Editorial: Not so convenient

The city of Lawrence needs to update its online payment system and get rid of the “convenience fee.”

July 23, 2013


OK, maybe it’s not that big a deal, but even so, it makes sense. Dollars and cents, too, to city residents.

In the July edition of the city newsletter, “The Flame,” that accompanies utility bills, there’s an emphasis on utility department information and recycling suggestions for those who may be changing or adding services. Apparently 25 percent of all calls to the city’s utility division come in July, when many student rentals begin and end.

That’s all well and good, although perhaps a bit late to be of great help and perhaps preaching to the choir instead of reaching those who truly could benefit from some of the information.

Perhaps of greater concern to city utility customers, however, is the “pay online” option. Says the newsletter:

“Pay your bill online anytime. The city uses an outside vendor that charges a convenience fee of $3.25. Online payments take up to 3 business days to post to your account.”

How ridiculous is all that?

It’s not fathomable why the city clings to this method of online payment, when most progressive companies and utilities offer the real convenience of a free clearinghouse fund exchange that enables the consumer to specify the timing of the electronic transfer of money from a bank account or the timing of a charge to a credit card.

That’s “free” as opposed to a so-called “convenience fee” masquerading as a ripoff. And immediate, as opposed to three days.

So here’s hoping that one of the biggest changes affecting utilities for the city will be a move to a new, improved means of online bill-paying that’s free, immediate and truly convenient.


Ron Holzwarth 4 years, 11 months ago

If anyone has a problem with the fee for the city's online bill pay option, I would suggest that they switch to USBank, and then use their system to pay their bills online at no charge from their checking account. The City of Lawrence is listed as a suggested vendor to be paid, and it is necessary to fill in your water bill account number online with USBank. The same is necessary for all of the bills that you want to pay online at no charge. It's called "Free Bill Pay". (I doubt very much that this is unique to USBank!)

A week to ten days before the bill is due (before your paper bill arrives, actually), you will get an email alert that your bill is going to be due, or you can delete that option if you want. Then, when you know the amount and want to pay it, a few keyclicks are needed after you are on your bank statement page. You fill in the amount to be paid, and select the date that you want it paid. You have a couple opportunities to review the information you have filled in, and then click "pay". But even after that, it is possible to cancel the payment, or change the amount or payment date.

If the monthly date and the amount of a bill is always the same, that can be accommodated also. Then, no attention at all from you is required.

I think almost all of the larger banks offer free bill pay, but the only one I know about for sure is USBank, since that's the bank that I use.

From the editorial: "So here’s hoping that one of the biggest changes affecting utilities for the city will be a move to a new, improved means of online bill-paying that’s free, immediate and truly convenient."

Well, USBank has had a "new, improved means of online bill-paying that’s free, immediate and truly convenient" for its customers for years now. Perhaps the city should urge the customers to check to see if they can pay through their bank, instead of simply charging a fee for the exact same thing.

And, the State of Kansas used to charge a fee to use a credit card (and perhaps debit cards also) for car registration and driver's license renewal. But, that fee was eliminated within the last year or so. Maybe the City of Lawrence should follow suit.

xyz 4 years, 11 months ago

As of August 1, State of Kansas will reinstate processing fees for online vehicle registration renewals. Just got my renewal with that info.

dncinnanc 4 years, 11 months ago

KU Credit Union offers free online bill pay too (and I use it for everything). The difference between this option and what the editorial describes is that the free bill pay essentially triggers a check to be cut directly from the bank. Paying electronically through the City website results in an electronic transfer.

Leslie Swearingen 4 years, 11 months ago

Wow and Westar both charge for electronic payments, but the payments show up immediately on my online banking account. I don't understand why any of this should be free as all of these businesses do have to hire people to keep track of all this. They don't run themselves.

Terry Sexton 4 years, 11 months ago

I pay both WoW & Westar online & have never been charged a service fee for doing so.

jimmyjms 4 years, 11 months ago

The "Paymentus" vendor that the city uses is ridiculous - you have to enter info seriously like eight times before you get to the actual paying part...there's also a cap of $200, so if you have a $224 bill, you have to call back, enter all that info again, and pay a second fee. It's insane.

shotgun 4 years, 11 months ago

Finally, an editorial that I can get behind! It is ridiculous to pay a fee to pay a bill! It is certainly not convenient. The Big bank bill pays aren't very convenient either, the transactions take too long. The only bills I pay with US Bank are the ones that don't offer a free option like Lawrence Utility Billing. If we can afford that stupid rec center, we can afford to not get gouged on top of the sewer bill!

jafs 4 years, 11 months ago

Well, one could always pay by check, either in person or by mailing it.

Sometimes the old fashioned ways work well enough for most of us.

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