What You Need to Know About Accepting ACH Payments

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When it comes to payment acceptance, both businesses and consumers like having options. More payment options means more opportunities to do commerce, and merchants especially like payment options that don’t cost too much to process. One such payment option we haven’t gone into too much detail about before on Merchant Maverick is ACH, or Automated Clearing House payments.

The good thing about ACH payment processing vs. credit card payments for merchants is that the fees to accept this type of payment are lower than credit card transaction fees. In fact, more businesses are accepting ACH transactions than ever— according to NACHA, a total of $38.7 trillion was transferred via ACH in 2013, an increase of almost 5 percent from the previous year.

If you’re considering accepting ACH payments or e-checks, here’s what you need to know.

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What is ACH?

  • Originally started as a system to replace paper checks, ACH allows businesses to receive an electronic payment directly from a buyer’s checking account.
  • ACH payments are also commonly known as e-checks.
  • This type of electronic fund transfer is commonly used for direct deposit payments from employers, as well as monthly payments to service providers, such as utilities.
  • ACH payments are increasingly used for online payments and point-of-purchase payments, as well as B2B (business-to-business) and P2P (person-to-person) payments

How is ACH different from debit and credit transactions?

ACH bypasses the card networks, and therefore bypasses interchange and assessment fees. This generally makes ACH far less expensive than card payments.

While both debit transactions and ACH draw money from a checking account, debit transactions are processed through card networks, and thus are prone the same types of fees as credit cards. 

How much does it cost to process ACH payments?

The cost to process ACH payments depends on your merchant account provider, or whichever entity you use to process ACH payments.

Some ACH processors charge a flat rate, typically ranging from $0.25 to $0.75 per transaction. Others charge a flat percentage fee, ranging from 0.5% to 1%. For merchants with a larger transaction size, the per-transaction fee (not percentage) is generally the cheaper option. Some providers will also charge an additional monthly fee, which varies.

How can I accept ACH?

You can process ACH payments/e-checks using a merchant account provider or a separate entity — for example, a bank or a standalone ACH processor. We recommend that you choose a company that charges a flat fee for ACH rather than a percentage-based fee.

National Processing is our top pick for ACH processing. If you’re looking for the lowest cost ACH/eCheck payment service without compromising reliability and quality, this is a company you need to consider. You pay just $0.24 per transaction. For many businesses, this flat-fee pricing is much less expensive than paying a percentage fee. Even just 1% of a $100 transaction is $1. You’ll end up paying way less with this flat fee system as long as your average ticket isn’t tiny. National Processing also provides excellent low-cost credit card processing, so you might want to check the company out for that as well.

How are ACH payments processed?

The three main ways to your business can process checking account payments via the ACH network are as follows:

  • Check scanner  Even if you accept a check in-person, you can use a check scanner to transform the paper into a digital ACH transaction. Just run the check through the scanner to deposit it remotely. To use this, you will have to have an ACH processing account. 
  • Virtual terminal For keyed-entry payments like telephone order and mail order payments, you can type in the account information at your computer to process the ACH payment. You can also use this to set up recurring payments. Some customers will feel more comfortable having a recurring payment come directly from their bank accounts rather than a credit card, and you stand to save extra because you have just converted a long-term customer to using a less expensive payment method.
  • Website payments It might take a little bit of encouragement to get your customers to look up their account and routing numbers at checkout, especially when they’re accustomed to paying with services like PayPal in just a few clicks. But processing a $100 payment with PayPal costs you about $3, and processing with ACH costs as little as $0.24. The savings really add up, so it might pay off to get creative in order to influence your customer’s payment decision. 

ACH Payment Processing Time

The main disadvantage of ACH transactions the amount of time it could take for you to get paid. While different services offer different payout schedules that affect how long it will take you to get paid, ACH will almost always be slower than credit card payment processing. Many credit card processors offer next-day processing as standard, and some can even do instant deposits. For ACH payment processing, you’re looking at 3-5 days for payout in most cases.

Conclusion

In closing, whether you primarily do business online or in person, you might want to consider accepting ACH payments, which electronically transfer funds from a customer’s checking account. ACH payments cost less to process than credit or debit card transactions and are easier to process than traditional paper checks, as there is no need to forward checks to the bank and wait to find out which ones bounced. They are also ideal for collecting recurring monthly payments. 

If you’re looking for a standalone ACH payment processor, consider National Processing. This company specializes in ACH, but also offers credit and debit card processing at very fair rates. 

While you’re considering how to save on payment processing, check out our comparison chart to see what some of the best processors are charging!

Pay just $0.24 per ACH transaction with our top pick.

Get Started with National Processing

Shannon Vissers

Shannon Vissers

Shannon is a writer and editor based in San Diego, CA. Shannon attended San Diego State University, graduating in 2005 with a BA in English. She is the former editor-in-chief of SteelOrbis, an online trade publication. Shannon has also published articles for LIVESTRONG.COM, eHow, Life'd, and other websites. She has been with Merchant Maverick since 2015, writing about POS software, small business loans, and financing for women entrepreneurs.
Shannon Vissers
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14 Comments

Responses are not provided or commissioned by the vendor or bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the vendor or bank advertiser. It is not the vendor or bank advertiser's responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.

    Rhea

    In the state of Illinois is it required to have an ACH authorization form filled out with all of the customers bank info? It just seems like requiring that is more of a liability since then you have their info on paper. Does anyone know?

      Jessica Dinsmore

      Hi Rhea,

      To be honest, this isn’t something we’ve ever encountered before, so it may be a bit outside of our expertise. I’d rather not give you an answer that I’m not too certain about. If you happen to figure this out on your own, please let us know what solution you find so we can learn how to answer something like this in the future.

        John Toston

        Hey Rhea,

        Most all states require an authorization form signed, however, this could pose a liability if that authorization with the account information was not stored properly. You can upload this authorization form in a secure file system and/or utilize a way to tokenize the bank account information on the back end with a digital authorization form.

        Respectfully,
        John Toston

          Mike F

          Regarding processing ACH payments in person (i.e. check scanner), how do you avoid the payer having to first verify ownership of their account? Entering their online credentials w something like Plaid nor verifying microdeposits which can take days seems practical for the check scanner scenario.

            Tom DeSimone

            Hi Mike,

            The usual protocol is to ask for ID and, when possible, to make a copy of the ID as proof. It’s not a perfect system, but it’s not perfect with credit cards either.

              Mike Jinior

              Are there any other ACH gateway that anyone is aware of?

                Chloe Bahal

                Hi Mike,

                You might want to check out Stripe.

                  Lillian Angelo

                  I have asked banks, friends and other of HOW TO PROVE PERSON OR COMPANY CHEATED ME OUT OF MONEY BECAUSE ‘FIRST EXPERIENCE’ IN ACH CHECK SYSTEM WAS USED. THERE IS NO ENDORSEMENT OF SIGNATURE/BUSINESS ACCEPTANCE. SO I AM OUT OF $100.00 WITHOUT SERVICE. No proof of their exceptance. HELP, I WANT MY FUNDS BACK.

                    Chris

                    Interesting and enlightening read. Do you think it is possible to bypass the use of merchant accounts altogether by just using your own business checking account with a payment gateway such as Authorize.net? I am currently looking into this.

                      Jad Chahine

                      Hi Chris,

                      Would be interested in hearing if you were able to bypass ACH. Please feel free to email me at jad (at) moulah (dot) com.

                      Thanks!

                      Jad

                        Ravi

                        i need a payment gateway for my india based business. i am not having any one in US
                        so if any one is able to help me out then reply me or mail me

                          Shannon George

                          Hi there! Thanks for reading! We’ll get back to you about this shortly.

                            Tom DeSimone

                            Hi Ravi,

                            Check out Instabill. They can usually help.

                            Good luck!

                              Jason

                              Nice to hear that 25¢ and no percentages for an ACH transaction is a great deal. That is what we charge at GivingTools (www.givingtools.com) and our main issue with potential customers is them not believing that the rates are legit, because they are so low. Thanks for the confirmation!

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