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It was deja vu for me the other day when I received a pitch from a company called Document Command about a service called Remote Control Mail.

Years ago, I used a service called Paytrust, which basically converted my paper bills into a digital format so I could view them online. Paytrust, with the right authorization, even paid my bills for me, cutting a check from my bank account and snail-mailing it to billers who didn't accept electronic payments. To get the bills to Paytrust, I had to change my mailing address to a Paytrust facility that would receive my bills, open them, scan them and e-mail the images to me.

That's basically when Remote Control Mail is offering to do, as well. If you move a lot, find yourself away from home for long periods of time or maybe are a student who moves back and forth between school and Home Sweet Home, this could be something useful. Remote Control Mail gives you a physical mailing address for your mail to be re-routed (yes, there's a special form you need to fill out with the Post Office to make this happen). Next week, Washington DC addresses will become available.

I only stopped the service when my bank and billers started adopting electronic bill pay. But there were a couple of pluses and minuses that went with my online experience.

The Paytrust facility where my mail was sent in South Dakota still appears on my credit report. On the downside, that became a red flag when it came time to buy a house several years ago. The bank wanted to know why I was living in (or maintaining an address in) South Dakota when I had no record of ever working in that state. A simple letter of explanation cleared things up.

On the upside, several of my billers taxed me at the South Dakota rate, which a few bucks cheaper than the California rate I had been paying. Even when I did the honest thing and tried to explain to the billers that I didn't live in South Dakota, it became so difficult trying to explain the Paytrust concept to the people in the call center that I just gave up on going the honest route.

So in the end, I guess I probably saved the $10 every month that I used to pay for Paytrust service. And, of course, the cost of blank checks and postage to mail my bills.

By Sam Diaz  |  March 19, 2007; 12:08 PM ET  | Category:  Sam Diaz
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I'm curious from a "what the heck" perspective on how this works -- I assume that you change your billing address with just the companies that send you bills? Obviously, you wouldn't want, say, magazine or maybe birthday cards to go to (in the prior example) South Dakota....

Posted by: Bob | March 19, 2007 3:59 PM

Several years ago, I used a rival service, paymybills dot com, and gave it up for the same reasons Sam gave up his. I lived in Alexandria, and the address was a PO Box in Warrenton, so I didn't have the credit report issue. Wonder why these companies wouldn't use a PO Box to prevent all the confusion that Sam had. To answer Bob's question, mail with your physical address would be forwarded, so ALL mail could be scanned, not just the bills.

Posted by: CPS | March 19, 2007 4:26 PM

actually, it worked ok. just the bills went to south dakota and the magazines and such kept going to the home address...
the remote control mail thing works the same way - kind of. there's forms you have to fill out so that only some mail - not all - goes to the scanning center, unless you choose to have everything go that way. hope that helps...

Posted by: sam diaz | March 21, 2007 2:10 PM

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