Affordable payment processing the way you want it.

There are several methods used by city and county governments to cover the costs of accepting payments for their services. We can help you determine which serves your customers the best while saving you money.

There are several processing methods used by city and county governments to cover the costs of accepting cards to pay for services. While many agencies choose to accept payment cards by paying for the services out of their operating budgets, municipalities are now implementing electronic payment methods that use a convenience or service fee to offset costs. It's also very common to find merchants that operate in a mixed processing environment using merchant funded and convenience/service fee programs to increase receivables, strengthen collections and provide an alternative form of payment for constituents. The following descriptions will assist you in deciding which methods are best suited for your agency.

 

Merchant Funded

Convenience Fee

Service Fee

 

Merchant Funded

 

The merchant absorbs all the fees that are associated with collecting payments from their consumers. Automated Merchant Systems will send you a statement each month and on the 5th business day of every month, AMS will debit the billed amount from the merchants’ (your) designated bank account. The rate billed is based on interchange plus, unless you have been set up to use the utility program and are receiving discount charges.

 

Convenience Fee

 

The merchant decides on a fee to be passed on to the merchant’s consumer. This fee can be based on a flat (or fixed) amount or a percentage rate calculated against the payment amount that they will pass on to their consumers. This fee will offset some or all (not to exceed) charges that are billed to the merchant for payment processing. This fee will be collected by the merchant and it will be settled as miscellaneous in cash receipts.

For example a merchant charges a 3% convenience fee for online payments. The customer makes a $100 payment. The customer will then see a payment plus a fee totaling $103.00, a $100 payment and a $3.00 (3% of $100) convenience fee. Automated Merchant Systems will debit the payment processing fees on the 5th business day of every month from the merchant’s designated banking account. The billed amount will be based on interchange plus. Since a fee is being charged to the customer for making a payment, the utility discount program does not apply.

 

Service Fee

 

Automated Merchant Systems along with input from the merchant calculates a fee to be passed on to the merchant’s consumers. This fee can be based on a flat (or fixed) dollar amount or a percentage rate calculated against the payment amount. This fee will be deposited into an Automated Merchant Systems bank account. Consumers will notice two charges on their card statement. There will be one from the merchant and one from AMS for the service fee.

AMS will absorb all of the payment charges for the merchant accounts and the merchant will have the entire amount of the invoice that the consumer is paying settled into their DDA bank account. Utility discount program does not apply. This is typically not relevant to the merchant as the merchant is not being assessed fees for processing by AMS.


 

Implementing a fee program is as much a behavioral change as it is a financial one for your customers. Below is a breakdown of some of the merchant's requirements when assessing convenience or service fees as defined by Visa.

 

Convenience Fees

 

Charged for a bona fide convenience in the form of an alternate payment channel outside the Merchant's customary payment channels

 

Added only to non-face-to-face transactions: the requirement for an alternate payment channel means that Mail/Telephone Order and eCommerce merchants whose payment channels are exclusively non-face-to-face may not impose a convenience fee

 

A flat or fixed amount, regardless of the value of the payment due

 

Processed as one transaction

 

Disclosure before the completion of the transaction and the cardholder is given the opportunity to cancel

 

Service Fees

 

The merchant must accept Visa as a means of payment in all channels where payments are accepted (e.g. face-to-face, telephone and internet)

 

Merchant must be registered with Visa's Government and Education Program

 

Service fee may be assessed as a flat or variable amount

 

Processed as two transactions

 

Fee must be clearly disclosed to the cardholder in advance of the payment and as a fee charged by the merchant or third party

 

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