Promoting card payments

The days of credit and debit cards being viewed as something out of the ordinary are long gone; as it appears is our initial reluctance to use contactless card payments. So much so that the UK banking trade body UK Finance has announced that in July 2019 alone there were six hundred and forty seven million contactless card payments; accounting for 50% of all non-cash transactions.

Not that that means the banking industry is getting complacent about promoting the use of card payments. In the week of writing this article the Royal Mint has announced the launch of a solid gold payment card. At the same time NatWest has started trialling contactless credit cards which use biometric fingerprint recognition technology. If successful, the trial could open up the way to increased contactless limits alongside a more secure card payment process.

For businesses as a whole, the general acceptance of cards as a payment medium represents a significant opportunity. For those which rely on client appointments, the potential benefit is twofold. Firstly, using cards as a method of payment at the time of the appointment both speeds up cashflow and saves time on administration. There are no invoices to raise and post out, no chasing unpaid bills and no waiting for payment receipts.

It has to be acknowledged that, thanks to the rise in card use, payment at the time of appointment has become the generally accepted payment method. But what about those businesses in the health sector and elsewhere which rely on clients attending booked appointments in order to generate income? For these businesses, a missed appointment can result in a loss of income, not to mention the lost opportunity to potentially treat another individual.

In those instances, taking card details at the time of booking could be one way of helping to ensure that appointments are either attended or cancelled in good time. By requiring either up-front payment or pre-authorising the card up to an agreed limit; health practices and others can ensure that even if the client doesn’t show, the agreed payment can still be taken. Payment is secure and if the client does attend the appointment but at the time prefers to pay by another method then the pre-authorisation can simply be released.

Of course, pre-authorisation isn’t the only way that clients can be helped to remember appointments. SMS text or e-mail reminders have also proved to be a useful trigger in reminding clients of booked appointments. This not only increases attendance, it also encourages those individuals who genuinely cannot make the appointment to cancel, thereby freeing up the time slot for the benefit of another client.

The rise in contactless payments partly reflects the growing demand for secure payment methods which are time-efficient. Contactless or not, by accepting debit or credit cards as a method of payment, businesses in the health sector are better able to manage cash flow whilst minimising administration time. And with pre-authorisation allied to appointment reminders, businesses can also optimise treatment times, whilst minimising no-shows.