Avoid These 8 Mistakes When Choosing a K‑12 Online Payment System

Not every online payment system is created equal. In this post, we share eight things to avoid when choosing a new system for your district.

Professionals working together at computers

Incorporating an online payment system has been gaining in popularity for years in K‑12 schools, but they’re practically mandatory in today’s education landscape.

Providing families a convenient way to pay for tuition, nutrition plans, books, and supplies from anywhere makes for a better experience than traditional cash and checks. 

A few benefits of contactless payments include: 

  • Safer, contactless payments
  • Saved time for families and staff 
  • Increased security and compliance
  • Improved collection rates
  • Reduced risk of overdraft fees

While making the switch to online payments for your K‑12 district is an easy decision, choosing a provider may not be so simple.

With so many options available, it can be overwhelming to find the best fit. That’s why we compiled a list of the mistakes to avoid while choosing a K‑12 online payment system for your district.

1. Selecting a Provider that is Inexperienced in Education

Running a K‑12 district is not the same as running an eCommerce business. In addition to simply collecting revenue, you have:

  • School budgets to follow
  • State and county governance to uphold
  • A large staff to pay
  • Facilities to maintain

Your needs are unique and your online payment system should be, too. It’s important to partner with a provider that understands how a K‑12 district functions and has designed a system specifically for you.

Plus, they include other relevant features like alerts for parents when a student has a low lunch balance or when there is a new fee to pay. That’s not something you’ll find in a typical payment processor for businesses.

2. Choosing Based on the Lowest Processing Fee

One downfall of switching to online payments is the added cost of credit card processing fees.

However, when you consider the staff time saved, decrease in bounced checks and faster collection rates, you can still come out on top. Or, rather than absorbing the cost, many districts opt to charge a “convenience fee” or include the amount in the total.

Whichever way you decide to handle the fees, the benefits of an online payment system are clear, and it’s essential to choose based on service offerings – not on a processing fee percentage.

Opting for the lowest fee could also mean missing out on functions that are key to how you plan to operate, we’ll discuss these next.

3. Losing Fast Access to Funds

When you begin accepting credit or debit card payments, your fees are processed through a merchant account.

In order to keep processing fees low, some school payment systems aggregate collected funds from hundreds of schools or districts under a single merchant account and then distribute the funds to the appropriate districts.

While you can save on processing fees with this option, it can cause delays and make your funds less accessible than if you had your own merchant account.

When vetting online payment systems, ask about their merchant account structures to ensure you always have quick access to your funds.

4. Not Integrating with Other Platforms

Integrating your online payments with your SIS, point of sale, and other student information management platforms is a massive time saver.

While there are many options for standalone payment processors within the education sector, consider the benefits of having all of your data synced into one, secure location.

An integrated solution like LINQ can collect every school-related fee and streamline your finance and accounting workflows.

In addition, your financial data is stored in the same platform as student and nutrition program information. This provides you full transparency and insights into your entire operation.

5. Settling for Minimal Support

Another implication of a low-cost online payment provider is limited customer support.

When dealing with district finances and technology, you’ll have important questions and need answers right away. Having to wait hours or even days for support is not an option when you have a district to run.

While vetting online payment providers, ask yourself the following questions: 

  • How involved are you in the onboarding and setup process? 
  • Will I have an account manager? 
  • What are your support hours?
  • Will I be able to call support rather than enter a ticket? 

6. Limiting Payment Options

Another mistake to avoid when choosing an online payment processor for your K‑12 district is assuming that all parents and guardians will be using a single form of payment.

Options are a good thing. While most of the parents may prefer paying with credit card, others may not have a credit card and would opt for ACH transfers instead. Offering various payment options is a great way to get more families on board with online payments quickly.

Platforms like LINQ Payments accept credit cards, debit cards, and ACH transfers to include more families and gather funds faster than ever before.

7. Ignoring PCI Compliance

It’s natural to assume that any payment processor in this day and age is compliant with Payment Card Industry (PCI) standards, but that is not always the case.

Another way for an online merchant to keep costs down is to have the customer (you) manage PCI compliance on your own, which is not necessarily realistic if you haven’t worked with it before.

Other providers, however, invest a lot of time and money in developing strong payment security processes so you never even have to think about PCI compliance.

Working with a processor that keeps student and parent data secure reduces your workload and gives you peace of mind.

8. Locking Into a Constricting Contract

Yet another way processors keep costs low is to guarantee that you’ll be a paying customer for a long, long time. Agreeing to a long-term contract might not be in your best interest when first starting out.

When shopping for an online payment processor, ask about their cancellation terms, when the contract renews, and if it auto-renews. Make sure your contract includes unlimited support, too. We hope you find a provider you love from the start, but it never hurts to have contract terms that you’re comfortable with.

Selecting an online payment provider that supports you through the setup process (and beyond) while integrating your systems into one, easy-to-use platform will save you a lot of time and stress.

Choose an online payment provider that was built specifically for K‑12 districts and has your best interests in mind. With flexible payments that can be made from anywhere, families can pay on their own schedule.

Your staff can forget about handling cash or check payments and get back to facilitating another successful school year.

Free eBook: Contactless Payments for K‑12 Schools

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