Imagine a world where you don't have to write or mail a check, handle paper money or swipe your credit card -- all you have to do is enter some information into a Web site to make a financial transaction. That's the world of electronic payments, and if you haven't discovered the convenience of electronic payments, it's time to get with the e-program.
Whether you're shopping online, paying a bill or using online bill pay through your bank, making an electronic payment is as quick and efficient as a couple of clicks. If you automate your electronic payments, you can also eliminate the "D'oh! I forgot to make my payment" moments in your busy schedule. And as long as you make your electronic payments from a secure server, with a firewall, your privacy should be protected. Plus, you save trees and stamps.
Here are the 10 best banks and online services that offer electronic payment:
1. PayPal: one of the most well-known and used electronic payment systems; used on many sites to accept or send payments for purchases.
2. MyCheckFree.com: popular electronic payment system that allows you to receive your bills directly to your email and pay any billers who are affiliates, including major department stores, clothing chains and even commercial banks.
3. Paytrust: the most comprehensive online bill paying service that allows you to pay any bill electronically, even to billers that don't allow electronic payment; PayTrust receives your bills, scans them, sends you email notification and allows you to access bills online for a year, plus keeps electronic payment records for eight years; but costs at least $5 per month plus 50 cents every time you receive or pay a bill, and is not compatible with Quicken.
4. CCNow: shopping cart electronic payment system that accepts all major credit cards.
5. ProPay: electronic payment system that processes credit cards through the Internet via touch-tone phones; used to make purchases at mobile businesses, trade shows/fairs and taxis.
6. iKobo: electronic payment system that allows you to send and receive money in more than 170 countries.
7. Moneybookers: electronic payment system that allows you to send and receive online payments in real time via email from your credit card or bank account.
8. Authorize.net: electronic payment system, recently acquired by CyberSource Corp., that serves as the electronic payment gateway for businesses from sports, entertainment and gourmet foods to government and religion.
9 and 10: Bank of America and Citibank: the traditional banks that get the best customer-service reviews for electronic payment; both offer free online bill payment and will send paper checks to companies that don't accept electronic payments, plus provide free online transaction records and account transfers.