Smarter Payments

Its end has been long predicted but we may now be seeing the final death throes for the cheque as a means of payment. It’s not going to go quietly, after all the first cheque was recorded in 1659 and by 1717 the Bank of England pioneered pre-printed check forms, but it seems as though the inevitable is happening and the cheque is giving way to the march of technology.

In fact, it may not just be the cheque which is on its way out. Cash too is under threat as contactless and card payments rise in popularity. So much so, that a report from UK cards Association comments that ‘consumer spending has undergone a revolution in the past decade.’

Highlights of the report include the fact that in the ten years to 2014 card spending has risen from £270 billion to £566 billion with supermarkets, pubs and restaurants being among the key gainers. Interestingly, 71% of card transactions are now made using debit cards, a rise on the 58% seen in 2004 and an indication of the way in which we are increasingly looking to contactless payments as an alternative to cash. Speaking about the results Richard Koch, Head of Policy at The UK Cards Association, said “Cards are accepted in more places than ever before and with innovations such as contactless cards and digital wallets, this trend is sure to continue.”

Whilst high-street stores may be leading the way, the increased acceptance of cards as a means of payment benefits businesses across the board. For example, health professionals are increasingly looking to card payments as a means of settling treatment charges. Thanks to initiatives such as digital wallets and mobile payments which are supported by the card system, even sole practitioners can collect payments from their customers by card. And by using other initiatives such as the Clinic Appointments secure card payment processing system, health professionals and their customers can take advantage of a secure payment system linked to an online booking service.

Moving to a direct card payment system brings multiple benefits for patients and healthcare professionals alike. For a start, paying by card is quick and simple for patients; moving them away from the treatment/invoice/payment cycle which can be time-consuming and lead to confusion over payments due.

For the health practice, not only are card payments quicker, they can also lead to a smoothing out cash flow. But the ability to take payments by card can also help to ensure that clients who book treatments actually turn up for them. Taking card details at the point of booking enables health practices to charge a ‘no-show’ fee in accordance with their advertised procedures. And if clients know they will be charged even if they don’t turn up, they are more likely to ensure that their appointment is kept.

In fact, card payments are such a win-win scenario that the only real surprise is that they have as yet to be universally adopted by those health professionals such as physiotherapists and chiropractors who charge directly for their services.