Billing and Payments

5 Things CPAs Should Look for in a Credit Card Processor

Lara Berendt
March 23, 2018

When you shop around for new business solutions, from practice management software to bank accounts to office equipment, you know you need to be discriminating to find the tools that will best fit the way your business operates.

Choosing a credit and debit card processor is no different. There are a lot of payment solutions out there, and they’re not all created equal—nor will they be equally appropriate for a CPA firm like yours. In this post, we’ll examine five things CPAs should look for when choosing a payment processing solution.

1. Designed for accounting professionals

A lot of payment solutions on the market are general-purpose in nature; they’re designed to work for any type of business. Since retail, restaurant, and hospitality businesses are so numerous, these generic payment solutions have features, functionality, and pricing that cater to these business types.

But you’re running a CPA firm—not a bar or convenience store. A typical point-of-sale system is designed to ring up items and generate a paper receipt. This type of payment interaction cheapens the experience for your clients, who are receiving complex, valuable professional services from you.

That’s why you should choose a payment solution that’s designed with professionals like you in mind. The benefits of working with a company focused on professionals—and even better, accounting professionals—rather than retail or restaurant businesses are numerous. Specialized payment solutions have teams of industry experts working on product development, support, and security that cater specifically to businesses like yours.

A solution designed for accounting professionals is also more likely to build integrations with software products you use and love. Knowing how much CPAs rely on spreadsheets to organize and analyze their data, these solutions will offer easy export functionality for greater flexibility.

2. Flexibility for both invoiced and in-office payments

Speaking of flexibility, this benefit applies to payment features themselves. Professional services firms like yours sometimes need the option to process payments in your office but often invoice clients for payment after services have been performed.

Today 74 percent of online households report paying bills online. Being able to offer clients the option to pay online from their computer or mobile device, on their own time, is a huge boon to client service. But not all payment processors facilitate online payments. Many are optimized solely for in-person transactions.

Look for a payment solution that lets you process both invoiced and in-person payments with ease. This will be one that offers secure online payment pages where you can send clients to pay their bill, as well as easy in-person payment processing through an online virtual terminal, with or without a card reader of some kind.

If online payments are only offered as an add-on for an extra charge rather than as a core component of the solution, it’s usually a sign that the program isn’t really designed for professional services firms like yours.

3. Full-dollar payment deposits for easier reconciliation

If you’ve ever pulled your hair out in frustration trying to reconcile invoiced amounts with credit card deposits, then you know how important this feature is.

Many payment processors debit processing fees on each transaction, before depositing your payments. This means your deposit amount doesn’t match what you billed your clients, and it’s up to you or your bookkeeper to sort out which invoices were paid when.

The simple solution is to choose a payment provider that deposits 100 percent of payments, and then debits processing fees later, separately. This makes reconciliation a painless experience, since your deposit amounts align with the amounts you billed clients. This approach also makes it easier for you to account for your payment processing fees as an operating cost, separate from gross revenue.

4. Comprehensive reporting capabilities

Along with being crucial for balancing your books, your payment data holds a wealth of business insights that can help inform your growth strategy. Choosing a payment provider with the right reporting tools will arm you with all the information you need to make smart business decisions.

Look for a solution that lets you run detailed deposit reports by time frame or payment status. It should also make it easy to search for and find past transactions, and export your reports as a Microsoft Excel or CSV file. The best tools also provide key performance indicators at a glance, like top clients by volume, and charts that can help you identify payment trends over time and better manage the seasonality of your work.

If a payment processor offers reports that emphasize metrics like gift cards, discounts, or cash drawer history, it’s probably optimized for a retail payment experience, rather than a professional services firm like yours—and you can do better with a specialized solution.

5. Simple, straightforward pricing

Have you found that the more you dig into payment processing rates and fees, the more confused you get? It can be a complicated web, with hundreds of different interchange rates and countless codes to decipher. With all the time you spend untangling your clients’ finances, you probably don’t want to spend more precious billable hours trying to decipher your own credit card fees and rates.

The good news is there are payment solutions out there that offer competitive pricing that’s also simple and easy-to-understand. Look for a processor with a simple rate structure, no hidden fees, no minimum processing requirements, and no long-term contractual obligations. This ensures you won’t get dinged if you fall below or exceed a certain processing volume, and allows you to more easily forecast and budget for your payment processing expenses.

To learn more about CPACharge, an online payment solution designed for accounting professionals, download our digital brochure.