Published: October 20, 2020
The interactions between customer and cashier have become complicated by the pandemic. How do you collect payments but keep everyone safe? If you are exploring your options, here are some resources that might help you.
Credit card and online payment options
Accepting credit cards or direct bank withdrawals can be a simple and contactless way for citizens to pay over the phone or via your website. If you choose these options, there are a host of things to consider, such as:
- How will you handle the fees involved with credit cards? Can you pass them along to customers or will you absorb the costs?
- Do you need to contract with a third party or can you handle it yourself? What should you be aware of?
- What’s involved with protecting sensitive data such as credit card information? What regulatory requirements do you need to know?
To get started, refer to this resource for an overview, sample policies, and information about how to handle credit card fees and other surcharges:
- Municipal Research and Services Center (MRSC) — Credit Card Acceptance: mrsc.org/Home/Explore-Topics/Finance/Accounting-and-Internal-Controls/Credit-Card-Acceptance.aspx
If you are looking to contract with a vendor to process your payments, check out our newly updated resource on this topic:
- State Auditor’s Office — Best Practices when Contracting with Vendors to Accept or Process your Payments: portal.sao.wa.gov/PerformanceCenter/#/address?mid=6&rid=18501
Another important question to ask is how will you let citizens know these alternative payment options are available? You’ll want to consider the demographics of the customer base you are trying to reach and use a variety of communication channels to reach those customers. Repeated communications might be needed to get the word out.
Often provided by banks, customers mail their payments to a location where the servicer has direct access. The servicer receives payments and make deposits on your behalf. The benefits to using a lockbox service can include more timely access to cash, saved staff time, and reduced investment in internal controls and technology.
The Government Finance Officers Association (GFOA) recommends that governments evaluate lockbox services to see if advantages can be gained:
- GFOA — Best Practices: Use of Lockbox Services: www.gfoa.org/materials/use-of-lockbox-services
Another option offered by banks,remote check deposit allows you to deposit checks without physically taking them to the bank. A high-speed scanner can help you process checks more quickly. According to the source below, banks might not even charge for this equipment!
- TheBalance.com “How Remote Deposit Capture Works:” www.thebalance.com/remote-deposit-315208
One word of caution: If you are using a personal device to make your deposit, this comes with security risks that you should discuss with your Information Technology staff.
Another government might have technology, internal controls, or facilities better equipped to handle cash receipts. For example, some governments have drive-through windows. You might be able to devise a way to work together to accomplish a shared objective and potentially reduce costs. To learn more, see:
- MRSC Interlocal Cooperation: mrsc.org/Home/Explore-Topics/Management/Service-Delivery/Intergovernmental-Cooperation.aspx
Remember, we are here to help. At the Center for Government Innovation, we have financial management specialists available to help you talk through technical projects. For assistance, reach out to the Center@sao.wa.gov. You can also reach out to us with specific questions through our helpdesk service.