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Cloud-based technology, smart, digitally informed workflows, and new types of financial service providers are innovating B2B payments at an unheard-of speed, creating efficiencies and savings that can directly affect a business’s bottom line.

 

The changes and technologies can leave you spinning. There is, however, no need to worry about missing opportunities. Think of Plooto's latest blog series on the brave new world of B2B payments as your personal guide to understanding and leveraging today's B2B payments.

 

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Takeaways

    • Why best practices for using EFTs, ACH transfers, Wire transfers, and eChecks really matter to your bottom line
    • 7 benefits of online payments
    • 3 strategies that can help you when making international payments
    • What new, specialized businesses are improving B2B cross-border payments
    • 6 Need-to-know trends in the B2B payments space

 

    SHORTCUTS

 

 

What are some popular methods of B2B payments?

ACH (Automated Clearing House) Payments

ACH transfers are electronic, bank-to-bank money transfers processed through the Automated Clearing House (ACH) Network.


Wire Transfers

A wire transfer refers to an electronic transfer of funds via a network that is administered by banks and transfer service agencies around the world.


Credit Cards

Credit cards allow cardholders to borrow funds to pay for goods and services. Cardholders pay back the borrowed money with applicable interest.


eChecks

An eCheck is a payment made via the Internet, or another data network, designed to perform the same function as a conventional paper check.

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ACH transfers vs wire transfers: Which payment type is best?

ACH and wire transfers are easy and convenient methods that enable you to move money between banks. Deciding whether to use an ACH transfer or a wire transfer will depend on your purpose and level of urgency for sending money.

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When should a business use ACH transfers?

ACH transfers work by grouping transfers between banks. Once placed, the bank checks and sends transactions in batches. ACH offers businesses free or low-cost transfers, even for high volumes. ACH transfers are an easy way to manage bulk payments, and payroll, for example, with lower transaction costs when compared with other networks, such as credit or debit cards. And unlike most wire transfers, ACH transfers can be reversed in cases of fraud or payment error, offering senders more safety. The criteria for reversals is usually determined by banks.  

 

An ACH transfer is typically best for frequent or recurring transfers. Businesses usually use these types of payments for direct deposit of employee pay. They’re also used for automated monthly invoices, like a scheduled payment for car insurance or student loans.

 

ACH transfers, however, are not ideal for high volume, time-sensitive payments. An ACH transfer can often take two to three business days to complete. ACH transfers take longer to clear because banks process many payments together at once. Also, ACH’s limited use overseas poses a problem for international businesses.

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When should a business use wire transfers?

Wire transfers refer to an electronic transfer of funds via a network administered by banks and transfer service agencies around the world. Wire transfers involve a sending-and-receiving institution and require information from the party initiating the transfer, such as the receiver’s name and account number. Key point: wire transfers don’t actually involve the physical exchange of cash but are settled electronically.

 

Wire transfers are ideal if you need to send money quickly with high security. Because there is usually no hold on funds received by wire transfer, the recipient can access it right away. They also allow you to transfer a large amount of money. An international wire transfer is the fastest way to move money from one country to another securely. You can send thousands of dollars at once and convert the funds to foreign currency.


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What’s the key difference between ACH and wire transfers?

An ACH transfer is completed through a clearinghouse and can process direct payments or direct deposits for free or for a small fee. Wire transfers allow money to be moved from one bank account to another, typically for a fee. ACH transfers can take one or more business days to process, but most wire transfers are processed the same business day. Both types of transfers offer security measures not afforded when you send a paper check. Account holders and merchants can stop ACH transfers. Wire transfers, however, work much more quickly and are final once the funds are received. Wire transfers offer the fastest way to make cross-border payments.



The connectivity between our accounting system reduces the lag time of reconciliations.” TreeFrog

ACH, EFT and eChecks: Which is right for my business?

The terms “EFT,” “ACH,” and “eChecks” represent different digital payment services that take place over an online digital network—although EFT (electronic funds transfer) is a blanket term covering all methods of exchanging money electronically. When determining which digital payment service is right for your business, check out the bank and payment processor you plan to use, the costs associated with the various transactions, and how long each transaction takes to complete. Ultimately, it comes down to what you value more: money or time.

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What is an EFT?

An electronic funds transfer is the electronic transfer of money from one bank account to another, either within a single financial institution or across multiple institutions, via computer-based systems, without the direct intervention of bank staff. EFT is a blanket term that covers all methods of exchanging money electronically.

 

How do businesses benefit by using EFTs?

With all EFTs, businesses can move money faster than by using paper checks.

All digital fund transfers offer multiple layers of protection from fraud for increased security.

  1. The entire EFT process is entirely trackable — documenting bill review, payment and receipt — for better record keeping

  2. EFTs allow for high visibility of cash coming in and out of the business for better cash flow management.

  3. Digitizing processes reduces administrative costs and manual-driven error, lowering costs while improving quality.
  4. Making it more convenient for customers to buy products and services leads to more sales and greater revenue growth.

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How do ACH payments benefit businesses?

A type of electronic bank-to-bank transfer to send and receive money, ACH offers several key benefits for businesses:

 

Speed and ease of use

ACH transfers are faster and easier to handle compared to paying by paper checks.

Low cost

ACH transfers are free or low-cost transfers, even for high volumes.

Efficiency

ACH transfers offer an easy way to manage bulk, recurring payments such as payroll.

Lower transaction costs

Taking payment by ACH transfer costs much less when compared to payment by credit card, where processing fees are higher and come with setup and operational fees.

Higher customer retention

Bank accounts are more stable than cards.

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ACH vs. EFT: which should you choose?

Wire transfer as an EFT refers to an electronic transfer of funds via a network administered by banks and transfer service agencies worldwide.

 

Whether you choose ACH or EFT depends on urgency, transaction cost, and if transferring funds takes place across borders. An ACH transfer can take up to three business days to complete, whereas wire transfers occur almost immediately. Not only are wire transfers sent without delay, but there is also usually no hold on funds received by wire transfer so that the recipient can access the money right away. ACH transfers typically are free or come with a small fee. Wire transfers and associated fees carry a much higher cost. But if speed and security are critical, wire transfer is the ideal solution.

 

Whether transferring funds occurs domestically or internationally is another critical factor when choosing between ACH or wire transfer. Wire transfers are ideal for moving funds internationally, whereas ACH has limited capabilities in handling international transfers, and the process is not as streamlined.

 

What's an eCheck?

An eCheck is a digital version of a paper check. An eCheck is also referred to as an electronic check, online check, internet check, direct debit, ACH payment, or ACH transfer. eChecks use the ACH to direct debit from a customer’s checking account into a merchant’s business bank account; the merchant must work with a payment processor that enables this type of transaction.

 

eChecks can be used in-store, where a merchant scans the written check, or online, where customers can enter their banking information in a secure portal. Bank account information and the purchase amount are electronically transmitted through the ACH to start a withdrawal from the customer’s bank account and a deposit into the merchant’s bank account.

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How Do eChecks benefit businesses?

eChecks offers businesses several advantages:

  • Lower transaction costs than with credit cards.
  • Fewer limits on the transaction amount.
  • There is more stability with recurring payments since bank accounts change less frequently than credit cards.
  • Faster processing and deposits than traditional checks.
  • Greater security, including a lower risk of fraud and returned checks, than conventional paper checks.
  • Faster payments with real-time funds authorizations.
  • The ability to safely accept out-of-state and international eChecks.

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ACH vs. eChecks: Which one should you choose? (And does it matter?)

When deciding whether to use ACH or eChecks to process payments, consider the nature of your business, your customers, and which factors are critical for growth.

ACH processing is ideal for merchants with subscription-type business models where they collect recurring fees or payments from their customers. eCheck payments are popular for businesses that offer payment plans, sell higher-priced items, and provide various payment options.

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How do you process international and cross-border B2B Payments?

Increasing demand to improve cross-border payments has sparked two new specialized businesses: digitally enabled money transfer operators and back-end networks. Digitally enabled money transfer operators deal directly with senders and offer digital cross-border payments as their core business. These providers typically establish direct banking relationships and net payment flow between the sending and receiving countries.

In contrast, back-end networks rarely have a direct relationship with the sending or receiving party, but partner with these parties' bank or wallet (virtual) providers. By establishing partner networks via direct connections with local banks and alternative payment models (APMs), back-end networks enable interoperability within cross-border payments.

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What is the timeline of an international payment from end to end?

International payments usually take between two to five business days to clear. The time frame depends on where the funds are being sent to and the number of intermediary banks. The more financial institutions the payment has to pass through, the longer the transaction will take to clear.

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How to set up an effective international payments process

Growing your business by expanding into international markets offers excellent potential; however, navigating moody foreign exchange markets and an often rocky international trade landscape poses a substantial risk. The following strategies can help mitigate some pitfalls commonly associated with global expansion.

 

1. Evaluate several foreign exchange service providers

Using your bank might bring you a high level of comfort, but not necessarily the best rates or service. Spending the time upfront to find the right service provider will pay dividends in the long term.


2. Set up multiple foreign currency accounts

This gives you control and flexibility when making your exchanges. Also, the least expensive way of converting currencies is simply not having to convert currencies.


3. Ensure all fees and rates are transparent

Surprises can cost you, whether you’re dealing with someone down the street or halfway around the world.

 

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6 current trends in the B2B payments space

According to BigCommerce, these six trends will shift the B2B payments landscape in 2022:

 

1. Decline of checks

An Association for Financial Professionals (AFP) 2020 Payments Survey reported that 58% of practitioners are likely to convert most of their B2B payments from paper checks to electronic payments.

 

2. Smart payments

The increasing use of contactless and remote payments is driving more electronic — “smart” — payments, automating the payments process and eliminating error-prone manual effort.

 

3. Collaborative commerce

Through collaborative commerce, businesses work together through connected systems to increase data and efficiency between buyers and suppliers, reducing friction and creating more automation in the B2B payment process.

 

4. Support for flexible payment options

More and more, businesses expect B2B payment conditions to be as easy and convenient as B2C purchases. Companies need to be capable of offering more flexible payment methods to accommodate larger and more complex B2B transactions.

 

5. Payment automation

The need for payment automation has never been greater — although COVID-19 has only sped up the shift. Cloud-based systems minimize the need for on-premise systems.

 

6. AI, blockchain and cryptocurrency

These technologies have only begun changing the very fabric of commerce, including the B2B payments sector.

 

In addition, the following new payment models are working toward greater efficiency for buyers and sellers:

  • Buy Now, Pay Later (BNPL) installments
  • Pay-one, pay-all invoices
  • Workflow payments

 

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7 reasons why online payments are good for your business

Here’s how implementing online payments can help you build a successful business.

 

1. Saves time and cost

Posting an online payment form on your website or emailing a link to your clients is much quicker than manually printing invoices, stuffing and mailing envelopes.

 

2. Focus is on growth

Freed from repetitive manual tasks, you can spend more time on revenue-generating efforts.

 

3. Reduces costs

By offering online payments, you reduce your paper, supplies, and postage costs. It’s also less money out of your pocket to pay someone to perform the manual billing and invoicing.

 

4. Improves cash flow

Clients can make payments 24/7/365, so you receive your money faster than waiting for checks to come in and clear the bank.

 

5. Helps to attract more clients

Today’s consumer expects convenience. Offering a convenient online way to purchase a product is proven to grow your customer base.

 

6. Offers secure payments

An online payment process, supported by a third-party processor, offers multiple layers of security, protecting sensitive payment information and minimizing your liability risk.

 

7. Simplifies operations

Digital payments are entirely trackable, documenting bill review, payment and receipt. Reporting becomes centralized and reconciling becomes fast and straightforward.

 

The rapid waves of change continue to shape and rearrange all commerce. Companies that understand and utilize today’s many B2B payment advances, deploy best practices, and stay abreast of emerging trends will enjoy long-term competitive advantages and a healthier bottom line.

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