8 Popular Types of B2B Payments
A complete guide to the 8 most-common types of B2B payments, as well as which payment method is best for your business.
While personal money transfers have evolved dramatically in the past decade, business-to-business payment solutions remain surprisingly archaic. It’s true that businesses tend to be slower to evolve (though less slow than government bureaucracies) since updates require changes to whole teams and systems, but it is still surprising just how common it is for companies to use twentieth-century technologies for twenty-first century payments.
What technology your business should use for B2B payments will depend on numerous factors including your location and common transfer destinations, and the frequency and volume of your transactions. Let’s take a look at the most popular types of B2B payments so you can decide what’s right for you.
8 Popular Types of B2B Payments
It’s fitting to begin with the surprising (to some) stalwart in B2B payments, ye olde paper cheque. According to recent very googlable studies, more than 80% of companies still use paper cheques for some payments. Paper cheques account for 40% of all business-to-business payments (and, yes, that’s in 2022, two years into the great Covid digitization revolution).
Cheques still reign supreme as the most popular method for companies paying other companies. This is true even as payroll, government tax and assistance payouts, and above all, personal money transfers are all increasingly digital.
Why? Well, sure, there is something comforting about the paper cheque for large-scale, high volume payouts, but that’s definitely not all. For one, cheques are preferred by many suppliers and contractors, meaning even if a small business wants to evolve, they’ll still be holding onto their chequing account for some payments. So, while the fintech world shouts from the mountain tops that there are better, faster, cheaper, more secure methods, the paper cheque lives on. And why not? Who doesn’t love mail, especially when it’s money.
- Cost effective
- Relatively secure
- Pay in advance or buy time until the money arrives
- Prone to loss
- Requires printing, mailing, more admin time
Best Suited To
- Businesses accepting large sum single payments
- Rental companies (housing or equipment rentals)
- Businesses with elder clientele
Cash is and will always be the most anonymous, lowest-cost, and (if you have it on hand), the fastest payment method for any transaction. Despite what fintechs and crypto communities might say, there will always be a market for the cold, hard paper dollar. While it is uncommon for larger companies, corporations, retailers, manufacturers and suppliers of consumer goods to use cash for B2B payments, the little guys (and, yes, the shady guys) are still very much living in a cash-ruled world. While the suitcase full of American Benjamins doesn’t really exist beyond the silver screen, there is perhaps no better way to send and receive small quantities of dough than via greenbacks, moolah, scrilla, guap, chicken, cheese, dough…good old cash.
Why use cash? For one, transaction expenses are limited to withdrawal or conversion fees at your bank. No exchange fees, no transaction fees, no printing, no mailing, no delays, no digital footprint, no trace whatsoever. You just hand it over.
The predominance of cash may be in decline, especially in the wake of the pandemic when everyone got used to touchless tapping and digital transfer, but cash is not dead, it is simply the king of a more diminutive kingdom.
- No transaction fees
- Helps control spending
- No paper trail
- You’re not building credit
- No automated record keeping
- Prone to theft
Best Suited To
ACH (or automated clearing house) payments have been around since the 1970s. They are in some ways the “OG'' form of electronic bank transfer. ACH payments are a direct bank-to-bank payment that unlike interac or etransfer, don’t go through a credit/debit network like Visa or MasterCard. They are most popular for recurring payments for subscriptions, suppliers, memberships, service fees, etc. as well as hugely popular for payroll and staff expense reimbursements. They remain to this day a fundamental way businesses pay each other and their staff.
In ACH verbiage, there are two types of ACH transfers, ACH debits and ACH credits, which simply means outgoing (debit) and incoming (credit) ACH transfers.
The main downside of ACH payments relative to newer options is the delay. They typically take 3 or more business days to process, and that is often extended by holidays and weekends. That said, they are relatively low-cost and available to anyone (who is banked). There is good reason many companies still rely on ACH. (They accounted for nearly 73 trillion dollars in global transactions in 2021.)
- Only available nationally
- Long processing times
- Payment amount limits
Best Suited To
- Subscription services
- Education and member clubs
- Property management
Wire transfers have long been the preferred method for businesses making international or large-sum payments. Their security is well-known, the speed is impressive (often faster than other bank-to-bank style transfers), and the cost is typically high. It’s not cheap to wire transfer, but sometimes the medium is the message. If you need to make an important or big-money transfer, odds are your recipient will appreciate getting a wire. Sure, they’ll have to provide a bevy of banking details, but once they do, it’s a simple presto, the money appears.
Those of us with older family and friends may also know some fastidious uncle or pal who insists upon wire transfers over etransfers or Paypal for the small man-to-man payment. This certainly does not mean wire transfers are old-fashioned (though, they kind of are, haha), but they remain among the most secure, traceable, reversible, dependable payment types for cross-border payments in particular, which makes them a perennial favourite for B2B.
- Global reach
- Bad exchange rates
Best Suited To
- Large companies
- Financial institutions
- Law firms and professional services
Credit is unique among the various possible B2B payment methods, in that you don’t actually have to have the money on hand to spend it. Magic! Not only that but it’s fast, easy, and convenient for the accounting department to track. Credit is, in fact, among the most popular forms of business payments. If you’re accepting B2B payments, credit is a no-brainer. It’s easily integrated into other debiting technologies and easy to track in most dashboards.
If you’re the payer and not the payee, there are a few more considerations.
The key with credit is of course staying ahead of the balance. People, and especially business owners that get used to carrying larger debts than any individual would be comfortable with, go wrong when they spend more than they are bringing in.
Overspending is a real potential downfall, and high interest fees only make it worse. However, if used responsibly, using credit as a form of day-to-day payment method helps a business accrue an improved credit rating, always have access to cash flow, and always make fast, secure payments.
- Earn rewards and build credit
- Fraud protection
- Flexible cash flow
- Potential overspending
- High interest fees
- Potential to damage credit
Best Suited To
- Small businesses
- Independent contractors
Digital payments (Paypal, Wise etc.)
While Paypal is the best-known digital payment platform, there are numerous other big as well as smaller specialty digital transfer solutions like it. Square, Stripe, WePay, Google Pay, Skrill, Wise, Venmo, Payoneer, the list goes on. For certain types of transactions, these solutions are among the best ways to move money around the world or over the counter. They’re easy to access, relatively cheap (for most transaction types), they have decent security, good accounting tools, and the payer does not necessarily have to have an account to use the system.
For B2B, offering the option of a Paypal or a Venmo is extremely common at this point, and a must in some industries. If you’re doing a lot of cross-border transactions or high-volume, smaller payments, a digital payments platform is necessary to keep your business with the times. That’s not to say lots of more traditional business sectors still steer clear, they do, but that’s changing, and rather fast. If you’re anywhere near the internet when doing business, and who isn’t, odds are you’re using one of these payment platforms.
- Several financing options
- Popular scam target
- Potentially high transaction fees
- Unfriendly to high-risk businesses
Best Suited To
- Online merchants
- Small businesses with a global reach
Debit is the most straight-forward, common method for digital in-person payments for individuals but it is somewhat less popular for B2B payments since you’re less likely to be at the counter ready to tap your card. That said, they remain a formidable method for bank to bank payments of any type. Using either a debit card or a credit card as a debit card, is a very common way to make and manage spending. It is most popular at brick-and-mortar vendors as well as for micro-businesses without complex banking needs and businesses with mostly local clientele.
Say you’re a supplier of potatoes and a fry truck operator wants to pay for their weekly shipment…pull out the debit machine. For larger transactions they are more rare but not for any particularly good reason other than that they weren’t designed for it and haven’t caught on in that capacity.
When it comes down to it, all direct bank debits are essentially going through one of a few paths (either ACH or wire or via the Visa, interac networks etc.). Whether it’s debit or not is often just a matter of semantics.
- Built-in fraud protection
- Convenience: Connected to traditional bank account
- Expensive currency conversion
- Limited network access in many countries
- Not well-suited to online transactions
Best Suited To
- Brick-and-mortar vendors
- Businesses with local clientele
Electronic bank transfer
Electronic bank transfers, or e-transfers, are very similar to debit payments but typically use an email address or phone number as a recipient identifier as opposed to an account number. This makes e-transfer more convenient for quick, easy transfers between friends or family or for small-volume transactions. They are extremely popular in certain countries such as Canada, which uses the Interac network. Interac can process real-time transfers of up to $25,000, a newly increased transaction limit to attract businesses to the payment method and reduce the need for wires and EFTs. This has made the electronic bank transfer a viable method for business and more and more companies are adopting it as a strategy for national transactions between two bank accounts within the same country.
One of the benefits of e-transfer is that it’s instant. The sender can access the portal through their online banking platform and receives instant confirmation that the funds transfer was successful. The recipient then receives email confirmation that the funds have arrived, which typically takes only a few hours. One of the downsides is that it is not a good way to send money across borders.
- Fraud protection
- Fast transactions
- Relatively easy to dispute
- Limited cross-border capability
- Potential to send funds to wrong receiver
- Poor exchange rates
Best Suited To
- Retailers with mostly national clientele
- Professional services
- Subscription services
How To choose A B2B Payment Method
Choosing the right B2B payment method for your business will depend on numerous factors including the cost, security and privacy, speed, and how much of your time and resources it eats up. The reality is, each business will need to prioritise one or more of these factors over others in order to land on the ideal solution.
Step 1: Consider cost
The closest thing to a universal first priority when it comes to choosing a payment type is the cost. Performing an in-depth cost analysis will be essential as the costs associated with any payment type will differ greatly depending on where you’re sending and receiving your money, how frequently, and in what volumes. For instance, some methods like bank transfers carry significantly higher fees when crossing borders and exchanging currencies while fees for digital payments like Paypal differ greatly depending on the volume of the payment. You’ll want to average out the costs over a large sample of your typical monthly payments to get a clear view of the overall costs.
Step 2: Consider security
One benefit of traditional B2B payments like wire transfers are that despite their cost, they are highly secure. While cash is ultra-private, the lack of paper trail makes it perhaps the least secure. Digital transactions also have security limitations given the possibility of hacked accounts or mistaken transactions (think misspelling the email address on a large Paypal transaction).
Wire transfers are not likely to be a viable option in terms of cost for high-volume transactions, so the essential first step is to research the security and privacy guarantees of your payments provider. Not all digital platforms are equal on this front.
Step 3: Consider your timeline
At times, the speed of transaction is a secondary consideration. At others, a fast payment is essential. Unless you’re there in person and have cash in hand, you’re going to need to choose your provider based on how important the speed is for you.
The cheapest or most secure option is not always going to be the fastest. If you’re on a rushed timeline, e-transfer or digital payment is going to be much more efficient than wire transfer or paper cheque. Some digital payment providers can guarantee fast transaction times, others like Paypal will only offer a 3-5-day window (even though they’re often faster this can’t be guaranteed).
Step 4: Consider time and labour costs
If a payment provider can automate payments, offer point and click execution, automatically track transactions and produce reports for you, that means they are saving you tons of time, which of course also means saving you labour costs. Many small business owners don’t adequately consider the indirect costs associated with payments. If you’re still doing manual reporting and accounting as well as printing out and mailing payments, odds are you’re wasting a lot of time and money on payments.
Payset’s B2B Payment Solution
We are confident that Payset is the ideal B2B payments solution for small- and medium-sized businesses for numerous reasons. We, in fact, established Payset to address the problem that B2B payments solutions have not kept up with evolutions in personal payments. While individuals, regardless of age, region, or technical savvy, are making instant global payments, many businesses are still stuck in a 20th century of sorts when it comes to B2B payments. If you’re looking to bring your business into the 21st century and beyond, where fast, affordable, cross-border, multi-currency payments are available, we think Payset has the best solutions for you.
Benefit 1: Pay and get paid in up to 38 currencies
A multi-currency account from Payset allows you to send and receive payments in up to 38 currencies in the same account. This means if you have suppliers in China, customer service teams in India, developers in Ukraine, managers in Europe, and so on, you can manage the payments for everything from your payroll to your material suppliers all from one dashboard.
The key thing to understand about a Payset account is that due to our access to multiple payment networks around the world, including SWIFT, SEPA, Target2, Faster Payments, CHAPS, and more, and our partnerships with banks in numerous regions, each time you make an international transaction through your Payset account, it is treated as a local transaction. In other words, you’re not paying the fees of a cross-border transaction and you’re not having to wait out the delays. It happens cheaply and quickly just like a local payment.
Benefit 2: Manage payments to/from clients in numerous countries and currencies from one account
The online Payset dashboard is like your online banking portal, only it allows you to hold up to 38 currencies. You can also accept credit or debit payments in 34 different currencies. While you hold your different currencies, you can cheaply exchange between them with access to the best international exchange rates.
You can also make free, instant payments to other Payset account holders. So if you sign up your staff, you can pay them all from one account cheaply regardless of what country they’re in. If your business has overseas staff, this is something that, once you’re doing it, you’ll wonder how you ever worked without it.
Get in touch via phone, chat, or email to find out how Payset can save you shocking quantities of money, time, and resources by modernising your B2B payment processes!
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