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How do you handle paying your bills?

By The Ithaka - Published November 21, 1999 - Viewed 1016 times

How do  you handle paying your bills?

Peter M of Charleston, South Carolina, asks about how we handle our bills and mail while we’re away.

From Bernadette :   There are excellent professional services that many cruisers use to handle their mail and the payment of regular bills. You can find out about them by looking at the back of  magazines such as Cruising World; most advertise in the classifieds. In our case, we have a rental house at home, so we need a bit more service than those companies provide (in case something goes wrong in the house, our tenant needs someone to call). So we have a friend we trust in Rhode Island tend to our mail and bills, we’ve given our tenant her name and phone number, and we pay her by the hour. She goes to our post-office box once a week, opens our mail, emails us about anything unusual, pays items that need attention, and makes deposits for us.

We’ve set up all our recurring bills, however, to be paid through the online banking feature in our checking account, so that is maintenance free. And we have our credit cards paid through auto-deduction from our checking account, which we set up while we were home.  (We can check our balances from internet cafes while we’re traveling, which is handy.) This leaves only a few items that need personal attention every month.

One thing to keep in mind, is that you need to keep a significant amount of money in your checking account when you go cruising (we keep $5,000 in it at all times) so that you have access to enough cash to cover emergencies quickly or to buy a couple of airline tickets, fast, in cash. This means that you should never, under any circumstances, carry a debit card around with you on a regular basis, or use a debit card for anything other than withdrawing funds at a legitimate bank or money machine – in other words, don’t use it to pay your bill at a restaurant, or in a store when you’re traveling. Keep it tucked safely away aboard until the day you take it out to use it to obtain some cash from a machine or bank. Then put it back in its hiding place when you’re finished using it.

Also, keep in mind that debit cards have no transaction fees, so the best idea we’ve heard is to get one especially for use with ATM machines, and keep ONLY a minimal amount in that account, say $2,000. This limits your financial exposure if your card or card number is stolen.

To get our mail while we’re cruising, we wait till we know someone who is flying down, and we ask our friend at home to FedEx our important mail to them to carry down to us. Whenever we meet a cruiser who has a guest flying back to the States, we give the guest our flat, stamped mail. All cruisers are happy to do these tasks for one another, and none of us has ever flown to the States and back without carrying back down with us spares and mail for the cruisers anchored around us. It’s a very helpful and supportive community where everyone helps everyone else.

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