Everything you need to know about ACH payments processing for business transactions in 2023
ACH payment processing is an attractive feature for merchants to offer business customers. Why? ACH payments for business are on the rise—PYMNTS recently shared that B2B same-day ACH payments increased by 11.7% in the first quarter of 2023. The value of these payments leapt about 95% to $565.3 billion and the number of payments increased about 21% to 186.2 million.
ACH payments for business caught the eyes of company leaders during the pandemic as digitization processes needed to be hurried forward. A March 2022 PYMNTS report shared that 68% of chief financial officers reported an increased use of ACH at their firms due to digitization since the pandemic’s onset, making ACH the number one payment method in terms of being used more frequently.
That popularity is only increasing. With B2B’s migration online, merchants and buyers alike are searching out more cost-effective, efficient payment methods like ACH.
In this blog, we’ll break down everything you need to know about ACH payments for business transactions in 2023, and how to choose the best payments processor for B2B.
What are ACH payments?
ACH, or Automatic Clearing House, refers to the network responsible for the electronic movement of funds, and connects all banks in the United States. This network is governed by Nacha, the National Automated Clearing House Association.
Developed in the 1970s, ACH remains a popular business payment method until today as an alternative to using the credit card network or using checks.
Credit card payments do not align with the B2B purchasing journey, and often create unnecessary headaches and friction for all parties involved. Bloomberg recently reported businesses increasingly facing extreme difficulty in accessing credit, further illustrating that credit cards are simply not the best option for B2B.
Types of ACH payments
There are two types of ACH payments:
- Direct deposits
- Direct transfers
Direct deposits refer to any ACH transfer of funds made from a government entity or business to a consumer. The most common example of this would be employee payroll.
Direct transfers refer to individuals, businesses and other organizations that send money to one another. For example, when a business chooses to pay another business via ACH direct transfer, the paying business “sends” the money through the ACH network, debiting their bank account and crediting the receiving business’s bank account.
Differentiating ACH transfers and wires
How do ACH transfers differ from wire transfers? While both are alternatives to using the credit card network to move funds, ACH and wire transfers are different processes. While wire transfers are processed the same day they are requested, ACH transfers can take several days to process, and can be held up depending on the time of day the request was made or if the payment fails.
It is important to note that same-day ACH transfers also exist as an option as of 2018. In general, however, wires are more instant than ACH transfers.
However, ACH transfers are cheaper than wire transfers. Wire transfers can cost upwards of $50, both for the incoming party and the one sending the funds. The cost also varies depending on several factors, including recurring transfers and account type.
ACH transfers, on the other hand, cost on average $0.25 to $0.75 per transaction, or a 0.5-1% rate per transaction. They are free to receive. Same-day ACH transfers cost a bit more, and are also free to receive. ACH payments for businesses can be a welcome alternative to more expensive business transactions.
The drawback of ACH payments for business
The biggest drawback of ACH cited by business professionals is processing times. For an organization looking to unlock cash flow immediately, a several-day processing time is not ideal. What’s more, federal holidays, weekends and time of request can all impact how quickly an ACH transfer is processed, and same-day ACH transfers are not universally available.
Benefits of ACH payments for business
Why should a manufacturer or wholesaler offer ACH payments processing to customers? From small businesses to enterprises, ACH payments offer the following benefits:
As mentioned in the last section, ACH payments for businesses are a significantly cheaper alternative to credit cards for both the sending organization and the receiving organization.
ACH payments offer convenience as paper invoices and checks are eliminated. They also require little or no labor to enter into a record-keeping system, as banks create an electronic record during every transaction.
For buyers, a paperless payment experience is an elevated experience. They can even schedule payments to streamline the process further.
Any business with a US bank account is eligible to pay and receive payment via ACH.
The typical lifespan of a credit card is 3 years, while a bank account is typically held for 14 years, greatly reducing the chance of a missed payment. Unlike credit cards, there is no expiration date to keep track of, and as a result, one less reason why a payment could be declined.
Because ACH is managed by the US government, there are baseline security protocols that those involved are required to meet, and are comparable to the standards of credit cards. There are also several ways to go above and beyond those standards to ensure greater security.
How to choose the right ACH payments processor for your business
When choosing an ACH processor, it’s important to consider who your customers are and their needs, what ecommerce platform you’re using (if at all), and your B2B ecommerce roadmap. For a B2C company, choosing an ACH payments processor is a much more simple task, as the restraints and needs of consumers are typically less complex.
But those in the B2B space need an ACH payments processor can handle the specific needs of businesses when it comes to payment terms and transactions, including but not limited to:
- Recurring payments
- Installment agreements
- Milestone payments
- Payment terms for business customers
What’s more, a frictionless online experience is still not a standard in B2B today, and most payment tools aren’t compatible with an ecommerce experience.
For businesses that need to optimize the conversion of deals, forecast AR over time, and keep their customers happy with flexible payment options—all online—a B2B-first ACH payments stack is essential.
ACH payments for business with Balance
Unlike other payment processing solutions that may be geared towards B2C transactions, Balance is specifically designed to handle the unique requirements of B2B payment flows.
With Balance, businesses can offer ACH payments alongside other payment options like wire and credit card to give their buyers ultimate flexibility in how they pay, while enjoying the benefits of timely payments, optimized cash flow, and reduced risk.
In addition to offering ACH payments for business, Balance enables embedded financing and assessment so customers can purchase with net terms.
With embedded financing, full collection handling, multiple payment methods, and through supporting a range of payment flows—both online and offline—Balance makes business transactions easier and more efficient. Learn more today.