If you want your invoices to be paid quickly, you need to make it easy for your customers to pay you. There are a variety of popular payment methods available to business owners:
Cheques and cash
Some customers still prefer paying with cheques or cash, although it's increasingly rare these days – and some banks are phasing out the use of cheques. One advantage of cash is that there are usually no transaction fees, although some banks do charge for cheque payments. However, payments in cash or by cheque involve more work, are inflexible and can be slow and unpredictable. Late payers can also go unnoticed, without automated notifications of overdue invoices.
Credit and debit cards
Customers can give permission for companies to take funds from their credit or debit cards. The customer supplies their card number online, by phone or in person, which is then linked to their bank account by card networks and settlement banks to take the money owing. It’s a useful way of making one-off transactions or subscribing for regular payments. However, it can be expensive for merchants. Costs are high, both per payment and in monthly fees. Failed payments are also reasonably common due to cards being rejected, expiring or getting lost or stolen.
Customers fill in a simple form that authorises a company to take money from their bank account. The company can automate payments, taking money from customers’ accounts when payments are due, varying the frequency and amount as required, but without having to seek the permission of the customer each time. Direct Debit has a low cost per payment for the merchant and failure rates are very low – for example, less than 1% with GoCardless. It’s a very flexible way to take payments, with minimal hassle involved.
Direct bank transfers are possible from the customer’s to the seller's account. This method is commonly used for regular payments, but it can also work for one-off transactions. Bank transfers are popular due to their low transaction fees and low failure rate, but they carry the risk that companies will not be alerted if payments fail. They are also inflexible, only allowing customers to pay a set amount at a specified time, and sometimes customers forget or type in the wrong information.
Electronic online payments
There are alternative payment methods available, although they aren't yet in widespread use in Australia. Systems such as Paypal can be useful, especially if selling to customers overseas who want to pay in different currencies. There's also the option of receiving payment in cryptocurrencies such as Bitcoin, although the value of these fluctuates over time, meaning there's an exchange rate risk unless you convert to Australian dollars immediately. Ask your accountant for ideas about which of the newer online payment methods might be useful for your business.
Automating payment collection is easy with electronic invoicing, which allows customers to pay immediately using integrated payment methods. It’s convenient for business owners, who get money when it's due, and for customers, who don’t have to waste time processing invoices and arranging payments.
Preventing late payments really matters, particularly to small and medium-sized businesses, many of which experience cash flow difficulties as a result of bills going unpaid. By automating payments via Direct Debit, for example, companies can predict how much money they will have in the bank at any time. This means they can plan ahead and focus on their relationship with the customer instead of pestering them for unpaid bills.‹ View table of contents Next page ›