Military automation can help you maintain credit from afar

Being deployed and away from home can make paying debt obligations in a timely manner difficult. However, there are some tools available that can help automate your payments and make it easier to keep your good credit history.

Before you deploy or travel abroad, evaluate your banking and brokerage options, and choose one that allows you to pay bills online (preferably for no fee), use a wide variety of ATMs, and view your account online. The best banks for this purpose will have a robust Web site with a variety of information included. In addition, many banks and brokerage firms offer personalized alerts, where you can have an email or text sent for many situations, including deposits received, checks cleared, and balance below a certain level.  

Online bill pay can make paying bills much easier. First, enroll with your bank, and then spend some time setting up the system with each of your bills. You’ll likely find that some of your bills can be paid in an automated fashion, so that the transit time to the payee is quicker, while other bills will have to be paid via a check. The best bill pay systems also allow you to receive bills online. For servicemembers, this is perfect because you won’t have to worry about your bills arriving through the mail late.  

When setting up your bill pay, you should be able to set some bills to pay automatically. This is a great idea for any bill that’s a standard dollar amount, such as a mortgage or student loan. You may also want to set the bill pay service to pay your minimum amount on each credit card. Even if you pay off more than the minimum, setting an automated payment will ensure that even if you forget, you won’t get charged late fees or harm your credit.

If you have the option to set up alerts, consider doing so. Setting an alert for a minimum balance amount is a great way to ensure you won’t bounce a check, or have a bill pay fail. While you may never need it, having overdraft protection is good insurance in case you accidentally write a check you don’t have sufficient funds to cover.  

Finally, set up a savings or money market account where you can store your emergency fund. Having an adequate savings cushion is essential, so you don’t have to use credit if you are faced with a financial emergency.

While all of these automation options do require some up-front work to set up, ultimately, they will allow you to retain your good credit history while away, and will save you time in the long run.