The older I get, the more bills I pay. Rent and a landline were my main obligations during college, but over the years my financial responsibilities have grown to include mortgages, car loans, life insurance, business insurance, health insurance, utilities, multiple phones, a handful of credit cards, subscriptions…. You get the idea.
We all have to pay bills. That’s a basic and necessary part of adulting. But as far as I know, no one loves paying bills. And even more than that – no one loves paying more money than we have to.
Let’s say a late fee every now and then doesn’t stress you out very much. Consider this: Americans paid more than $10 billion in credit card late fees in 2015. I for one would rather keep my share of that in my own pocket.
Late and missed payments can also hurt your credit score and put you in a financial position that’s hard to recover from. And the way our bills get paid can affect our stress levels and inner peace just as much as it affects our credit scores and bank account balances.
I installed the Prism app for my personal use in 2014 and this is what I’ve learned.
What is Prism?
Prism is an iOS and Android™ compatible app that allows you to keep track of and manage all of the bills you pay via a single dashboard, and to pay them with a swipe. The goal is to help you avoid late and missed payments.
How does Prism make bill paying less hard?
A good bill pay app is a step above your online calendar. The app should know your due dates without you having to enter them, and should also facilitate easy payment.
Prism gives you a big picture view of your finances on any given day. You can see what bills are due, what bills are coming up, and how much money you have in any linked bank account. If a bill is a credit card, you can tap on it and Prism will show you the total balance in addition to the payment that is due.
When it comes time to pay a bill, all you have to do is look at a screen that tells you who the biller is, how much you are paying, where the money is coming from and on what date you want to pay. Make whatever adjustments you need to make, swipe and you’re done. Your money is sent by the app to pay the bill. Prism remembers your choices and defaults to the same options next time.
You can use the app to pay in whatever method your biller allows. For example, if your biller accepts credit or debit cards, you can pay the bill that way through Prism.
How does Prism work?
Prism needs access to the accounts with bills you want to pay, and the accounts with the money you want to pay with, to keep track of your due dates and balances and facilitate the movement of your money from one account to another.
You first choose your billers and payment accounts from the 11,000 entities the app is connected with, and then enter your usernames, passwords, and PINs to allow the app to connect.
All communication with Prism is encrypted with bank-level security. Sensitive information is not stored on your device, so even if your phone is lost or stolen no one can retrieve your passwords or other personal information via the app.
If your biller is not on the list, you can request that it be added in the future. In the meantime, you can set a reminder in the app and pay the bill manually each month.
For me, Prism became extremely effective when I finished setting up all of the bills I pay, without exception. In the early days, I had to pay numerous billers manually (after setting up reminders in the app) but now only one of my billers, my local water utility, remains unconnected.
The Prism app has some handy extra features built in. If you want to, you can enter your paydays so that you can get a better view of your cash flow throughout the month. This might help you optimize your cash flow. For example, you might decide to request a new payment due date from your credit card issuer that matches up with your regular paydays.
Another nice feature is an alert when a bill seems unusual. For example, if my electric bill is usually $80-100 and then one month jumps to $300, the app will let me know that I might want to investigate it. I find this feature to be very helpful, especially since I happen to have my utility bill on auto pay.
How much does Prism cost?
There is some confusion about this in online comments and reviews, but as of the end of 2018, managing and paying bills with Prism is free. Prism does state in its terms and conditions, however, that it reserves the right to charge fees in the future for services that are free right now. If that happens, they promise to give users 21 days’ notice before implementing new fees.
Several competing bill management apps have come and gone, and Prism doesn’t seem to have a true apples-to-apples competitor right now.
Unbill is a bill pay app, but not as robust as Prism. It is currently connected with 5,000 billers.
Mint, one of the most popular personal finance tools, discontinued its bill pay utility in 2018, although you can still connect all of your accounts to manage your finances from a single dashboard.
You can also set up automatic payments from your biller accounts or from your bank or credit card account. This option does not allow you to manage all of your bills in a single location, though.
Although Prism is connected with more than 11,000 billers, they still (understandably) cannot pay every bill. I can pay my credit cards, mortgage, gas, and electric bill, car insurance and much more through the app, but I can’t pay my water bill. I submitted a request for that biller to be added, and while my request is pending, Prism gives me a reminder each month to pay it.
Another drawback is that I can’t see my actual bills through the app. If I want to see my statement for any reason, I have to log into each account separately.
Why consider using a bill pay app
Personally, I love this app for a couple of reasons. For one thing, seeing all my bills on a single screen can really put my spending in perspective. When bills come to my attention at scattered times throughout the month, it’s easy to lose touch with how much I’m really putting myself out there financially.
My other favorite thing is the chance to avoid self-sabotaging mistakes. My credit card charges me a late fee the very first day after my payment due date, so it makes perfect sense to use technology to help me avoid that. Everyone gets busy and distracted sometimes. Now, the only way I’ll pay a late fee is if I ignore the Prism notifications on my phone.
If you’re the kind of person who sometimes “runs late” when it comes to paying your bills, that’s not something to shrug about. Consider using technology to help you pay bills like a boss and avoid those late fees.
IOS is an operating system used for mobile devices manufactured by Apple Inc.
Android is a trademark of Google LLC.
Kimberly Rotter is an editor at Haven Life and a consumer credit and personal finance expert. She provides consumers with understandable, actionable information that can help them improve their financial and credit health. Opinions are her own.
Haven Life does not endorse the companies or offer the products, services and/or strategies discussed here.