Is it easy to do business with you? Customers now have more payment options than ever before. As consumer buying habits change, so do their payment preferences. For small business owners, it’s important to keep up with these changing trends and preferences to ensure you’re making it easy for customers to pay you for your products or services.
Here’s a look at how choosing the right payment acceptance options affects your business, the common types of payment options, and how to determine the best one(s) for you.
Choosing the right payment acceptance options for your business can affect your cash flow and customer conversion.
Business owners say that one of the biggest impacts on their company’s cash flow is the time it takes to process payments. For example, one of the slowest payment methods is customers mailing a paper check to your business. By making it easy for your customers to make payments, you increase the likelihood of getting paid faster, which improves cash flow.
Inefficient payment methods can cost you money. Customers want to pay how, when, and where they want. If they can’t pay in their preferred way, it could lead to them getting annoyed and leaving without making a purchase. By offering their payment method of choice, you are increasing the likelihood that they will do business with you again.
Types of payment methods
Despite the rise in card and digital payments, cash is still king for in-store payment preferences. One of the biggest benefits of cash is that it’s the quickest way of accepting payments due to the ability to collect it immediately rather than waiting on a transaction to clear. However, like all payment types, there are a few drawbacks to accepting cash. The first being the bank processing fees for companies who collect cash in bulk. Another disadvantage is the inconvenience at cash-only businesses for customers who carry debit or credit cards. If customers only have a card, you risk losing their business and attracting new customers.
Debit and credit card payments
Overall, debit and credit cards have become the primary way that customers pay today. Small businesses accepting card payments offer convenience and flexibility to their customers. Some of the benefits of accepting card payments include a smoother checkout process and the ability to collect payments in person, online, or over the phone. In addition, card payments are also deposited quickly into your bank account which can help to improve your cash flow.
To start accepting card payments, you must have a merchant account and a payment gateway. A payment gateway is the technology that moves money between your business bank account (merchant account) and your customer’s bank that they have their debit or credit card through. Payment gateways also securely authorize the transaction to ensure you’ll get paid. Once your transaction is approved, the money is transferred to your merchant account.
With card payments, there are some operational considerations including, merchant account set up fees, processing fees, and the cost of the equipment needed to complete payment transactions, such as a point of sale terminal. These costs can be worth it in exchange for the business you’ll get.
More companies are also adopting contactless payment options that allow customers to tap-to-pay with their debit and credit cards. These payments offer more safety and security than cards that have to be swiped.
While paper checks have lost some popularity, many small businesses still accept these payment types. Paper checks are generally straightforward and familiar to many customers and businesses. EChecks, an electronic alternative to paper checks, allow customers to enter their check information online and have their money deducted from their account.
Automated Clearing House (ACH) payments are electronic money transfers from one bank account to another without the use of paper checks, credit cards, wire transfers, or cash. ACH payments help to automate and streamline business operations and also tend to be faster and more reliable than paper checks. While there may be fees associated with ACH payments, they are generally lower than other payment processing methods.
With our growing use of technology, digital and mobile payments are becoming increasingly popular. Digital and mobile payments include options such as digital wallets, money transfer apps, and mobile card readers to swipe debit and credit cards. Digital wallets, such as Google Pay, Samsung Pay, and Apple Pay, store a user's payment information so they can quickly make purchases and pay bills. Money transfer apps, such as Zelle, Venmo, and PayPal, make it easy for customers to send money to your business. With mobile card readers, your employees can take debit and credit card payments from anywhere. While there are processing fees associated with each, these digital and mobile payments will help keep your business competitive in meeting customers' payment preferences.
Comparing payment acceptance options
When selecting payment options for your business, be sure to look at the fees for each type and ask questions if you don’t understand. Pay attention to fees for security, maintenance, fraud management, and charges related to credit card acceptance and merchant service accounts.
Availability of funds
When choosing the right payment acceptance options for your business, keep your customers' preferences in mind. For example, if you have younger customers, they may expect digital and mobile options. Consider your customers' background, age, location, accessibility, and the norms in your industry.
Fraud prevention and security
To help minimize the risk of fraud, follow the recommendations from your merchant processor. With any payment method, there is a risk of fraud but mobile, digital, and “card not present” transactions have higher risks.
The security of your data should also be monitored closely. To mitigate risks and help reduce the chance of a data breach, you should use point-of-sale (POS) equipment, software, and e-commerce platforms with up-to-date security standards. Any payment solution you use should have end-to-end encryption and tokenization to ensure compliance with the Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard.
Ultimately, the best payment method for your business will depend on your customers and your business model. Offering a variety of payment options makes it easier for people to do business with you.
To learn more about how Colony Bank can help you with your payment acceptance options, speak with one of our Treasury Management Specialists at (855) 389-2265.