In the past year, more than 75,000 St. Louis utility payments have been converted to direct payment, or automated bill payment, thanks in part to the efforts of the joint direct payment campaign, an effort by the St. Louis Fed, Mid-America Payment Exchange and several St. Louis utility companies to increase awareness of the service. That figure is expected to increase as a result of the second phase of the campaign, which began in May.
The latest phase is a three-pronged push that includes employee sign-up days, marketing efforts by individual financial institutions, and media coverage. Participating St. Louis-area utility companies include: AmerenUE, Charter Communications, City of St. Louis Water Company, Laclede Gas Company, Metropolitan Sewer District, St. Louis County Water Company and Southwestern Bell Telephone.
The St. Louis Fed has developed a direct payment educational insert for financial institutions to enclose with their customers' monthly statements. The insert lists a phone number at each utility that a customer may call to begin setting up direct payment. Institutions also may choose to provide the inserts to their customers in the lobby. To date, more than 20 financial institutions in the St. Louis area have ordered a supply. To order, call Carrie Andert at (314) 444-8946.
The St. Louis Fed encourages financial institutions to take a leading role in promoting the benefits of direct payment to their customers. Recent research has revealed that people generally are not as clear about direct payment as they are about direct deposit. More significantly, the research also showed that most customers prefer to learn about electronic methods of payment directly from their financial institution rather than through other sources (see Regional Roundup).