If you are charging a fee for your conference, event, seminar or meeting, it probably means you need a way to charge your clients and attendees online. Giving your clients and attendees an easy way to pay is not only important for your user experience, it is good business and more than anything it is essential for your cash flow. eChecks are a great payment method for conference and events.
Let’s start with the basics: getting paid is by far the #1 priority you should have regarding your conference. Taking payments online will enable you collect payment at all times from conference attendees. If you can only automate one thing your billing process should the thing you automate. This will save you time and money in the long run. Not only does it allow you to accept payments 24/7, but it can help streamline invoicing and payment reminders as well.
In this post I want to talk about one of the most overseen payment methods out there: eChecks. There is a reason this payment method is often overlooked by event planners. eChecks don’t necessarily work for all payment situations. However, if these situations apply to your attendees, you can save a lot of money by implementing this payment method. for your. So read on to see if e-checks are the money saver solution you might just not know about 🙂
What are eChecks?
eChecks, also sometimes referred to as ACH payments, are basically an electronic method of submitting a check online. e-Checks are only offered in the US and with US bank accounts, so if you have mostly international guests or you aren’t based in the US, then this might not be a great option. Note, you do not have to be US based to take e-checks, you just need enough of your attendees to be US based or more accurately have a US based bank account.
The way it works is pretty simple: attendees enter their checking account number and routing number (those 2 sets of bold numbers on the bottom of paper checks). The payment is made by electronic transfer from the user’s bank account to yours. Easy, simple and secure. Most people these days use PayPal or other online payment methods that use a checking account, so this process should be familiar to many. e-Checks are one of the many payments methods offered online today and are a great alternative for payment with credit cards. Generally e-checks are a lot (I mean really a lot) cheaper than credit cards transactions for you (the organizer of the event or conference). But before we look at all the pros of eChecks, let’s talk about some of the drawbacks.
Are there any cons of offering e-Checks?
Nothing is all good, right? Especially with payment methods. There is always a reason one person prefers one payment method over another. That said, I am happy to say that the cons of e-Checks are few and far between! Nonetheless, they still exist and it is important to know them. In the end, offering a variety of payment options to attendees is the best option. Everyone should have an option to pay in the way that is most comfortable for them.
Checks can still bounce.
A check is a check regardless if it is issued online or not. Unfortunately there are people that give out checks that have no cover and then they bounce. This is really annoying since it normally happens a week or two after you thought you received the funds. This isn’t great for budgeting or cash flow on your end. When you deposit a physical check in the bank, they will actually change your account balance to show a higher balance. Essentially they treat it as if the check cleared when it really hasn’t. If the check then bounces, they will pull those funds back out of your account. This is obviously annoying but if you have issued payments to suppliers based on these funds, you will have a cash flow issue. Worse yet, your checks might bounce. Ouch!
With eChecks things are a little different. Since the transaction is online, the bank is able to check that the check can actually clear before approving it. There is still a chance it will bounce since the funds might not be available when the actual transfer happens, but this is very rare. Out of the 1 million e-Check transactions Regpack has processed to date, only 0.0034% have bounced. The average on physical checks is 2.23%. I think it is pretty obvious what you should prefer for your business! I still mark this as a con though, since bouncing can and does happen.
eChecks can be annoying with increasing mobile payments.
Another con is the increasing use of mobile registration and payments. It can be harder to correctly enter the checking account information on a mobile device. If attendees are making a payment on the fly, they may not have access to their bank account and routing information at the time of registration. It seems more reasonable that a person would have their CC number memorized (or in their wallet) to easily enter it when paying for something rather than a checking account and routing number (or an actual checkbook). A small con, but one nevertheless.
Longer wait time for the funds to clear.
The last con is that it can take a day or two for the transaction to clear (which can cause bounces). The way it works with e-Checks is that once the request is issued, it goes to processing. Funds will be transferred only once the funds from the client account have been taken. Note that this is different than with physical checks as I have explained above. So it might take 2-3 business days to clear. But once it has cleared and has been sent to you, the chances of it bouncing (or disputed) are very low.
With credit cards, the process is different. Once the credit card company has approved the transaction, they take the responsibility to pay you. This is one of the main reasons credit cards became successful when the technology was established since it didn’t rely on actual funds in someones bank account. It created a safety net for businesses offering services to clients they do not know. It basically told them “if I am telling you it is OK then I will back it up with money. No matter what you will get paid!”.
That was a very strong statement when connectivity to computers to see up to date data was not possible. It gave peace of mind to many businesses, which is why they accepted credit cards despite the cost associated with it. The rest is history, today it is the #1 payment method in the world. The historical reasons are no longer important. If someone would try to issue a service like this today however, it would most likely fail.
Enough with the history lesson and back to the present. Today we have connectivity to computers and financial data everywhere. All the more so when you are doing a transaction online. So today similar authentication and checking methods are implemented for e-Checks as they are with credit cards. The guarantee is not there like with a credit card BUT that is why the processing cost is lower. I personally think it is the best of both worlds: lower costs and very low risk. Win-win!
What is the benefit to your conference by offering this option to attendees?
The benefits of eChecks are pretty endless. Let’s break this down to the advantages for attendees and the advantages for you and your business.
Why your attendees will love that you offer e-Checks!
1. The first and most obvious advantage is just offering them more options. Like I said above, there are a number of reasons people prefer one payment method over another. Maybe they want to use their credit card on an upcoming vacation and want to make sure it has sufficient credit. In business conferences, a lot of people use their company card and it is normally subject to very specific rules regarding the amount they are allowed to spend monthly or the amount they can spend without getting approval. Some companies have a policy of not using credit card online. There is no reason for this, but there are companies and people that still prefer not to). Or any other reason. The more options you give them to make a payment the more chance they will actually make the payment. And you get paid! Woohoo!
2. The law states that you need to allow one payment method that does not have a fee connected to it. Many organizers and conference planners we work with want to keep their price low and at the same time offer online payments. In order to do that they add a fee to credit card transactions so the cost will be offset to the attendee. But I just said that you need to offer one free option, so what option is this? Does that mean mailing checks? No! Since the fees connected to e-Check processing are normally a third of credit cards many organizers offer e-Checks as the free online payment option.
3. The third reason attendees will be happy to use e-Checks is if they have a special account setup specifically for conferences. Many companies sponsor or pay for their employees to attend conferences, so they are more than happy to pay with a bank account vs a credit card. Generally businesses prefer dealing like this versus with credit as it’s easier for their accounting.
Why YOU will love e-Checks!
The #1 reason is undoubtedly because eChecks come with lower fees. The fees for processing e-Checks are sometimes a third of the cost of processing credit card.
An important concept to learn regarding payment processing is “money cost”. The idea is that there is a cost associated with getting money. It comes from the loan business. Since there is always a cost connected to taking a loan (if you know of an option that does not cost anything let me know lol). But this is also true of any payments you get. The money cost are the fees you pay plus the time you spend on getting the money. It is a known fact that even though the price of processing payments online is higher than just taking checks, the cost is actually lower since there are less bounces and account receivables to take care of. If you are interested in this I wrote a whole post about the difference between cost and price.
Your money cost is the blended price you pay for processing plus your account receivables (people you need to run after to get money from) and your payment bounces (people that paid you and then the payment was not approved later). Lowering the price of your processing will lower your overall blended rate for processing. End result: more money in the bank for you to make your event or conference amazing!
More reasons you should offer e-Checks:
- The ability to offer more payment options for attendees. More options = more completed payments!
- Lower risk of chargebacks vs. credit cards. This lowers support issues, increases completed and on time payments.
- eChecks get preferred funding, so it’s in your interest to offer it!
Conclusion: Is setting up e-Checks as a payment option for conference worth it?
Despite a few cons, the answer is YES! Every payment method has cons, and e-Checks probably have the least compared to cash and credit cards. It is cheap for you, cheap for attendees, and easy to do! Offering as many options as you can to make a payment will increase your cash flow and increase your completed payments. Options means less excuses for attendees to pay!
Plus, by making e-Checks the default payment, you can lower your overall money costs associated with offering online payments. This targets people who have no payment preference and often will choose the first option they see. This means more money in the bank for you, and less money spent on this business cost.
For me, it’s kind of a no-brainer. There are very few cases where I’d discourage a a conference planner from including e-Checks as a payment method as part of their registration process and payment offerings.
If you are a Regpack client, ask your project manager today how to employ the best payment strategy. That includes e-Checks, autobilling and other automated processes, to boost your payments today. And if you aren’t a Regpack client, ask your registration software or your payment processor, how to incorporate eChecks.