Paying bills: tiny type & too much choice

Bills seem to be becoming more crowded as we’re offered ever-increasing options for paying. For me, the combination of too much information and tiny type causes mistakes.

Last night I paid my phone bill. I’m offered 7 ways to pay: direct debit, credit card by phone, cheque by post, in person in the company’s shop, BPay by phone, BPay online, and the post office.

These options are listed along the bottom of the bill, with instructions for each. I’m not sure what the type size is, but it’s tiny. By my measurement, the x height is around 1mm and the capital letter height is less than 2mm. There’s a reasonable amount of leading, and I can read the instructions adequately if I take my time.

But I really come unstuck when I try to follow the instructions. I usually use phone BPay, and I have to enter my reference number from the bill – which is shown in the tiny, less-than-2mm font as a 12 digit number with no grouping. I make a mistake every time! My reference number has 4 zeros in a row … and every time I look at it they seem to shift.

My request here is that companies pay more attention to legibility when they give instructions. I don’t want to be forced to grab a magnifying glass to pay a bill! Numbers, in particular, need to be in a legible size and grouped for easy reading (groups of 4 usually work well).

My Visa bill has a much better solution. Instead of printing my reference number within the BPay instructions, the bill states that the reference number is the same as the card number. Easy. That’s printed in a large and bold font, right at the top of the bill. It’s also grouped into 4 sets of 4 digits. I get it right every time.