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Are You Making It Hard for Clients to Pay You?



The last thing I want to do is get in the way of someone rushing toward me offering to give me money.

In the past week, I’ve heard:

“We don’t take American Express.”

“We can only take local checks.”

“We aren’t able to accept $100 bills.”

“You’ll have to drop that by the office: we can’t accept payments over the phone.”

“We got your check, but it wasn’t made out properly; we’ll need a new one.”

These businesses are doing their best to not get paid. Crazy.

Let’s look at Walmart since it managed to accept nearly $450 billion in payments last year (it must be doing something right).

Walmart accepts Visa, MasterCard, American Express, and Discover, plus it has its own Walmart Discover card and Walmart credit card. The company accepts checks and cash, and it accepts PayPal and has a Bill Me Later program. You can even place an order over the Web and drop your cash off at one of the stores if you don’t have a credit card. The company won’t accept produce or livestock in trade for its merchandise, but short of that, I think Walmart will do just about anything you need in order to get paid.

What about you?

Are you set up to accept credit cards? Even American Express and Discover?

Do you offer any special credit options, like your own branded credit card?

Do you know how to accept a wire transfer? Can you take a check over the phone or via fax?

Can you safely handle cash?

I’ve provided tips on how to accept payment in all these forms. If you haven’t adopted the systems required to accept payment by every means, you should. We only recently set up a secure payment system on our website. Previously, we used PayPal. By incorporating a system offered through Authorize.net, we were able to reduce our costs a bit and provide more flexibility for our clients.

We’ve created accounts and systems for making payment easy. However, we haven’t always explained every element of these systems to our team. We’ve repeatedly discovered that our people don’t understand some part of the system and are frustrating clients trying to pay us. Training your team is a crucial part of making this work.

We still don’t accept cows, chicken, and corn as a form of payment, but we’re always looking for ways to make it easier for our clients to pay.

Make sure you’re not getting in the way of clients rushing toward you offering to give you money.

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  • Megan C. Hunt

    How do you handle authorizations to run credit cards? My processing company prefers if I keep a signed authorization on hand, and that limits my ability to accept payments by phone. Likewise, if someone leaves a consultation and calls to hire you a few days later, how do you handle signing the fee agreement — do you take the payment first and deal with the fee agreement later?

    • http://divorcediscourse.com Lee Rosen


      We have an authorization in our client agreement. If your credit card company gives you an issues – fire them. We shop our account each year anyway (and always get a better deal). We have clients execute our “client agreement” (not fee agreement) via DocuSign.net and take the payment (ideally by check) over the phone (using our check by phone software).


  • Nathan Workman

    Someone said that they can’t accept $100 bills?!?! I think I just had a stroke.

  • Neil J. Squillante

    I know the person who manages the Wal-Mart account for American Express. Leave aside the fact that it’s a retailer. Your comparison is unfair because thanks to that $450 billion in sales, Wal-Mart gets a much better discount rate than any law firm will ever get. I’m not suggesting that law firms should not accept credit cards. Instead, I suggest you pass along your discount rate and other costs. Make this clear in your engagement agreement. Frame it as a cash discount, not as a credit card surcharge.

    • http://divorcediscourse.com Lee Rosen

      Interesting feedback Neil. Thanks for jumping in.

      We shop our rate annually and get pretty good deals, but I’m sure Wal-Mart does much better. We look at it a bit differently. We assume everyone is going to pay with a credit card and build it into our price. I think that’s what most businesses do today. We don’t get into discounting – we just earn an extra 1.4% when we’re dealing with a cash customer. Mostly our clients pay with credit cards (they don’t want to miss out on the points they need for a free first class ticket to Asia).