by Michelle Lowe
It always pays to do a little research before making a purchase to ensure you find the right product to address your needs. There is a wide world of them to choose from, but they are not all ideal for legal professionals like you. Here, we will examine five essential features you should keep an eye out for when shopping around for an online payments processor.
1. Tailor-Made for Law Firms
A lot of online payment solutions bill themselves as a one-size-fits-all product that can suit the needs of any business. However, in reality, most of these products work best for retail stores and restaurants, as these are the most common businesses in the country. You will likely find that they have features, functions, and price points that would suit these businesses perfectly.
But, you are not selling a product—you are providing a complex, valuable professional service. A typical paper receipt would not properly convey the type of work you do for your clients and the full value of your services.
This is why specialized payment solutions are the best fit for law firms like yours. They know how important it is to protect your IOLTA account from third-party debiting, and keep your earned and unearned fees separated with each transaction. Plus, their products often integrate with other legal software that you use every day, allowing you to keep your work organized in one place.
2. Allows both Invoiced and In-Person Payments
Online credit card payments have quickly become the most popular way for consumers to pay. In fact, 74 percent of households with an Internet connection prefer to pay their bills online with their favorite connected devices.
Despite this, not all payment processors are designed with this functionality in mind. Many of them are still designed solely for in-person transactions, with online payments as a tacked-on afterthought. While these solutions can serve consumers more used to traditional methods, they are missing a key emerging demographic.
Your best bet is look for a payment processor that will let you do both—send online payment requests that your clients can pay on the go, or take credit card payments through a card reader in your office. While online payments will benefit your firm the most, you may have a need to process payments in person, such as working with a client who many not be as tech savvy as others.
3. Simple Reconciliation
Using a credit card processor means you will have to pay transaction fees. For many payment solutions, these fees are debited as soon as a transaction is received. However, this can make reconciling an absolute nightmare. You will have to consider the amount you have billed compared with the amount displayed. Why add extra work to your busy day?
Use a payment processor that will debit all of your fees on a single day. This way, you will see 100 percent of each payment in your transaction history, and can view your total processing fees as a separate charge each month. Simpler account reconciliation each month means more time spent serving clients.
4. Detailed Reporting
The right reporting tools can make all the difference when choosing an online payment provider. Not only does this information let you balance your books properly, but it can also provide valuable insights in fostering your firm’s success. Of course, this is another area where not all payment processors are created equal.
The best payment solutions for lawyers will let you run detailed reports on your transactions. These solutions also make it easy to view your top clients by volume, payment trends, and even export your payment history in whichever format you prefer. In contrast, most payment providers will have metrics tracking gift cards or cash drawer history—stats that might appeal to a point-of-sale business, but for which a professional service firm like yours will have no interest.
5. Pricing Without Gimmicks
Between the various different interchange rates, processing fees and codes to decipher, online payments systems can sound incredibly complicated. The last thing you want is to spend more time figuring out the fee structures of your processor than you do on billable hours.
Thankfully, there are payment processors that are not only competitive in the rates they offer, but also transparent in their pricing. Choose a payment processor with no hidden fees, no minimum processing requirements, and no long-term contractual obligations. Payment processors for professional service firms will let you easily forecast and budget for your expenses by keeping their rates straightforward and easy to understand.
Michelle Lowe is the Finance and Technology Expert at Affinipay.