Feb 4, 2016 Sue Ellen Hodnot
Paying suppliers by card holds the promise of rebates that could turn accounts payable (AP) from cost center to revenue center. But most businesses aren’t realizing the rebate revenue they could be generating, or aren't running their card programs efficiently. The key to maximizing card rebates is paying as many suppliers as possible by card. Cloud technology solutions can help you maximize rebates while also streamlining your card payments operation.
Created by Ryan Mason
You never asked us
Not every supplier will want to accept cards, but you won’t know until you ask. That sounds simple enough, but as everyone in AP knows, supplier enablement and information management is time consuming and neverending.
Most card programs say they’ll enroll your suppliers for you, but they don’t do a thorough job. Instead, they will reach out to only the top 10 to 20 percent of suppliers you spend the most money with. Larger suppliers are less likely to have cash flow difficulties and more likely to have the infrastructure in place to process other payment types that are more advantageous to them.
Smaller suppliers are often more motivated to pay a fee in exchange for not to having to wait for a check in the mail and then have to take it to the bank. They’ll gladly take cards, but few AP departments have the resources to fill the gap left by their card program provider and approach these suppliers to collect their information.
Even if they did, a lot of it would already be out of date as soon as they finished the exercise. Payment and banking information is changing all the time, and that’s true for both small and large suppliers. To maximize your rebates, you need to ask everyone continuously to see if anything has changed. Most card programs are not equipped to do this.
That’s why even if you’re getting rebates from card payments, it's unlikely that you're maximizing your return.
No rebates for you!
There’s also a chance you’re getting no rebates at all. It’s common for card programs to offer a tiered rebate structure and advertise the highest rate as a teaser. Not only is it difficult to get to the highest tier without a proactive ongoing enablement program, there’s usually a minimum annual spend threshold you have to meet to get any rebates at all. If you don’t spend enough, no rebates for you!
Given the way most programs handle enablement, that’s a distinct possibility. Most companies struggle to make 10 percent of their payments by card. It’s a pretty rude awakening at the end of the year to discover you didn’t hit the threshold to qualify for any rebates whatsoever.
The card silo
It’s especially frustrating because paying by card is not easy. Card payments are usually not integrated with the rest of your payments; they have their own workflow that’s not particularly convenient for the payer or the payee. The payee typically receives a partial card number, and for security purposes they have to call the payer to get the rest of it so they can run the card. Payers have to field these phone calls.
Payers may also have to do a lot of follow up. There’s no guarantee the supplier will run the card right away, so the payer can’t be sure payment was made until they get their statement. If it’s not on their statement, they have to reach out, find out what happened, and resolve it. There’s also a security risk: as a workaround for having to call the payer every time, payees often store these card numbers.
Cloud + network + people
Cloud technology combined with supplier networks and live human service representatives is the solution.
With cloud technology tools, supplier information is updated continuously and available in real-time on the supplier’s profile in the network. So, if a supplier suddenly starts accepting credit cards from one buyer, all the buyers doing business with them now have the opportunity to see if they will do the same for them.
Dedicated service representatives reach out to the supplier on behalf of all clients doing business with that supplier. With this kind of proactive management, it’s possible to pay 20 to 25 percent of your suppliers by card, thereby maximizing your rebates.
Using cloud technology, payment by virtual encrypted one-time use card is integrated into a single workflow along with other payment types. Payers no longer have to run a card program, an ACH program, and write checks. They just indicate who they want to pay and how much, and the software makes payment via the most advantageous type available. Both parties have total visibility into payment status at all times. Rebates accrue from dollar one so you can project exactly what your rebate will be, and it’s paid out monthly.
Getting the maximum number of suppliers onboard through continuous supplier enrollment, and keeping them onboard with a frictionless card payment experience is the key to maximizing your rebates. If you’ve got 10 percent of your suppliers onboard and you’re getting rebates, you could still be doing better. And if you’re not getting any rebates at all, you could have a lot more coming.
This article originally appeared on Spend Matters.