How to Implement Recurring Credit Card Processing in Your Business

There’s never been so many reasons for businesses to consider recurring credit card processing payments as an option.

The growing popularity of subscription services and payment plans, expectations for hassle-free payment processing, and the drive to minimize manual processes are all making automatic payments a more attractive model to startups and established companies alike.

With the average subscription billing vendor growing 30% to 50% annually, now is the perfect time to start considering which product/service offerings could benefit from a recurring payment option.

But how do you know whether your business will benefit from recurring billing, and how can you set up a recurring payment system successfully?

Here are the advantages of adding a recurring billing system to your business and how you can launch your own offering with minimal stress.

What are Recurring Payments?

A recurring payment, also known as recurring billing or automatic payment, is a billing system where a customer authorizes a product or service provider to charge their credit card with repeated payments on a predetermined schedule. Automatic payments can also be made via ACH debit payments into a merchant’s account.

To activate recurring payments, the customer must agree to share their payment information with the merchant’s payment processor and authorize both initial and future charges on the payment plan (i.e. bi-weekly, monthly, or annually). Recurring payments will usually continue indefinitely, either until the customer decides to cancel the arrangement or the card on file expires.

There are two different kinds of recurring payments: Fixed payments and variable payments. Fixed payments mean that exactly the same amount of money is charged to a customer’s account with each cycle, while variable payments may fluctuate from payment to payment depending on a customer’s use of a product or service, such as utility bills.

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What is the Difference Between a Recurring Charge and a One-Time Charge?

A one-time charge is a single transaction where a customer is paying for a product or service. Unlike recurring payments, no ongoing payment service is authorized between the buyer and seller. Moreover, the customer’s payment information isn’t kept on file, unless there’s an option to “save” card or bank account details for future purchases.

One-time charges make the most sense when consumers are not making regular payments. Unless customers have a reason to make payments automatically, there’s little advantage to offering recurring billing as a payment method.

But if your business is offering products or services on a recurring basis, there are many benefits to making an automatic payment option available to your customers. Although not all customers trust handing over their credit or debit card information to eCommerce merchants, having it as an option can make online payment processing much easier for small businesses to manage.

What are the Benefits of Offering Recurring Credit Card Processing Payments?

Let’s explore some of the advantages you can gain from implementing recurring credit card processing.

Increased convenience for customers

Customer loyalty isn’t just about pricing. The “set and forget” nature of automatic billing means that consumers don’t need to think about what payments are due and when, which adds friction to the customer experience.

Maximizing customer convenience helps to improve the brand experience and gives people more reasons to stick with you instead of switching to a competitor. When 74% of consumers are likely or somewhat likely to buy based on experiences alone, recurring billing can make a huge difference to overall customer retention.

Adding new product or service offerings

Offering automatic payments isn’t just about adding another payment method. Recurring billing helps brands to pioneer entirely new product or service offerings that are highly marketable in today’s landscape.

For example, razor blades are a generic consumer product that can be bought everywhere from grocery stores to Amazon. There’s little competitive advantage to be had for sellers — unless the value proposition is changed entirely.

This is exactly what the now-iconic men’s grooming brand Dollar Shave Club did by creating a subscription service. Customers can opt to have replacement razors and other grooming products delivered to them on a monthly or quarterly basis.

This simple twist on an essential product is what led Dollar Shave Club to achieve a $1 billion valuation — something that wouldn’t have been possible without recurring billing capabilities.

Minimizing time and effort with payment processing

Late payments, or payments that are missed entirely, are damaging to a business’s efforts to build a steady, reliable cash flow. It also doesn’t spell good news for customer relationships; if a client is continually missing or delaying payments, you may have to consider cutting them loose.

As a business owner, spending time chasing down customers with invoices or late payment interest isn’t just unpleasant; it also takes focus away from managing other areas of your business, which can mean missed growth opportunities to expand your venture.

By using a recurring billing system to process payments and store credit card information, you can avoid manual invoicing tasks and free up more time to spend on other matters.

Defend against eCommerce fraud

Payment fraud is a widespread and escalating problem within eCommerce as the number of “card not present” (CNP) transactions continues to grow. According to Vesta, CNP fraud cost merchants an estimated $35.54 billion globally during 2020. A lot of this occurs due to chargeback fraud, where refunds are requested from card networks for dishonest reasons.

Recurring payment processors and POS solutions are PCI-compliant to ensure safe transactions and the storage of sensitive information, ensuring that merchants can better protect themselves and their customers against fraudulent behaviors.

Businesses That Would Benefit Most From Recurring Payments

Recurring payment processing offers a lot of advantages for the right kind of business. Here are the types of businesses that would benefit most from it.

Subscription services. Subscription services typically charge customers at regular intervals for a certain product or service, such as video streaming (Netflix) or a box of curated products in a specific consumer category (Birchbox). This makes recurring credit card processing a great way to streamline the customer experience and minimize churn.

Membership models. Professional services such as gyms, co-working spaces, and social clubs benefit from using an automatic payment structure because they’re normally billing customers the same fee at regular intervals — e.g. weekly or monthly. Because credit cards are kept on file along with an authorization form, this also opens up the option to allow customers to charge other expenses to their account to be paid at the end of the cycle.

SaaS Companies. The SaaS or “software as a service” business model relies heavily on customers choosing to sign up for long terms of use. Recurring billing offers businesses the option of giving customers a discount on their subscription in exchange for signing up for a longer time period, thereby creating more reliable revenue for the business.

Financial services. Personal financial firms who manage IRAs, student loans, or insurance policies can save themselves a lot of administration costs by offering customers a recurring billing option so they don’t have to remember to make payments on time.

Steps to Help You Implement Recurring Payments Successfully

Ready to implement recurring credit card processing? Here are the steps you can take to do so.

1. Select a recurring payment processor

To accept recurring payments from your customers, you need to choose a payment gateway or merchant account that offers this option.

Here at Stax, we offer Stax Bill, an all-in-one subscription and recurring billing solution that provides a customer-facing portal for your customers to manage their payment method and billing schedule, which frees up time for you to focus on non-accounting responsibilities.

This also includes a card updater for Visa and Mastercard, helping you to minimize late or missed payments due to expired credit cards.

With Stax Bill, it’s easy to set up and track product and service pricing packages. The solution streamlines subscription billing by giving you the ability to establish dynamic payment schedules. You can also adjust payment amounts and pause subscription billing at any time.

2. Decide how to manage payment/authorization information

If you allow your customers to save their credit or debit card details to their account, you’ll already have some card information on file for the purpose of facilitating one-off payments. If this is the case, you should ask for your customer’s authorization to move this data to your recurring payment processor, where it will be held much more securely.

3. Set your recurring billing schedule

If you’re going to implement recurring billing, it’s a good idea to offer customers several payment schedules. There are two main benefits to this approach. Firstly, it allows customers to select the plan that is most convenient for their needs. But most importantly, it also opens up further promotional opportunities for your business.

For example, if you’re a company that offers a subscription for online fitness classes, you could bill customers at a discounted rate in exchange for signing up for a six month or annual period, while reserving more expensive subscriptions for flexi or month-to-month plans that offer your business less financial security.

4. Inform your customers that you offer recurring payments

Now that you’ve sorted out your payment provider and recurring payment structure, it’s time to let your customers know about your offerings. The convenience of automatic payments is a great selling point for any business, so it’s a good idea to spread the word to both existing and prospective customers.

For example, you can inform your current subscribers by sending out a dedicated email that explains how recurring billing works and how it benefits them. This message should also include a link to a dedicated page on your website. This way, you can also link to it from other marketing channels, such as social media or paid ads.

Final Words

Recurring billing isn’t just about ensuring a more reliable cash flow or making your accounting process easier; it’s also about creating a more convenient, frictionless payment experience that increases customer satisfaction and loyalty. When doing business with you feels easy and seamless, customers are far less likely to jump ship to a competitor. And with the added bonus of being able to add an entirely new product or service offerings, a recurring payment model could be one of your greatest acquisition tools yet.

Ready to implement recurring payment processing?

Contact us to learn more about Stax Bill and how you can use it in your business.

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