Mike the Poolman

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Bank Bill Pay Payments> Issued does not = Received and “cashed”

November 1, 2022

The Bank Bill Pay Hustle

I sent out our Monthly Statements today. Within hours, I was contacted by six SEVEN (another emailed me while typing this!) customers who informed me that the payment they issued had not been applied to their account.
What do all of these customers have in common? They all sent payment via their bank’s Bill Pay service.
Do you know the reason their payment hasn’t been applied to their account? It’s because we didn’t receive a check. We can’t deposit/ cash what we don’t have!

While once rare, this situation has been occurring more and more. Since this summer I’ve seen at least one check per month not show up on time. But, today was ridiculous.

Rather than typing out the same email to multiple people, I thought it would be a good idea to share this info with the world so it’s a documented issue and I can copy and paste when this happens in the future.

How it Works

Image I downloaded off Google to help explain the process

I went to my bank (Wells Fargo) to ask how the bill pay service works and I learned something. Here’s what they told me:
When the customer pushes “Enter/ Send”, the bank debits their account and electronically sends a check to a “General Ledger” account. From the General Ledger account a physical check is printed, put into an envelope and mailed to the payee (us!)
Here’s the catch:
The bank debits the customer’s account before they mail the check. Why? So they can do what banks do, they float money. The money is unavailable to the customer, but the bank still has that money in their possession. And, the money is floated even longer until I receive and physically deposit that check.

But it gets more complicated: when I don’t receive the check, who looks bad? Me! Why, because the customer looks at their bank account and sees that they made the payment AND the money was taken from their account so they assume that I’ve “cashed” that check. I always thought the same thing when I use our Bill Pay! So…. why aren’t I showing a credit on their account? Because I never received the check! Whether the bank is getting careless (hmmmm. kind of suspicious inst it?) or the United States Postmaster is losing the check in the mail…. I can’t deposit what I don’t have.

Confusion

And doesn’t get better: my banker told me that even though the money has left my account, the ONLY way for me to find out if the person I sent the check to has ACTUALLY cashed it is for me to call the bank! I did some research and she’s right! When I log in I can open copies of physical checks I’ve written and that have been cashed but I AM UNABLE TO SEE COPIES OF “BILL PAY” checks! How bogus is that?! And, have you ever tried to phone your bank? What a hassle.

So we have multiple frustrations:

  • The customer who takes pride in paying their bills on time is unhappy because they show up as late from their pool guy
  • We haven’t been paid so we’re unhappy
  • We have to spend extra time on something that isn’t even our doing and is completely out of our control

Hopefully the banks are having a bad run of months and this all ends soon but I can’t help but be suspicious. I just want to do my job and be paid on time!

Be Aware

Just because you issue a payment doesn’t mean the other party has received your money!
While we have empathy for the situation, it is our responsibility to perform a service for our customers. It is the customer’s responsibility to pay on time. If you use a service that can’t get money to your vendor/ payee on time, you should consider paying by another method so you aren’t late.

The Solution

Fortunately there are other alternatives if this becomes a consistent issue:

  • you can always mail a check to us
  • you can use Zelle
  • you can use a credit card (our least preferred because we have to pay 3% of your payment to “receive it”.

I am here for any questions you have,
Mike the Poolman

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