When it comes to business operations, how you choose to make or accept payments may be critical to your cash flow. Inefficient payment methods not only keep your business from growing, but can also cost you money.

Here are four ways to help improve your payments.

1. Accepting payments: Switch from cash to plastic

"While the fastest method of collecting payment is cold hard cash, the problem with collecting cash in bulk is that it is costly for banks to process, so fees could add up," says Gabriel Sofaer, business banking manager at Wells Fargo.

In addition to possible fees, restricting the way you receive payments could prevent your business from attracting new customers. According to recent studies, more than 75% of consumers prefer to pay with a card. In the U.S. alone credit card purchasing exceeds $3 trillion.

2. Accepting payments: Go digital

Consumers' inclination to use digital payments over traditional methods is on the rise.

"This means that small business owners have to be prepared to accept multiple payment types, be more tech savvy, and be able to understand how their customers want to pay," says Tracey Fanelli, senior vice president of marketing, merchant services at Wells Fargo.

One digital form of payment on the rise is contactless payment. Chip-based technology allows consumers to wave or tap their credit card, debit card, smartphone or other wearable tech to complete transactions. Research predicts that the ease of this form of payment will lead consumers to use contactless instead of cash for small purchases like snacks and drinks.

For many businesses, making payments omnichannel may be the best way to make going digital work for them. "E-commerce has become widespread, and as part of that, businesses need to become flexible by offering customers a variety of ways to pay and accepting new emerging forms of payment for their convenience," adds Robert Ash, treasury management sales manager at Wells Fargo. "Business owners can use a provider like Wells Fargo as a gateway to access products and services so their customers can go online and be able to conduct business with them digitally."

3. Accepting payments: Consider all-in-one point-of-sale technology

As your business grows, your needs will change, and there are point-of-sale systems such as Clover® that come equipped with tools to help you manage your business – along with accepting multiple types of payments such as credit cards, debit cards, gift cards, and digital payments such as Apple Pay®. These tools can help you with cash flow by giving you insights into your customers' purchasing habits, how your goods and services are performing, and with marketing and customer loyalty apps, you can drive traffic and purchases to help support consistent cash flow.

"These systems enable business owners to improve their business with detailed and robust reporting," says Ash. "From how to grow your customers to creating a customer loyalty program, good reporting helps you see the big picture."

The robust reporting capabilities of the right POS system may lead to better business decisions affecting cash flow. For example, a business owner who is considering extending operating hours may be able to look over reports from their POS system to see when their busiest or slowest times occur. From there, the business owner may choose to close early on some days and extend operating hours on other days to help increase cash flow.

4. Making payments: Skip the check for a better bottom line

Checks can be inconvenient for your cash flow management: you'll need to account for that check's payment until the check is processed, despite the sum still appearing in your account. Failing to do so can lead to disruptions in your cash flow. From start to finish, it could take weeks for a check to clear.

With paper checks, you'll also face the risk of potential payment loss, or a bank hold, says Sofaer.

For these reasons, Sofaer says, "Doing business electronically is the most effective way to manage cash flow on both sides." However, it's important to only consider electronic options that are safe for your business, such as ACH payments, electronic wire transfers, and Wells Fargo Direct Pay.

As you explore your payment processing options and additional available resources, consider how each may impact your cash flow to choose the option that makes the most sense for your business's current standing.

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