Report: Americans Anxious About Bills; Almost Half Pay Late

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Six out of every 10 Americans are anxious about their bills, and almost half (46 percent) pay them late, according to a report by the Aite Group that is sponsored by ACI Worldwide and Visa.

The report, titled “U.S. Consumer Payments Experience: A Blueprint for Creating Positive Behaviors,” asked 2,425 customers about their bill-paying experiences.

The survey showed that 60 percent of those questioned were anxious about their bills, 46 percent regularly paid late and 39 percent had to call someone about their accounts.

Although many bill payment services provide recurring payment systems, 61 percent use one-time bill payments. Twenty-three percent of those surveyed pay within the first 30 days, 18 percent pay beyond that and 5 percent never pay on time.

Andrew Sajeski, a business leader at ACI Worldwide, said there are innovative ways to help customers pay and give them more control of the process.

“As we head into the holiday season, where consumer spending is at its peak, these results provide insights into where businesses can make adjustments to improve the bill payment experience,” he said. “For example, text for pay is a tool that isn’t being utilized enough, even though consumers are very willing to use it. In addition, the digitization of customer communication tools can help businesses enhance the customer experience and lower costs relative to conventional communication methods.”

Although the economy is strong, the report said that doesn’t mean many Americans are prepared to pay extra bills in any given month. Of those surveyed, a mere 26 percent said they can handle the extra load of unforeseen bills. Even fewer (17 percent) said they could pay off extra bills with a credit card or loan.

One thing that’s clear from the survey is that many Americans want more control over the bill-paying process. Of the 46 percent that pay late, 82 percent said they would like to be able to either pay in installments or negotiate the amount of money they owe. Also, 62 percent said they’d be more likely to pay if they could do it through a text message.

Bill Dobbins, a senior VP at Visa, said there’s one thing in particular that controls when people pay bills.

“Consumers want more choice and control when it comes to paying bills, given most of them choose to pay bills around their paycheck versus the bill due date,” he pointed out.

The survey backs this up. Only 13 percent of Americans said they pay their bills around a due date, while 35 percent said they plan around their paycheck. However, 89 percent said they indeed employ a strategy to paying bills.