By Matthew Albert
Try as we might, sometimes old things that we love just break down and fail. Or sometimes they get to the point where the maintenance is too much to justify staying with them.
Let’s take stadiums and theaters. When you were younger, you probably had a favorite stadium to go watch a game or a favorite theater to go see a concert. As the building got older, it kept the rickety charm but the costs of keeping it upright got higher for the owner. Eventually, the owner knew it would be cheaper in the long run to spend more money up front on a modern building because it would save money on maintenance down the road. And so, your favorite building bit the dust, relegated to scrapbooks and Frank Sinatra songs about baseball parks. As fans, we love those buildings. But as business professionals, it’s hard to love those buildings when they impact your account in ways they shouldn’t. In short, the old palace can be nice and charming… until it hurts a business to keep it standing. (RIP Old Comiskey Park)
The pandemic is the latest in a string of events that has stress-tested countless systems we have come to rely on. For businesses that paid suppliers/vendors mostly by check, that method is currently unsafe and inefficient. The system needs retooling.
Back in December, we made the case for why checks and related Automated Clearing House (ACH) payments shouldn’t be left behind when it comes to taking care of your vendors. However, as the pandemic has persisted, we have to face reality that cost matters when we process payments. So, today’s blog is about potentially cheaper ways to pay your vendors/suppliers besides checks and ACH.
There are two main reasons for ACH payments might not be the best option for your company.
The Fees, The Fees, The Fees
ACH is notorious for saddling you with fees that aren’t always apparent. Some of these fees are charged on a monthly basis like a monthly minimum fee for using ACH. Others are charged on a per-transaction basis like if a customer makes a return, disputes a charge, or needs an expedited delivery of a good/service. There are even ACH fees for businesses that are TOO SUCCESSFUL. If you process a high amount of ACH payments at once or process a payment for expensive items, be prepared for a batch fee and/or a high ticket surcharge. Since when should we ever be penalized for being good at our jobs? We don’t need to hurt our vendors by forcing those charges on them, either.
Besides the fees listed above, ACH payment providers like to charge processing rates that can be either a fixed amount of cash or a percentage of the transaction. In the end, it’s a paltry sum for each transaction. However, as we said before, if you’re good at your job, you’re getting ripped off here. If you make 100,000 transactions and each has an ACH processing rate between $1.00 – $1.50, you’re out $100,000 – $150,000. Not great, Bob. Not great.
Alternatives To ACH
Okay, enough with the processing fees. Let’s get to some alternative payment methods.
With Google Pay, you can send money from your bank account through a heavily-encrypted Gmail account for free. It’s super simple, too. Compose an email, click the dollar sign, input the cash, hit send. Google Pay also can be used in various stores and restaurants, too. If you’re a customer, you just have to hope that Google Pay is accepted in those places. By the way, the security is pretty nice.
Not just for filing taxes anymore, Intuit will let small businesses accept payments via QuickBooks. Their per-transaction fees are actually lower than Square and Stripe. However, you will have to make a small monthly payment ($8 and up) in order to accept payments of your own. Intuit will even give you a mobile card reader if it’s convenient for your setup.
We like ProPay because it runs similarly to each of the above services, but it will also tailor itself to the type of business you have. That means the fees will be tailored to your business as well. If you opt for ProPay, you’ll want to have your customers swipe their cards as often as possible instead of keying in their numbers. Keyed transactions come with a higher fee.
Payoneer is arguably the most trusted system of freelancers around the world. This is a great system to use as long as all parties involved all have Payoneer accounts. If one end of the chain doesn’t have an account, it won’t work. There are credit card fees to watch for as well. One reason why this system remains popular, though, is because you’ll find it accepted by popular businesses like Amazon and AirBnB.
Square is often used as a Point of Sale (POS) method of accepting payment and is far more convenient than an anchored cash register. You simply take an official Square reader and attach it to a phone or tablet. The result? Payments accepted literally anywhere with an Internet connection. While there are small fees for every credit card swipe and manually-keyed payment via phones. It also accepts other methods of pay such as Google Pay, Apple Pay, and plenty of others beyond basic credit cards.
Stripe will function similarly to Square, but it’s better used for web-based transactions. Fees are similar to Square and may fall way short of ACH fees. If you have a service that provides subscriptions to customers, Stripe is a better bet than Square because it’s geared more towards seamless renewals and management of mass amounts of subscriptions. The security Stripe offers is excellent as well.
But wait, you say…
Ah yes, you may have noticed we didn’t mention systems like PayPal, Venmo, and TransferWise. We left out PayPal because they’re pretty well-known at this point and don’t require much of an explanation. Venmo and TransferWise, though, aren’t great options in this situation because those are systems typically used more for small, personal transfers of money. They’re systems you use when you need to split some wings or pay someone back for those beautiful mezzanine seats on the 1st base side. Besides, businesses really shouldn’t use a system like Venmo because it doesn’t provide receipts or documentation. Save those transfers for the simpler day-to-day things instead.
Hopefully you’ve got a better idea of safer and possibly cheaper ways to pay vendors in 2021. If you’ve always thought ACH was the only other option besides paper checks, now you know. So go make some change already and your bottom line will thank you.