If you will be living in Chile for an extended time, not as a passing tourist, then you will surely encounter the painful chore of having to pay recurring bills. Unless you are one of the lucky few who will have all their bills paid by an organisation or company, sooner or later those monthly utility bills will have to be paid.
An extended presence will almost certainly mean that you will have obtained a national identity card (commonly referred to as a cedula de identidad). This will effectively classify you as a temporary resident and will open up your eligibility for a range of the necessities of life – such as opening a bank account and obtaining a driver’s licence. The number on the card becomes yours for life and is referred to as your “RUT” number or less commonly, your “RUN”. Armed with this essential number, you are now ready to face the world of paying bills.
There are several ways to pay those monthly bills, ranging from the very simple to the more sophisticated. Catering to all are two organisations that have a most visible presence. Servipag and/or Sencillito have offices in the main Metro Stations and in the principal shopping malls. These are the standard off-line bill paying locations. You can pay your utility bills here by simply presenting your bill and handing over cash or a check. You may have to show your cedula. This method of payment is very common in Chile and you will probably experience long waiting lines. Servipag has online bill payment which you can use once you have registered your payment source. Certain banks will also have a dedicated teller line to accept utility payments in cash or check.
You will also find UNIRED machines in locations such as supermarkets that look like ATM machines but are in fact self check-out machines for paying bills from a variety of utility companies. These machines will permit you to enter the identifier numbers of the bills to be paid and will print out a payment slip, which is then used to pay the bills at any of the designated cashier stations.
Of course, the online method is the simplest, provided you have a bank account. Payment can be made directly to the utility company after providing your payment source but this individual method of payment is not efficient. If you have a Chilean bank account, a better method is to provide sample bills to your bank and they will arrange with those utility companies to set up automatic charging to either your credit card (“PAT” – pago automatico tarjeta) or your checking account (“PAC”). Personally I prefer the PAT payments, as the charges can be viewed before payment is due and the payment of the credit card charges itself can be automated as well. Also, depending on the bank and the card used, you may earn points by using the credit card. Even if you have set up payment by PAC or PAT you will still receive a hard copy of your bill by mail, stamped as a receipt with the PAC or PAT logo. Of course, your bank statement will detail all of the utility charges for cross checking. Couldn’t really be simpler.