One of the important decisions you make in private practice is how to accept payment for your services.
Whether you’re old-school and accept cash and cheques only, or you’ve embraced the new online methods like PayPal and eTransfers, choosing the forms of payment that are right for your practice is critical to your success.
There are many things to consider when deciding on what payment methods to accept, such as:
- customer preference
- ease of in-office processing
- merchant fees paid by your practice
- immediacy of cash realization
- ease of tracking and reconciliation
With all of that in mind, what are the most popular methods of payment used by therapists in private practice, and which ones should you be using?
Most Popular Payment Methods for Canadian Therapists
We see a lot of different payment methods at Owl Practice. In the chart below, we’ve summarized the most common by how often they are used:
A few things to note here:
CREDIT CARDS LEAD THE WAY!
Despite high per-transaction fees (often >3% of your session fees), credit cards are the most popular form of payment. Customers often prefer paying by credit card because it’s convenient, allows them to collect loyalty points, and helps when money is tight. As long as you have in-office swipe, PIN, or other processing capabilities (i.e. a merchant terminal or device/service of some kind), you can collect payments easily right after the session. Credit card payments can also be collected when your clients are out of your office, say when a parent is paying for their child’s session. On the other hand, if any of your clients have issues with debt or being charged high-interest rates on their credit card balances, you may want to consider the clinical and ethical aspects of accepting this form of payment.
CASH & CHEQUES ARE STILL VERY COMMON
As “traditional” payment methods, cash and cheques account for about 36% of transaction volume. They continue to be standard in the private practice context, despite the tracking issues associated with cash payments, the potential waiting periods with cheques, and the inconvenience of manual deposits at the bank (though many banks now accept photos of cheques taken with a smartphone app!). The transaction cost for cash and cheques is negligible or non-existent, making it a good choice in terms of practice profitability.
eTRANSFERS ARE BIG AND GROWING QUICKLY
This one surprised us. We know that eTransfers are a convenient and low-cost form of payment, but had no idea they were this significant to therapy practitioners. This email-enabled and secure form of payment is surging in popularity. The Canadian Payments Association estimates eTransfers are growing 184% per year, making it the fastest growing payment method in Canada. There are daily, weekly and monthly limits to how much money you can receive by eTransfer, but as long as you can manage within those limits, this may be a very good option for you. One thing to note, though, is that there can be charges to send an eTransfer depending on the type of bank account used, so some clients may be reluctant to absorb those additional fees.
DEBIT PAYMENTS AREN’T AS COMMON
Despite the super-low per transaction fees of about $0.05 per debit transaction, this payment method only accounts for 11% of private practice transactions. While a debit terminal is required to facilitate these transactions (costing ~$30-$50 per month) the super-affordable fees can make debit a very economical form of payment for your practice. You can collect money directly after appointments, and like credit cards, it can be deposited into your bank account the same or next day.
What payment method is right for you?
There is no right answer here. As described above, you need to balance factors like client preference with cost and ease of tracking. Remember that just because you started out by accepting one form of payment (say cash or cheques), it doesn’t mean you can’t add a new form of payment that’s advantageous to your practice. Why not try adding a low-cost payment method to your payment options? See how your clients like it, and track what impact it has on your practice bottom line.