Paying Bills

There are several ways you can arrange for paying bills. A standing order is useful for regular bills of a fixed amount - such as local authority rates instalments. But for bills which vary in size - such as mortgage repayments - direct debits can be more convenient because the person you're paying debits your account for whatever's due without your having to alter the amount.

Some accounts let you pay bills using a cash machine. Initially, you'll have to give your branch details of who is to be paid and their account number. When you want to pay, you call up the 'screen' for that bill and key in the amount to be paid. You'll usually need to allow up to six working days for the payment to go through.

Home banking lets you pay bills from your armchair - again, initially you'll need to give your bank details of who's to be paid and their account number.

TIP - If you have a bad memory, standing orders and direct debits may suit you better than arrangements where you have to remember to pay.

Keeping track

You'll usually get a statement of your account automatically several times a year. You can get more frequent statements if you ask - normally there's no charge as long as your account is in credit. If you want to keep a closer check on your account, building societies tend to have the edge. Their computer systems mean that your statements are more likely to be up to date and they'll also show you what proportion of your balance is made up of uncleared cheques. Some societies offer free 'mini-statements' showing your last ten or so transactions - you can get these at any branch or through cash machines, in some cases. Banks with new computer systems can usually offer these facilities too.

If you're happy just to keep track of your balance, you should go for a bank or building society with a large cash machine network. Traditionally, the banks have done well on this score, but in autumn 1989 the Link and Matrix networks are due to merge, which will make one of the largest networks.

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Choosing A Current Account

Before you open a current account, decide what your needs are and take time to look for the account with features best suited to your needs.

Why give away interest?

Even if you don't have much money left in your account by the end of the month, your average balance could still be high enough to earn you, say, £40 or £60 interest a year - perhaps more. It's not much but why give it to your bank when both banks and building societies offer interest-earning current accounts?

Unless you're particularly looking for a 'high interest' account ), don't bother shopping... see: Choosing A Current Account

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