To live without a checking account can be inconvenient and even downright difficult, especially when it comes to paying your bills. But among the reasons people do it are because they're suspicious of big corporations and like costly bank or credit card fees even less. You may have up to four options for paying your bills without a checking account.
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Pay at the Window
Of course, you can take your cash and pay directly at the business to which you owe money. For example, if a utility company has a branch office in your area, you can pay there in person. If you don't have a branch of the utility company in your local area, some banks accept payments and forward them to the proper utility. Some retail stores, such as supermarkets, also take cash payments for utilities and sometimes for major credit card payments. But, typically, they charge a service fee of approximately $2 to $3 or more. It's always a good idea to call ahead to ensure a bank or retail store accepts payments for the bills you want to pay and to ask about fees.
Use Money Orders
Money orders never expire, are available in amounts up to $1,000 each and can be replaced if damaged, lost or stolen, as long as you have your receipt. You can also stop payment on them, if necessary. And they're easy to get. You can purchase money orders for the exact amount of your bill at post offices, convenience stores, major grocery stores and many banks for $1 to $2. You fill out the money order with your name and address and the person or business it's going to, and hand the cash over to the seller of the money order. The person or business you're paying can cash or deposit the money order at their bank.
Prepaid Debit Cards
Prepaid debit cards are reloadable and allow you to spend only up to the amount you predeposit into the account -- a bonus if you're tempted frequently to overspend. The cards are available at convenience stores and major retailers, such as WalMart, as well as tax preparation companies and Western Union. You should research cards before purchasing one. They come with a variety of fees and features that are best to compare. For example, some cards charge a monthly fee and some don't. Some charge fees to access money at ATMs; others don't provide this service at all. Fees for prepaid cards are also much higher than for debit cards associated with bank checking accounts. Prepaid debit cards are typically provided by major credit card companies, so they're accepted anywhere the credit card is and can also carry fraud protection.
The Digital Age
You might also get an assist from an electronic service to pay your bills. The service, PayNearMe, provides assistance for things such as rent and car payments and select online purchases in cash. As long as the business has signed up for the service, you can indicate online at the PayNearMe website what you want to pay for, and the site provides you with a slip or a display for your mobile phone. You take the slip or show the mobile display at a 7-Eleven, Family Dollar or ACE Cash Express outlet. The retailer accepts your cash and notifies the business instantly and electronically that you've paid. You're also given a slip with a number you can use to ensure online that the bill was paid. At the time of publication, a fee of $3.99 per use applies for this service.