Yesterday Plastiq released the Plastiq mobile app for iPhone. Plastiq is a service that lets you pay bills, including rent, mortgage, etc. by credit card for a small fee. For more about Plastiq, please see: The complete guide to Plastiq credit card payments.
Plastiq.com was already pretty easy to use, but the new mobile app theoretically makes it even easier. To pay a bill, you simply open the app, point your phone at the bill, snap a picture, and you’re done. Easy!
Is it really that easy?
I had an opportunity to beta test the app earlier this week. I only had one bill to pay that I could use as a test. And, it came by email as a PDF. If I had simply printed the PDF and then used the app, it would have been as simple as advertised. I tried, instead, to take a picture of the bill on my laptop screen, but I couldn’t get the whole thing to show at once. Instead, I decided to convert the PDF to an image, copy the image to my phone, and then use import the image into the app. That worked, but it was a pain.
Update: Plastiq reached out to me to remind me that I could have simply used the screenshot function on my phone. I don’t know why I didn’t think of that! I could have simply opened the PDF on my phone and then pressed my phone’s power and home buttons at the same time. That would have captured the bill as an image to my phone.
So, to answer the question: yes, the app is incredibly easy to use for paying bills, but only if they’re on paper. For bills that arrive via email, Plastiq should consider creating a way to forward those emails to Plastiq to be paid. I use TripIt for organizing my travel itineraries, and Expensify for tracking all of my expenses. Both effectively use email as a primary form of input. Plastiq should do the same.
Does the Plastiq mobile app work seamlessly?
Not quite, but it wasn’t too bad. I ran into a couple of small issues:
2.5% MasterCard fee
I selected to pay with my Citi AT&T MasterCard. Plastiq currently charges 2% for MasterCard payments and 2.5% for Visa and Amex. However, even though I had clearly picked a MasterCard, the screen showed a 2.5% fee:
Once the payment went through, I was correctly charged only 2%, but it was disconcerting seeing the wrong number on the screen.
More Info Needed
Some time after submitting my bill payment, the app popped up an alert on my phone. It said that more information was needed for the payment, but it didn’t tell me what information was needed or how to add that information. I clicked around the app to no avail. I logged into my account on the web and hunted around. I couldn’t find any more information or any way to add info to the payment.
I waited a day to see if it would clear up, but nothing changed.
Finally I pressed the “Support” button within the app and was taken to iPhone Messages to text with Plastiq support. I wrote:
Submitted bill but got message saying that more info was needed.
I received an instant automated reply. About an hour later a support employee responded. They couldn’t find an account number on the bill. True enough – there wasn’t one. So, I responded with a made up account number and I was good to go.
Two days later I received an email saying “Check Payment Sent” (note: in my experience this message really just means that the bill has made it through their internal audits and that the check will be mailed at some point in the future yet to be determined).
Fee-free payments via referrals
Plastiq lets you earn “Fee-free dollars” (FFDs) for referring friends. FFDs are used to make payments without fees. For every person who registers with Plastiq via your referral link and makes a payment of at least $20, you’ll get 400 FFDs and that person will get 200 FFDs. While “400 FFDs” sounds like a lot, keep in mind that it represents a savings of only $8 (if paying by MasterCard) or $10 (if paying with Visa or Amex).
If you’re new to Plastiq, please consider using my referral link: try.plastiq.com/271735 – thanks!
The Plastiq mobile app automatically applies fee-free dollars to your payments, when available. In my one test case, it worked perfectly.
No discussion of Plastiq is complete without mentioning that many readers have written about problems they’ve had with the Plastiq service. Many of the issues have centered around Plastiq’s internal bill auditing process. When you submit a payment online, there’s no requirement to upload an actual bill. Behind the scenes, then, Plastiq tries to figure out if the payment is legitimate (they don’t allow payments to friends, to credit cards, etc.). Sometimes people report that they tried to pay a time sensitive bill only to hear much later from Plastiq that a picture of the bill was needed to authorize the payment.
Since the Plastiq mobile app requires you to snap a photo of the bill or to upload the photo, it might reduce these types of issues. Only time will tell.
Is simplicity worth the fee?
I usually only recommend paying a fee for bill payments when the biller doesn’t accept credit card payments for free and when your credit card rewards outweigh the bill payment fee (such as when trying to meet minimum spend requirements on a big credit card signup bonus). However, there is some value to simplicity…
The app really is easy to use. As long as each bill is paid accurately and on time, I can imagine many people deciding that it is worth paying the fee in order to simplify bill payments. Personally, I have all of my repeating bills setup on autopay, wherever possible, and I use online banking free bill payments for most one-off bills (where I can’t pay by credit card). So, for me, the ease of use isn’t a huge motivator, but I can see the attraction. If you use a MasterCard credit card that earns 2% or better rewards (such as the Citi Double Cash or Barclaycard Arrival Plus), then it won’t cost extra compared to paying by check. In fact, you’ll make a tiny profit since you’ll earn credit card rewards for both the bill amount and the fee.
Readers: I’m curious. If the app works as advertised, is its simplicity enough to get you to pay your bills this way? Please comment below.
For more about Plastiq, please see: The complete guide to Plastiq credit card payments.