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Should you manage your bills online?

Answered February 5, 2012

Bill management (mp3)

A listener named Tamera writes with this question:

"What do you know about Manilla, a website offering to consolidate all your bills in one place for free. Are there any security concerns that I should be aware of in something like that?"

This question deserves answers on three levels:

First: Is it safe to use as a bill-management site? Probably. Its executive management team is made up of people with legitimate backgrounds in online services, at places like NBC and MTV. More importantly, Manilla is a project of Hearst, the well-established magazine and media company. So there's plenty of reason to think it's a legitimate website.

On the second level is the question of whether bill-consolidation sites are a good idea. The trade-off is between the value you get from having your finances centrally managed and the potential risk to your privacy. Manilla's business model apparently involves getting payments from the companies you pay, since electronic billing saves them lots of money. But just because Manilla is probably safe doesn't mean that every other bill-management site is. It's one thing if you're offered services through an established relationship, like your bank or credit union. But there's plenty of reason to be suspicious of services from just any random website. It would be very easy for crooks to set up a site that looks perfectly legitimate, and that should make you deeply skeptical unless you have specific reason to trust them.

The third level is more personal: Would *I* use a bill-consolidation site of any sort? No. It's simple: I manage all of my bills with a simple spreadsheet. It doesn't take any big investment of time or effort to keep a spreadsheet listing when bills are due and when they've been paid, so I see no reason to add complication to my life by setting up another set of accounts and passwords with yet another website. But your mileage may vary, and you should choose what's most reasonable for you. Just be careful, whenever online accounts and money are involved.