to the IRS and real estate taxes. Everything else is either on auto pay to a credit card or my checking account. Everything I need to know can be viewed on line.

I get very little mail and don't need to have it forwarded to me.
Get rid of all junk mail by calling up all those who send it to you and ask to be deleted from their mailing list. If you do get junk mail with a reply envelope; send it back, writing on the response card "please delete my address from your mailing list".
Eventually, the junk mail will stop.
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Old 08-16-2008, 01:03 PM   #8
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Everything on Autopilot - as long as the money is there but even all income deposits are also on autopilot. Even Tax returns are paid on line, car registration etc., I only write gift checks for grand kids and some others but I am also getting into gift cards for those charged to the VISA card. Most "important" things like bank/cu statements are on-line also so mail is not a problem either.
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Old 08-16-2008, 11:18 PM   #9
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Originally Posted by JustCurious View Post
How do you handle bills that vary every month, like electricity or water? Are you concerned about accessing your financial accounts from public computers to make bill payments? Do you take a laptop with you? Do you prepay your credit card before you leave so that you don't expect to have a bill before you get back? How many credit cards do you take? How do you access cash? Do you take precautions in case you lose your wallet or purse? Are there special concerns when you are in a foreign country? If you take large amounts of cash with you, how do you secure it? Do you purchase foreign currency before leaving the country? Do you use travellers checks?
In general, I use my bank bill paying service. I have the electric, cable, gas, phone/DSL, property taxes, ...etc. The bills come to the bank electronically and they tell me when it's due when I sign onto my account. All that is, except for the water bill. For some reason, they can't send it to me electronically, so I made arrangements for them to take it out (ACH?) of my checking account. I do have to arrange for a meter reading (which I handle electronically and just add 5k gallons to, since that is the minimum that they charge every 2 months).

I do not access my accounts from public or other peoples computers. I take my laptop with me and arrange for secured high speed internet access.

My credit cards (2 of them) are also handled via bank bill paying service.

I get cash via ATM card. Again from my bank account. The plan is to funnel through 1 bank account for security. I am planning on a back up ATM card also at this time, but have never had the need. It has been no problem from anyplace I have been so far (Taiwan, China, Cambodia, Hong Kong, Japan, UK, France, Portugal, Australia).

So we carry 2 credit cards and 1 atm card currently

I have a copy of all of the credit cards, passports, ...etc. and carry with me in a separate place.

I put my wallet in my front pocket. I bought a small one for this purpose. I can only carry a few cards and it has a money clip for my cash.

If I am traveling with a wad of cash, I have it inside my clothes in a money belt (DW has one too and we split the cash ... just in case, like 9k worth last trip).

We get foreign currency out of an ATM upon arrival at the airport. It only takes a few minutes.

We don't use travelers checks as they cost more to exchange and many places do not take them anymore (hotels always do though).

Safety tip: take your cash and your passports and important documents with you instead of leaving them in your hotel room. If you have a safe in the room, that MAY be ok. Don't trust the 7 dollar lock on your suitcase.

Happy traveling.
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Old 08-17-2008, 11:10 AM   #10
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My first preference is to use automatice billing to my credit card. If that's not available, I use automatic billing/withdrawal on my checking account.

At present, the only "regular" bill that I pay is my credit card.

I've been doing this for years (I can't remember exactly when I started) and so far, it has worked out very well.
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Old 08-17-2008, 04:16 PM   #11
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I've not been on a really long trip, but can give some pointers.

1. Is it possible to have a reliable person manage some of your affairs? There will often be unexpected bills, or bills that must be paid by check. For example, my lawn guy only takes checks; he doesn't do EFT (although I admit I've never asked.)

2. Many, if not most, recurring bills can be EFT your checking or credit account, as already noted.

3. Internet access: wise to be careful, but paranoia depends on the usage. I'd be wary with bill pay services and only use my own laptop. On the other hand, I can and sometimes do, check my checking account and could even my brokerage account, when traveling. Even in the unlikely case a hacker gets my info, the absolute worst he could do in each case would be to make unauthorized movements of cash -- to only my other accounts! It'd screw things up, sure, but he wouldn't get any money into his accounts.

3. Consider carrying multiple debit (ATM) cards. I often use a savings-account-only debit card. This works internationally (at least Mexico), and has the benefit of being a pin-only card. Lose it, and without the pin it's worthless, unlike a Visa or MasterCard branded debit card.

4. You should carry some cash. There are plenty of times that atms are not available. Cashing traveler's checks is a pain in the ass (at least in Mexico). Carry your valuables in at least two other places. Carry back-up ID. My preference: leave a little bit of cash, your old passport (or driver license), and traveler's checks and savings-account debit card in your luggage. These are your fallback system, and not a high-value target to a thief, at least those who have any sense.
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Old 08-17-2008, 04:48 PM   #12
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We do all of the above, plus we carry a laptop these days, including over seas.

For the poster who said that he had 2 CC's that did not allow auto-pay, you can set up your on-line banking to auto-pay a sum that is enough or more than you would expect while away. If it turns out to be less, then you get hit with a month's interest but no late fees.
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Old 08-18-2008, 01:27 PM   #13
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I pay them the same way I pay them when I am home. All of my bills are either auto deduct from my checking account (water, gas, cable, credit cards), or are "pushed" to the payee (mortgage).
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Old 08-18-2008, 05:54 PM   #14
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My parents travel extensively, and although they handle most of their bills online, there are a few stray items like property taxes that come through the mail. In the past, they've actually had all of their US mail forwarded to me (their most responsible kid) and I handle all their snail mail for them. They leave me checks and I notify them by email that I'll be writing a check for $x amount on y date - they make sure through online banking that the amount is covered.

Our system has worked well for a couple years.
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Old 08-19-2008, 04:34 AM   #15
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i have a traveling job. the Hospital chain for which i am working makes me travel a lot. i have this habit of pre-paying my card before traveling anywhere and also i keep money in my Paypal account so it can used anywhere and anytime
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Old 08-19-2008, 06:29 AM   #16
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I left the US on a one year international assignment nine years ago (a few promotions thrown in has left me on indefinitely assigned status)...Back then I couldn't even pay the cc bill online (I do now), but I didn't even know you could pay your electric and water online...My folks have been paying the electric, water, gas, phone, and prop tax bills for us for these past nine years, as we keep our home open for our three or four annual home visits. This is good information to know for the future. Thanks,

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Old 08-28-2008, 01:54 AM   #17
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I am about to leave the USA for probably around 6 months (mostly Thailand). I will take:

* 4 ATM cards drawn on 4 different accounts (1 of them expires while I am away)
* 1 Credit Card
* About $300 in old Traveler's Checks (used only for emergency)
* Maybe $100 in small US bills in case I visit Laos

All my bills have always been on-line although now my only recurring bills are for health insurance, mail forwarding service, wsj.com, and yahoo.com enhanced mail.

When I am traveling, I try to always keep my ATM cards separated. Even when I go jogging, I will take an ATM card in my pocket. My brokerage account puts some money monthly in one of my bank accounts. I keep the most money in my HSBC account which has high interest and an ATM-only card (so if the card is stolen funds cannot be accessed like possibly on a debit card).

My first task when I enter a foreign country is to go to an ATM when I arrive at the airport to get foreign currency. My bag is always locked with a padlock when I am not with it. Some rooms have a lockbox, and I will use it and lock my cards in there if one is provided (and other stuff, too). I would never lock just my cards because forgetting something is a much bigger risk than it getting stolen.

My snail mail goes through a US-based mail forwarder. When mail arrives, I can see who sent me something on-line. I can even have it scanned if I am willing to pay for it. Or have it sent to my current location (slow mail or express). But normally it just sits there and I can have it sent to my US location just before I fly back.

One full-time traveler that I know also has a Western Union account -- he can wire himself money in an emergency anywhere. I am leaving instructions with two trusted people on how to wire me money in an emergency (location of nearest western union, basic instructions).

Kramer
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Old 08-28-2008, 02:16 AM   #18
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Oh yeah, I also use the Federal online tax payment system now, too. Signing up for that was easy but it took several weeks, you can't do it at the last minute. The setup information can only be sent to your IRS address of record and it takes awhile to get there.

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Old 08-28-2008, 07:57 AM   #19
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Quote:
Originally Posted by JustCurious View Post
For those who travel or are away from home for an extended period of time, how do you pay your bills while you are away? (I am referring to the regular monthly bills at home, as well as any bills or expenses that you incur while travelling, such as hotel, food, transportation, etc) Obviously if you are away from home for less than 30 days, you can still keep up with the regular monthly bills at home by making sure they are paid up before you leave, and the next month's bills will not become due until you get back. But, if you are gone for several months, how do you pay the monthly bills, like electricity, telephone, water, cable, credit cards, insurance, homeowner's dues, mortgage, yard maintenance, etc.? Obviously I know that you can use online billpay and electronic banking from anywhere with a computer and an internet connection. I also know that regular monthly bills that are the same amount every month (like a mortgage payment or the cable bill) can be set up to be paid automatically every month using online billpayment offered by most banks and credit unions.

How do you handle bills that vary every month, like electricity or water? Are you concerned about accessing your financial accounts from public computers to make bill payments? Do you take a laptop with you? Do you prepay your credit card before you leave so that you don't expect to have a bill before you get back? How many credit cards do you take? How do you access cash? Do you take precautions in case you lose your wallet or purse? Are there special concerns when you are in a foreign country? If you take large amounts of cash with you, how do you secure it? Do you purchase foreign currency before leaving the country? Do you use travellers checks?
ACH (automatic clearing house) debits is what I use. I love it. Sometimes it's called different things, such as "Billpayer 2000". Ask each utility about it, they usually offer some form of it. Basically you give them access to withdraw the due amount from your checking account each month. I've used it for 11 years on every utility, mortgage payment, car payment, and so on with never an issue. The only watch out is the timing of the payments. For example, if you tend to run your checking account "lean", then have half the dollars deducted 1-2 days after your first paycheck of the month is deposited (assuming you are paid 2x/month), and the other half deducted 1-2 days after your second check is deposited.

Automated Clearing House: Definition from Answers.com

Automated Clearing House - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia


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Old 08-28-2008, 09:15 AM   #20
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I love the EFTPS (Electronic Federal Tax Payment System). OK - I don't love actually paying the taxes, but that process makes it about as painless as possible.

You have to be willing to let the IRS have your bank account numbers.

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