The tedious tasks of writing out checks for bills and making constant trips to the post office to mail them could soon be a thing of the past, experts say.
More and more Americans - about 30 million households, according to recent findings - are discovering the advantages of paying bills online, where stacks of statements aren't waiting to be filed away in a crowded cabinet, and stamps are nothing more than collectors' items.
Going paperless, however, can mean clicking around on 10 to 15 different creditor Web sites each month to pay individual bills.
To that end, Web sites such as Paytrust.com, an online favorite with consumers and critics alike, provide online bill consolidation - giving you the ability to view, approve, pay and manage all your bills from a single source. Online consolidation services offer plenty of other conveniences:
* Enjoy the flexibility of automatic payments. Many sites provide automatic and recurring bill payments, letting you simplify the payment process without the worry of missed due dates or lost statements.
* Review all bills throughout the year with the click of a mouse. See all the details of your bill just like you do today, thanks to a feature of bill consolidation sites called bill presentment. Smart financial management means keeping an eye on the details in your bill, and online bill presentment lets you do just that on the computer screen. Some services will send you a CD-ROM containing all of your bill records for the past year.
* Pay anyone, using any bank. From the gas company to the neighborhood kid who mows the lawn, this convenient feature, available through sites such as Paytrust.com, lets you pay your bills using multiple bank accounts, giving you the ability to carefully manage your cash flow.
* Simplify your life by reducing clutter. Can't remember every password to each creditor's Web site? Are your old account records divided among several boxes or cabinets? Online consolidation eliminates both problems, thanks to the use of a single password or PIN, and the convenience of one-spot storage for old and current records.
* Preserve privacy and security. Online bill paying protects personal and account information through passwords and data-scrambling technology.