Lunchtime is typically when you find out all the good stuff during your workday. There’s catching up with coworkers in other departments, and office gossip like how “Mary Sue” got that new tattoo of a smiley face on the underside of her big toe, or “Gary Stu” and his new obsession with plaid ceramic bowls. And then there’s being reminded of how little you know about your own industry when you’re new to the game… That one’s a little less fun.
During my lunch with my coworker Celeste, I casually brought up the fact that, though I had been working in the same department as her for five months, I wasn’t quite sure what exactly she or about half of the other people on our team did. (To be clear, I’m still not sure what half of them do. I just know they are things of consequence.) Her eyes lit up as she revealed how the Paperless Payment Program was practically her baby and talked emphatically about her responsibilities with it. I nodded and said something like “oh, right,” because often I find myself in want of decent conversational skills (it’s a Herculean task on my part just to provide a concise response that doesn’t involve me tripping over my words). And then I said “I don’t pay my rent online. I only have a Visa and to pay with it online adds at least an extra $24 in convenience fees.”
The look I got. It wasn’t a “death be unto you” sort of look, but a look of both shock and opportunity. “Do you not know about eChecks?” Celeste asked me. I shook my head no, for I know very little. Then she got this little twinkle in her eye. “I wonder how many other residents don’t pay online because they don’t know about eChecks?”
And that, my dear reader, is an excellent question. I had no idea what it was so I sort of ignored the option, being the passive, impatient guy I am.
As I found out an eCheck, also known as ACH, is a way of making a payment online (duh), but probably in the most direct and convenient way. With an eCheck your residents pay rent directly from a checking or savings account by entering their routing and account numbers, and money is electronically debited directly from their bank account. Fewer steps, less hassle. And the biggest reason why ACH seems so great: low (or no) convenience fee.
The convenience fee for Visa is what had turned me off from online payments. But it’s not just Visa; most credit cards are accompanied by considerable transaction fees (no matter the point of sale)… and I’m just not into that. When you’re a year out of college and have to worry about paying off student loans, you tend to be wary of additional costs. But with an eCheck, it’s a low set fee that’s not near as bad and for many residents, their communities often choose to incur that charge and so it’s free! Where I live, the fee is less than $2. I can spare that. That’s like a soda and a half, and soda’s bad for you anyway.
(As a quick aside that’s worth mentioning: For residents living paycheck to paycheck, a $20 credit card fee is a lot less expensive and potentially damaging to their rental history than a $100 late fee for not paying rent on time. And most credit cards have loyalty programs and rewards that help offset fees as well.)
Lastly: By setting up recurring payments, residents never have to stress about remembering to pay rent. It ends up saving time for everyone, not to mention paper, gas, and stamps. If you have a sneaking (or very apparent) suspicion your residents aren’t familiar with eChecks / ACH, find ways to spread the news and educate them so everyone can have a little less hassle in their lives.