UK consumers have been told to prepare themselves for the chaos that the national postal strikes will bring, or face the possibility of losing out financially.
Planned for Thursday 22 and Friday 23 October, the action looks set to see most postal deliveries brought to a shuddering halt, amongst which could sit bills, invoices and cheque payments.
To help minimise the problems the consumer might encounter, the Payments Council has offered advice on how people can manage their bill payments during the strike:
1. Keep a note of when your credit card statements or other regular bills are due. If you think a bill may be due, you should check with your supplier.
2. If you have already sent a cheque to pay your credit card bill and are concerned about it getting there in time, speak to your credit card company.
3. If your bill is due during the period of the strike, look at other payment options: o pay online - if you bank online or by phone you can set up a transfer or you can log onto your credit card company's site and pay by debit card. o pay by cash or cheque at your bank or local post office.
4. Consider setting up a direct debit to pay at least the minimum payment on your credit card bill. This can usually be done simply over the telephone or online.
"It's worth taking five minutes to work out what bills, invoices or cheques you might be expecting in the post and to consider whether you want to take any action to make alternative arrangements for any of them," said Paul Smee, chief executive of the Payments Council. "Increasingly you can check and pay bills online or if you haven't already, you can set up a direct debit."
With cheque usage for paying regular bills having dropped by more than a quarter in the last two years, Smee said it was likely this strike will impact bill payers less than the one that took place in October 2007.
"There has also been a 52% increase in the use of online banking for paying regular bills and last year direct debits were used for 76% of all personal and household bill payments," he added. "However, customers who don't yet use direct debits should make sure they use an alternative form of payment to avoid receiving any late fees as a result of the strike action."
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