Everyday Lean: Online Bill Pay
Here’s the latest in the series on Everyday Lean.
I love online bill payment. My bank and the web make it easy to view and pay bills while on the road and eliminates a lot of paper that would otherwise accumulate in my mailbox. I am able to save the expense (minimal) and hassle (sometimes significant) of writing checks and mailing them.
But, a few years ago, I made a mistake that almost made me swear off online bill payment forever. I had received a bill from the cable company, due for something like $106.11. With the bill payment website, I had to enter the amount I wanted to pay. In my haste, I didn’t type the decimal point and clicked “submit”, obviously not noticing my error. Now, I didn’t have $10611 in my checking account! I would have expected the payment to “bounce” and to not go through.
I found out, logging in a few days later to see I had nothing in my checking account. The bank had (I later found out as a “courtesy” to me) paid the full amount to the cable company!!! The bank also charged me $29 for the “courtesy” overdraft protection. Now, long story short, it took many days of phone calls to the bank and the cable company to get a refund expedited so I could get square with the bank.
I decided, rather than swearing off online bill payment, to make a fundamental change to my process. For one, I would be “more careful,” but that isn’t really error proofing. The best I could come up was this:
For each bill, I will only pay WHOLE DOLLAR amounts. If the bill is $106.11, I will round up and enter “107” into the bill payment amount field. Never again will I skip a decimal place and pay the wrong amount. Rounding up costs little, the extra 50 cents, on average, just goes toward the next month’s bill. This method has worked — no disasters like that in over 2.5 years. Now, I recognize I haven’t completed error proofed the process. But that’s the best I have. Does anyone else have a better error proofing method for this process?