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How to accept ACH payments? Guide for small businesses

A user-friendly payment process is one of the top ways to boost sales revenue. ACH-enabled bank transfers are fast, straightforward, and cost-effective. Is your website set up for ACH payments yet? We’ll discuss how to accept ACH payments from customers below and why these electronic payments are so convenient.

How do ACH payments work?

ACH payments are a simple form of EFT, or electronic funds transfer. When a customer wishes to make a payment for goods or services, they can transfer the funds directly from their bank account to your business bank account. The funds are delivered via the ACH (Automated Clearing House) network for a quick and easy transfer process. While this might sound similar to a debit card payment, the transaction is processed differently.

Benefits of accepting ACH payments

What are some reasons to accept ACH payments? Here are a few of the key benefits to consider:

1. They’re cost-effective.

Credit and debit card processing might be convenient, but it often comes with high flat fees per transaction. ACH payments are processed in batches, which lowers the flat rate per transfer.

2. They’re convenient.

Electronic payment processing typically takes about three days for the funds to clear to your account. Although it’s not the speediest method, it’s faster than paper check processing. And when credit card transactions go wrong, the funds can get tied up for weeks on end. This makes ACH payments more reliable and convenient.

3. They’re secure.

The ACH network is tightly regulated, connecting US financial institutions with many layers of security. There are clearly defined reasons for disputing ACH charges compared to credit card charges, which can be disputed for any reason.

4. They enable recurring payments.

If your business provides regular or subscription services, ACH payments allow your customers to set up a billing schedule for simple recurring payments.

How to accept ACH payments

If you’re intrigued by the benefits outlined above and are ready to learn how to accept ACH payments from customers, here’s a step-by-step rundown:

Step 1: Create an ACH merchant account.

The first order of business is to set up your own ACH merchant account. This gives your business access to the ACH network, enabling direct withdrawals from customer bank accounts. You’ll need to provide basic details including:

  • Estimated processing volumes

  • Certification of incorporation

  • Proof of company address

  • Valid ID for company owners

  • Federal tax ID

Step 2: Request customer authorization.

Once you’re set up with a merchant account, the next step is to request authorization from your business customers. This can be compared to the signature on a paper check. Some examples of authorization include things like:

  • Verbal agreement over a recorded phone message

  • Signature on a written order form

  • Online payment form submission

Step 3: Set up the payment.

Whatever the method of authorization, it should also include relevant payment details, including the bank name, account type, account number, routing number, and customer name. You’ll only need to take these once for recurring payments. Account information can be verified using tools like microdeposits, ensuring the account details are correct before taking a larger payment.

Are you wondering how to accept ACH payments on your website? Speak to your account provider about setting up a payment gateway that includes a specialty webform for ACH transactions.

Step 4: Submit your payment details.

With authorization complete and payment details taken, the final step is to input them into the ACH system. You’ll do this either through a website payment gateway, processing software, or other third-party method.

The full process typically takes between three to five business days, including transaction verification and funds clearance.

The best ACH payment processing for small businesses

There are plentiful third-party ACH processors out there to choose from. The best ACH payment processing for small businesses will depend on the company’s individual needs. Here are a few factors to help steer you in the right direction:

  • Compare fees carefully, including insufficient funds and chargebacks

  • Look for easy website integration with a payment gateway

  • Ensure the set-up process is easy both for your business and its customers

Finally, don’t forget to speak to your bank first. Many large banks will help you figure out how to accept ACH payments without the assistance of a third-party processor.

We can help

GoCardless helps you automate payment collection, cutting down on the amount of admin your team needs to deal with when chasing invoices. Find out how GoCardless can help you with ad hoc payments or recurring payments.

GoCardless is used by over 60,000 businesses around the world. Learn more about how you can improve payment processing at your business today.

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