A full guide to B2B payments: Methods, types, and trends

Effectively managing payments is critical to business operation, cash flow, and business relationships.

Credit card outlines

As a business professional, you acknowledge that managing cash flow, maintaining strong relationships, and ensuring timely delivery of goods and services are crucial aspects of B2B payments. However, making these payments is more complex than B2C transactions.

Fortunately, new technologies provide some convenient options for more efficient B2B payments.

A survey by the Association for Financial Professionals (AFP) reports that as many as “73% of organizations are now transitioning their B2B payments from checks to electronic payments,” and advanced AR automation tools are available too.

Here’s what business leaders need to know about today’s B2B payments landscape, including the most popular types of B2B payments, secure methods for cross-border transactions, and what features to look for in a B2B payment platform.

Key takeaways:

  • Businesses are moving from checks to faster, more secure electronic payments.
  • Automation improves payment processing and cash flow.
  • Credit cards, ACH, wire transfers, and digital payments each have unique benefits and challenges.
  • Timely and accurate payments strengthen vendor relationships.
  • Global B2B payments require navigating diverse financial laws and systems.
  • Faster transactions and better records help cut costs and errors.

What are B2B payments?

Business-to-business (B2B) payments are financial transactions between businesses as payment for goods or services. B2B payments are distinct from business-to-consumer (B2C) payments, as they involve transactions between businesses rather than businesses and consumers. However, both types of payments may utilize common methods like checks or credit card payments.

B2B payments typically involve larger sums of money compared to B2C transactions. Additionally, the accounts payable process for B2B transactions is more intricate than when an individual customer makes a purchase.

The business making the payment might need approval from several accounts payable team members, while the receiving business must match the payment to an invoice and reconcile it in their accounting software.

Efficient B2B payments are integral to the supply chain because they ensure that vendors and suppliers get paid on time and avoid business disruptions. They also streamline cash flow management, since businesses have more visibility into their incoming and outgoing B2B payments.

The B2B payment process facilitates good relationships between buyers and sellers, reduces payment delays, and enables cross-border payments.


What are the most common types of B2B payments?

B2B payment options are similar to B2C payments, but there are some additional factors to consider, like payment amount, the speed of the transaction method, and transaction fees.

Eight of the most popular types of B2B payment methods:

Credit cards

Credit cards offer businesses a secure and convenient way to make payments, plus they often come with rewards and purchase protection benefits.

However, they can incur high transaction fees, especially for the merchant receiving the payment. For this reason, not all businesses accept credit cards — although accepting credit card payments can speed up B2B transactions and improve cash flow.

When would credit card be the best option? An example

Let's say a marketing agency regularly needs to make payments for online ads on platforms like Google Ads or Facebook. These platforms require prompt payment to ensure that ad campaigns continue to run without interruption, making credit cards the best (and in some cases, only) payment option.

In situations where flexibility is necessary — like changing payment amounts — regular credit cards are typically better than virtual ones. Credit cards, compared to other payment methods like ACH and EFT, offer more control over your spending, too.

Major b2b payment types: credit cards, virtual CCs, ACH, EFT, wire, payment platforms, paper checks, echecks, cash

Virtual credit cards

Virtual credit cards are an alternative to physical credit cards that involve the use of a temporary card number for one-time or high-risk payments. Businesses can generate virtual numbers linked to their actual credit card account, reducing the risk of payment fraud or stolen or misplaced credit cards.

Juniper Research reports that virtual credit cards were used in 35.8 billion transactions in 2023, and this figure is expected to reach 174.3 billion by 2028.

When would virtual credit cards be the best option? An example

An IT consulting firm requires various SaaS tools for project management, collaboration, and security services. These tools are essential for daily operations and often require monthly or annual subscriptions. In this case, if the software companies accept them, a virtual credit card would be best because it's more secure than regular credit cards.

Virtual credit cards are usually a better option over regular credit cards, assuming the company you're working is able to accept them.

ACH payments

Automated clearing house payments, or ACH payments, use the traditional banking system to send money from one bank account to another. This method is useful for recurring payments since you can schedule ACH transfers well in advance. Many banks don’t charge a fee for ACH payments.

One downside to ACH payments is that it relies on the U.S. banking system, so they can't be used for international payments. Also, ACH transfers can be slow as they don't process during non-business hours, weekends, or holidays.


When would an ACH payment be the best option? An example

A train-manufacturing company, GoTrainGo, needs to make regular, recurring payments to its steel suppliers. These payments are typically large, fixed amounts that are agreed upon in advance, and they're essential for maintaining a steady supply of steel for GoTrainGo's train cars.

ACH might be the best option because it has lower transaction costs, is great for recurring payments, and has high transaction security.

The steady, repeated payments are where ACH shines.

Further reading: ACH vs. EFT payments — what's the difference?

Wire transfers

Wire transfers are similar to ACH transfers, but they can be used for large transactions and international payments. Funds sent by wire transfer are available immediately, so they’re a good B2B payment solution for real-time payments.

To make a wire transfer, you’ll have to go through a third party and pay any associated transaction fees, which can be higher than other payment methods.

When would a wire transfer be the best option? An example

Imagine a tech company that's in the middle of an important product development phase. It needs specific tech components only available from a supplier in another country. Given the time crunch, a delay in receiving the components could cause major delays or increased cost.

Digital payment platforms

Digital payment platforms include PayPal, Venmo, GooglePay, ApplePay, Wise, and other digital wallets. These platforms are linked to a credit card, debit card, or bank account, and some can even be used for international business transactions.

Digital payment platforms are fast and convenient compared to wire transfers, but transaction fees can vary from one payment processor to the next.

Paper checks

Paper checks are rarely used for B2C payments these days, but they still have a role to play in B2B payments, mostly because they’re familiar and traditional. Businesses that have always used paper checks may be reluctant to make changes to their workflow, even if other methods are faster and more convenient.

Physical checks do have some benefits, such as the ability to trace a check and find out when and where the payee cashed it, but there’s a hidden cost to check payments, and it’s easy for paper checks to get lost or misplaced.

Unsurprisingly, as other payment types gain popularity, paper checks are quickly becoming less common. According to J.P. Morgan's 2022 AFP Digital Payment Survey, only 33% of B2B payments were made by checks in 2022.

B2B payments made by checks in the US & Canada: Decreased from 81% in 2004 to 33% in 2022

Electronic checks

Electronic checks, also called eChecks, are a digital alternative to paper checks that are processed through the automated clearing house (ACH) system. Although they’re called checks, they’re actually a type of electronic fund transfer (ETF). Direct debits and direct deposits both fall into this payment category.

Electronic checks are popular for B2B payments because they contain the same details as a paper check — including the bank account number and routing number — but they can be processed more quickly and typically have lower transaction fees.


Cash is less commonly used for B2B payments, but it’s still an option in some industries and regions. One benefit to accepting cash for B2B payments is that you don’t have to pay any transaction fees or set up a payment gateway. However, the lack of a digital paper trail can make it harder to track payments and can lead to cash flow problems.

Pros & cons of different payment types

Challenges of traditional B2B payment methods

All of these payment methods have their pros and cons, and depending on who you do business with, you may be expected to use their preferred payment method. Here are five drawbacks of traditional B2B payment methods to keep in mind:

Lengthy processing times

Traditional payment methods take longer to process than electronic payment methods. Paper checks can get lost in the mail, or take several days to clear even after you’ve deposited them. Even ACH transfers are only processed during business hours.

With electronic checks and digital payment platforms, you can track the status of your payments more easily and better predict when the money will arrive.

Significant payment delays

Traditional B2B payment methods are inherently slow, but other factors can contribute to payment delays that damage supplier relationships and impact your cash flow. For example, AP teams may simply take longer to process physical invoices than digital ones, due to the number of steps in the payment approval process.

According to statistics in the Trade Credit Dilemma Report by PYMNTS, “27.5% of firms that frequently receive late payments … also pay their suppliers late.” By switching to digital invoices and sending out automated payment reminders, you can incentivize early payments and reduce payment delays.

Steep transaction fees

Most B2B payment methods cost money, and unless you only accept cash, there’s no way transaction fees altogether. However, the fees associated with traditional B2B payment methods can add up, including wire transfer fees and foreign transaction fees.

Digital payment methods are often more cost-effective, both in terms of the direct fees you pay to financial institutions and the fees that other merchants pass on to you.

Potential security issues

B2B payment fraud comes in many forms, including invoice fraud and wire fraud. B2B business entities and financial professionals need to be on the lookout for everything from forged checks to unauthorized credit card transactions.

No B2B payment method is 100% fraud-proof, but it’s easier to spot red flags when you have a digital paper trail, and you can mitigate the risk by using virtual credit cards and two-factor authentication on business bank accounts and devices.

Lack of transparency

There’s a good chance that multiple departments are involved in your AP process. With traditional payment methods, paper checks and invoices are passed from one team to the next, providing opportunities for miscommunication and human error.

Plus, paper invoices and receipts may be filed away in various locations, resulting in incomplete records and a lack of centralized payment data.

Benefits of digital B2B payment methods

Digital payment solutions offer several benefits over traditional B2B payments, including faster and more secure transactions. Here are just a few benefits to consider:

Faster payments

Digital payment platforms allow you to send and receive money faster by speeding up the payment process. Not only are electronic transfers processed more efficiently than paper checks, but B2B customers may pay digital invoices more promptly too.

Merchants can set up recurring payments, offer an early payment discount, and use automated payment reminders to notify customers when a payment is due.

Faster payments mean better cash flow, and improved AP turnover and AR turnover ratios.

Instant payments will increase across territories

Lower costs

Electronic checks and digital payment platforms tend to have lower fees than credit card payments and wire transfers. This can result in lower payment costs, as well as reduced overhead since digital payments require less administrative work to process.

Invoice automation helps you stay on top of your own expenses, too avoiding duplicate payments, erroneous invoices, and overdue payment fees.

Improved record-keeping

Digital invoice management tools allow you to streamline and automate the AP process, reconciling invoices automatically and integrating your payment data with your ERP and accounting software for improved data-sharing and collaboration. Maintain an audit trail, identify fraudulent transactions, and ensure compliance with financial regulations.

Better B2B relationships

Accepting digital payments isn’t just about streamlining your own operations (though streamlined AP and AR processes help quite a bit), but about improving the payment experience for your B2B customers too. Customers want to be able to choose their preferred payment method and expect more convenient options than making a wire transfer or mailing a check.

How to process international B2B payments

If your organization does business internationally, then you know that there’s another layer of complexity in the B2B payments process. Small businesses in particular can struggle with cross-border B2B transactions. According to PYMNTS, “27% of [SMBs] rank the complexity of making cross-border payments as one of their top obstacles,” and only 23% “were very or extremely satisfied with the solutions offered.”

Here are four factors to keep in mind when making cross-border B2B payments:

  • Data compliance: International payments need to comply with data protection and financial regulations in both the sending and receiving countries, such as PCI DSS in the U.S. and the GDPR in Europe.
  • Transaction types: Consider the frequency of your cross-border online payments and whether to make a one-time payment or set up a recurring transaction. Exchange rates can vary, so the timing of your payment can make a big difference to your cash flow and the cost of paying an invoice.
  • Payment rules verification: Payment rules vary by country, and some payment processors may not support transactions between specific countries. Taxes and fees may vary too, so use a payment processor that can calculate these rules automatically and ensure you comply with local regulations.
  • Invoice automation tools: Invoice automation tools are especially important for international payments because they can streamline the creation of invoices and reconcile complex multi-currency transactions.

9 things to look for in a B2B payment platform

Using a payment platform to process B2B transactions can streamline your AR and AP operations and improve your cash flow. Since each platform has its own set of features, use this list to ensure that all of the most important things are included:

  • Payment methods: Does the platform support multiple options for sending and receiving payments? This will allow customers to choose their preferred method when making a payment — such as a credit card or check — and give you more flexibility when you need to make an urgent outgoing payment.
  • Self-service portal: A self-service portal allows customers to log in and view an invoice, update their payment method, and pay their bills online. This saves your finance team from having to facilitate every inquiry or payment manually.
  • Automatic reconciliation: An automated reconciliation process matches up all of the documents related to a payment, such as invoices and purchase orders, ensuring that your records are accurate and that all of the numbers add up.
  • ERP integration: Your payment platform isn’t the only tool you use to facilitate B2B payments. Choose a platform that integrates with other tools you already use, such as your ERP software and accounting tools.
  • Automated collections tools: The collections process involves following up with customers to ensure they pay outstanding invoices. Choosing a payment platform with automated reminders and built-in collections features lets you streamline the process so your AR team doesn’t have to do it manually.
  • Payment analytics: Your payment platform should provide custom reports and analytics that allow you to optimize your payment strategies. These tools help you identify problems and make more accurate cash flow projections.
  • Discount tools: Offering discounts for early or recurring payments can help you build relationships with loyal customers. Conversely, you can add on a payment processing fee to cover the cost associated with different payment methods.
  • Security features: No business wants to make or receive payments through a questionable payment gateway. Choose one that’s PCI-compliant and has the latest security features, like encryption and two-factor authentication.
  • Banking network: A B2B payment platform with a limited banking network could make it hard to make and receive payments. Look for one that’s compatible with all major banks and accepts major credit cards like Visa and Mastercard.

What to look for in a B2B platform: payment methods, self-service, reconciliation, ERP, automation, analytics, discount tools, security

Regulatory considerations in B2B payments

When handling B2B payments, it’s important for businesses to understand and comply with applicable regulations in order to avoid fines, legal fees, and reputation damage. Depending on where your business is located, these might include:

Data protection regulations

In Europe, strong privacy regulations like the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) and the revised Payment Services Directive (PSD2) may determine what you can do with customer data and how securely you need to store it.

In the U.S., the Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard (PCI DSS) requires merchants to protect cardholder data and transmit it securely. If you store customer credit card or bank account details, you’ll need to restrict access to sensitive data, maintain access logs, and train employees on standard security practices.


Anti-money laundering regulations

B2B payments may also be subject to anti-money laundering regulations, especially if you make cross-border B2B payments. The U.S. Bank Secrecy Act requires financial institutions to monitor transactions for fraud, money laundering, and tax evasion, and payment processors must abide by Know Your Customer (KYC) regulations.

Even legitimate transactions can be delayed if a financial institution needs to perform a source of funds check or verify a merchant or customer’s identity.

Choose a payment processor with a robust compliance program, and verify your identity and bank account details in advance to avoid delayed payments. Maintain an audit trail so you can substantiate the purpose of each transaction.

According to LLR Partners, B2B payments lag behind B2C payments when it comes to digital advances. Of the $120 trillion in B2B payments made annually around the world, only one-third use electronic payment methods, but those numbers will grow.

Cashless transaction will more than double by 2030

Here are five trends to look out for as businesses increasingly adopt digital tech for B2B payments:

Fewer paper checks

Paper checks haven’t gone away, especially when it comes to high-value payments. But as individuals move away from paper checks in their personal lives, it’s only a matter of time until businesses follow suit. The Association for Financial Professionals reports a decline in B2B check usage reaching an “all-time low” of 33%.

Electronic checks and other digital payments allow businesses to get paid faster and more securely. Plus, going paperless is better for the environment.

Growth of mobile payments

Another way in which the B2B sector is catching up to B2C payments is in the rise of mobile payments. The lengthier AP process makes payment methods like ApplePay and GooglePay less practical, but there are benefits to providing employees with a mobile wallet they can use for in-person expenses like deliveries or transport.

Real-time payments

Compared to traditional payment methods, digital payments are fast, but they could get even faster. According to Deloitte Insights, over 70 countries have a real-time payment (RTP) system, and in the U.S., the RTP system processed almost 50 million real-time payments in the fourth quarter of 2022 alone.

Real-time payments allow businesses to send and receive money instantly, without the multi-day transaction window associated with traditional ACH payments.

Deferred payment options

Deferred payment solutions, also known as a Buy Now Pay Later (BNPL) program, are making the jump from B2C to B2B payments. These payment solutions allow customers to split invoices up into multiple installments and spread out their expenses. Merchants can use BNPL solutions to offer flexible payment terms to B2B customers.

Increased automation

Alongside these other B2B payment trends, accounting departments are increasingly turning to AP and AR automation to improve efficiency and reduce human error. From invoice generation to automated reconciliation, AP and AR automation tools can save time and money, and spare your team from manual invoicing and data entry.

Innovations driving the future of B2B payments

Today’s B2B innovations are already impressive, but there’s still more to come. Here’s what’s on the horizon when it comes to the future of B2B payment solutions:

AI and machine learning

First, artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning promise to improve fraud detection and predictive analytics, allowing businesses to mitigate risks and gain deeper insights into their business operations. Businesses can use payment predictions and cash flow forecasting tools to create personalized invoices and incentivize early payments.

Internet of Things (IoT)

Internet of Things, or IoT devices, are smart objects that are connected to the internet, including wearable devices and smart cars. According to Mastercard, this technology, along with smart contracts, can streamline “high-frequency, low-value transactions,” such as replacing office supplies or maintaining appliances.

Rather than manually placing an order to restock a photocopier or vending machine, businesses can use connected devices to automatically place a follow-up order with their supplier, all according to the terms of their contract.


Although often associated with cryptocurrency, blockchain technology has additional uses, even for businesses that don’t send or receive payments in Bitcoin. Businesses can use blockchain to create smart contracts and facilitate B2B transactions using a decentralized ledger that can never be altered.

Decentralized finance (DeFi) uses data encryption, tokenization, and other advanced security measures to authenticate users and verify peer-to-peer transactions.

How Plooto unlocks B2B payment efficiency and security

Plooto helps you unlock B2B payment efficiency by automating payment processes and centralizing multiple payment options all in one place. Start by importing all of your B2B contacts and invoices and bypass manual data entry. Then automate your AR and AP processes so you can send and receive invoices and track them electronically.

Plooto supports multiple B2B payment options, including paper checks, credit cards/virtual credit cards, and international payments, and integrates with your existing accounting tools like Xero, QuickBooks, Oracle NetSuite. Plooto also supports pre-authorized debit (PAD) agreements so you can facilitate recurring payments.

Greenhouse, an organic beverage brand, saved $50K per year and 40 hours per month using Plooto’s automation tools to process invoices and reconcile payments automatically. Now, they have more visibility into their cash flow and can spend those hours on big-picture financial decisions instead of administrative work.

When it comes to security features, Plooto uses industry-standard encryption to protect your sensitive information, and two-factor authentication to ensure that only authorized users can gain access to your account. Plus, Plooto maintains insurance coverage to protect your funds against cybercrime, financial crime, and other forms of theft.

Plooto offers free invoice templates for businesses of all sizes, so you can get started with digital invoice management right away. Start your free trial today to see how you can automate your payments and control your cash with Plooto.



What is a B2B transaction?

A B2B transaction is a financial interaction between one business and another, such as a sale, subscription, or purchase agreement. For example, a retailer might engage in a B2B transaction with a wholesaler or manufacturer when making a purchase.

What is B2B vs B2C payment?

A business-to-business (B2B) payment refers to a payment for goods or services from one merchant to another. A business-to-customer (B2C) payment is a transaction with an individual consumer who is making a purchase from a business.

Even if the payment method is the same, B2B payments often take longer to process because they involve larger amounts or more complex transactions.

What are the most popular B2B payment methods?

The most popular B2B payment methods include cash, debit, and credit card payments and automated clearing house (ACH) transactions. Paper checks are still common, as are payment processing platforms and wire transfers for international payments.

Are checks still dominant in B2B payments?

Checks are still a popular B2B payment option because they have a long tradition in B2B transactions and are seen as a safe and familiar payment solution. Checks also have lower processing fees than credit card payments. However, in some industries, paper checks are being phased out in favor of digital payment methods.

Related reading about business-to-business payments

Learn more about international transactions, payments, automation, and security.

Map international business payments header

The 11 best ways to pay for international business transactions

Read the article > 
Two people talking at a desk, only their hands visible in frame 2

Your complete guide to ACH payments: Use cases and more

Read the article >
A man shows a coworker some information on his iMac screen

EFT payments: What they are and when to use them

Read the article >

Running your own business? Plooto is built to make your B2B payments fast and easy.

Get started today — 100% free.

Start free trial