Hearst startup Manilla tackles bill management

My wife swears by paper bills, which she insists are better for tracking our outgoing payments. So far, I haven’t attempted to dissuade her, but I might try now with the release of Manilla, a new free online bill management service from a New York City startup of the same name that was incubated by media giant Hearst.

Manilla, which has come out of a three-month beta this week, organizes accounts from four different sources: household bills like phone and electricity, finance bills like credit cards and mortgages, travel rewards programs and subscriptions for newspaper and magazines. The company pulls in the information from more than 500 providers around the country and presents bills and account information in one interface with a single sign-on. After a quick sign-up and account-linking process, users can get custom alerts about upcoming payments and store all their information in one location.

Manilla is able to provide a free service because it takes a fee from companies for delivering electronic bills. It is partnering with some companies such as Comcast and Citi Cards to completely deliver bills directly through the site. Manilla said it uses bank-level security like Verisign to keep personal information safe.

I’m able to do some bill management through my bank account, but it’s not as slick or powerful as Manilla. Unlimited storage and customized alerts are nice touches that help simplify management and payment. It appears that to pay bills, you’re directed to the respective company’s website. It would be great if you could pay and schedule payments right from Manilla. Volly, a similar service from Pitney Bowes scheduled for release later this year, said it will offer the ability to pay bills from a Volly account. This could be a competitive space soon, so it may come down to features, ease of use and how many bill providers are signed up with each platform.

It’s good to see more web tools emerging to help organize important tasks like this. I recently wrote about Project Slice, which tackles the issue of online receipts and deliveries via an email application. There’s something powerful that happens when people have access to simple tools that let them see across all their information. Mint.com is a good example of how this visibility has helped people manage their personal finances. It not only makes you more organized but also can help prompt you to be more proactive about your spending or saving.

And I love that this is helping cut down on paper bills. Many have already turned to electronic bills, but the U.S Postal Service’s 2010 Annual Report found that companies sent 48 billion account notices, statements and bills to customers last year, which adds up for businesses and consumers. Manilla may not be everyone, but I’m hoping I can at least convince my wife to give it a try.