Autopay, paperless, echecks: Philly finally updated its confusing and expensive water bill system

Welcome to the future, Water Revenue Bureau.

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Danya Henninger / Billy Penn
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Philly property owners: the monthly headache of paying your water bill just got a little bit easier.

The city launched a new online portal last week called MyPhillyWaterBill. There are still some bugs to work out, and there’s a new account setup customers have to complete. But overall, the new tool finally looks like something made in the 21st century — and for the first time you can even opt out of having the USPS deliver a paper bill to your door.

That’s big progress for the city’s Water Revenue Bureau, which handles the oft-criticized and outdated billing system. (The bureau is separate from the operational Philadelphia Water Department that provides your H2O.)

First notable change: The “convenience fee” for paying with a credit or debit card has dropped by a whole $1. Billy Penn reported last year that the $4 charge was among the highest in the nation, sending nearly $2 million in fees to an Alabama-based e-service firm last year.

With the new e-service vendor, Kubra, the city negotiated the fee down to $2.95 for residential customers and $15.95 for commercial properties.

Customers paid the convenience charge for years, even after there was an alternate option. It wasn’t until 2016 that the Water Revenue Bureau added the ability to pay by electronic check for free — and the interface was not user-friendly. Last year, 11% of customers still paid the convenience fee each month, as opposed to 7% using the free echeck option.

Under the new system, echeck is easier to use; it actually saves your billing info each month; and (gasp!) you finally have the option to enroll in autopay.

Tutorial of the new features on the ebilling site

One confusing hurdle: You have to create a new account.

To do so, you’ll need to know your “water access code,” which is printed on your regular monthly water bill. Heads up for property owners accustomed to using their water account number — it’s not that. The access code is a different number. There are some visual demonstrations on the site to show you where it is on you bill — plus the tutorial videos embedded here.

“We have YouTube videos to help familiarize customers with the website’s new features, and walk them through registering for an account, and signing up for automatic payments [AutoPay],” said Rebecca LopezKris, director of taxpayer and water customer outreach at the Department of Revenue.

The changeover also brings another long overdue option: paperless billing. The Water Revenue Bureau has faced criticism for being the last major utility company in the city that forces you to get paper bills each month. The city spends about $4.3 million each year on stamps and mailing supplies for those bills alone.

Creating a MyPhillyWaterBill account will automatically enroll you in the paperless option.

Water customers can continue to mail checks or pay by phone, or submit payments in person at the desk in the basement of the Municipal Services Building across from City Hall.

Tutorial on how to set up your account

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