How Do You Pay Your Bills?

Is Cash Dead?
How do you pay your bills? Once upon a time, you would receive your bills in the mail. If the bill was for something like electricity, it is likely that a meter reader would have come and physically read your meter. As the payment date neared, you would open your chequebook and write a check for the amount. If you go back far enough, there was even a time when your creditors would have sent back a receipt.
Time has moved on. The advent of new technological systems has meant that nearly the whole billing process has changed. In many cases, the billing process is online, and you can pay your bills in the cloud.
New Technology, New Methods of Payment
Of course, many of our payments are for transactions that never used to exist. Twenty years ago there was no reason for you to pay a Netflix bill, or to buy the latest app on a smartphone. Our grandparents would have been shocked at the very idea of spending their hard-earned money online (some still are).

We may have been paying electricity accounts for over a century now, but the process has significantly changed. Many of us have Smartmeters at our house. This means that the utility companies can quickly determine our electricity usage, without ever having to send a meter reader around to the house. The usage will probably be accurate to the last watt used, and there is no need for estimates.

The company will still send you a monthly account – but it is more likely to be delivered by email than by physical "snail" mail.

There will be some payment options, most of which will be electronic. One possibility is that you log into your bank account, electronically on your computer, tablet or even smartphone. You might even have a special banking app to make the process even smoother. You use this to make an internet payment directly from your bank account into the utility company's account.

If there is any receipt from the utility company, it will also be sent electronically. The likelihood is that paper will never change hands.
SaaS in the Cloud
It is very common nowadays to purchase apps. Sometimes these are for tiny amounts – many Apple and Android apps cost as little as 99 cents. Cloud billing has made this viable. If you use an electronic device, will have had to attach a credit or debit card to it. Whenever you choose to download a paid app, an automatic charging process is set into motion. The Apple or Android store checks that you have sufficient funds, and then directly withdraw the cost of the app from your account. They, in turn, transfer the payments (less their fees) to the app developers.

A relatively recent change in the world of software has been a shift away from standalone programs, hosted directly on a user's machine (or on a company's in-house server), to a SaaS cloud-based model. One of the first big-name companies to do this was Adobe. For years, if you wanted to use programs such as Photoshop, you bought the software, paying for it up-front. In many countries, the upfront investment was so high that it purchasers treated as an asset for tax purposes.

Now Adobe is in the Cloud. You effectively "rent" the software, paying to use it on a monthly basis. One result of this is that users can immediately update the software to the latest version, as long as they are up-to-date with their payments. You can pick and choose which parts of the suite you want to use and pay for. If you only use Photoshop, you only need to pay for that program this month. If you also need InDesign, you can add that as another module. If you are a graphic designer, you will probably choose to pay for the entire suite. Once again, you will pay your bill electronically, with your monthly payments being directly taken from your bank account, or added to your credit card.

Over time, we make more and more of our payments electronically. There have even been advances in technology for small payments in recent years. How many people use plastic cards to pay for their bus or train travel? In some places, you can even top up the cards from an app on your Smartphone. It is even possible to pay for parking using SMS texting in some cities.

So, how do you pay your bills? Cash is not dead yet, but that day will come; sooner than we ever imagined.

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