What is BPAY? The Australian bill payment system explained

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  1. Introduction
  2. What is BPAY used for?
  3. What types of businesses can use BPAY?
    1. Service providers
    2. Financial institutions
    3. Retail and e-commerce
    4. Public sector and non-profits
    5. Other
  4. Can businesses that aren’t based in Australia use BPAY?
  5. How does BPAY work?
    1. For businesses
    2. For customers
  6. How much does BPAY cost?
    1. For businesses
    2. For customers
  7. How long does BPAY take to send payments?
  8. Benefits of BPAY for businesses

BPAY is an electronic bill payment system in Australia. It allows individuals and businesses to make payments through a financial institution's online, mobile or telephone banking system to organisations registered as BPAY billers. It was established to provide a centralised bill payment service that links billers and customers through their respective banks, simplifying the process of transferring funds. Nearly 44% of Australians used BPAY in the year ending September 2022.

BPAY is known for its convenience, allowing users to make payments 24/7 from anywhere, using their preferred banking platform. Customers can use BPAY for one-off payments or set up recurring payments. They receive a unique BPAY code and biller code for each transaction, guaranteeing easy payment tracking and management.

Below, we'll discuss what businesses need to know about BPAY, whether they are based in Australia or elsewhere. We'll explain how it works, who uses it, what it costs and how to get started using it as a business.

What's in this article?

  • What is BPAY used for?
  • What types of businesses can use BPAY?
  • Can businesses that aren't based in Australia use BPAY?
  • How does BPAY work?
  • How much does BPAY cost?
  • How long does BPAY take to send payments?
  • Benefits of BPAY for businesses

What is BPAY used for?

BPAY is used in Australia for a variety of payment scenarios. More than 60,000 businesses accept BPAY, and more than 150 banks and financial institutions provide it as a payment method. It's used for many types of transactions, including:

  • Tax payments: BPAY is used for paying different types of taxes to the Australian Taxation Office (ATO), such as income tax and other taxes reported on business activity statements.

  • Business billing: Businesses can use BPAY to issue electronic bills to their customers, providing an alternative payment method.

  • Personal bill payments: Individuals use BPAY to pay various personal bills, such as utilities, credit cards and local council taxes.

  • Batch payments for businesses: BPAY can handle batch payments, which is useful for businesses that process multiple transactions at once.

  • API integrations for businesses: BPAY supports application programming interface (API) integrations, easily working with other business systems for automated billing and payment processes.

What types of businesses can use BPAY?

BPAY is useful in a variety of scenarios, and it's widely used in different industries. Here's a breakdown of some key business types that use BPAY:

Service providers

  • Utilities: Electricity, gas, water and waste management companies widely use BPAY for bill payments – giving customers a familiar and secure option.

  • Telecommunications: Mobile phone, internet and paid-TV providers use BPAY for convenient bill payments – improving the customer experience and their own cash flow.

  • Professional services: Accounting firms, lawyers and consultants accept BPAY payments for invoices – simplifying payment processes for themselves and their clients.

Financial institutions

  • Banks and credit unions: Customers of financial institutions use BPAY to easily repay loans, pay credit card bills and meet other financial obligations through online banking.

  • Insurance companies: Insurance providers accept BPAY payments for premiums, giving policyholders a hassle-free option.

Retail and e-commerce

  • Retail stores: Large and small retailers use BPAY for lay-by payments, instalment plans and gift card purchases.

  • E-commerce platforms: Online stores offer BPAY as a payment option alongside credit cards and other methods, giving customers a secure and familiar way to pay online.

Public sector and non-profits

  • Government agencies: Local councils and state and federal government departments use BPAY to collect various fees and charges, such as parking fines, permits and taxes.

  • Educational institutions: Students use BPAY for tuition fees, student loans and other educational fees.

  • Non-profit organisations: Charities and NGOs accept BPAY donations, simplifying the process for supporters and facilitating fundraising efforts.

Other

  • Subscription services: Streaming platforms, gym memberships and other subscription-based businesses use BPAY for recurring payments, facilitating smooth monthly or annual billing cycles.

  • Professional trades: Plumbers, electricians and other tradespeople increasingly accept BPAY as a payment option for their services – catering to customers' preferences and simplifying their own invoicing processes.

Can businesses that aren't based in Australia use BPAY?

Businesses that aren't based in Australia cannot directly use BPAY to receive payments because BPAY is an Australia-specific payment network: it operates within the Australian financial system and relies on partnerships with Australian banks and financial institutions. Businesses outside of Australia don't have access to these partnerships or infrastructure.

  • Regulatory restrictions: BPAY operates under specific regulations and compliance requirements set by the Australian Payments Network (APN). Businesses not registered in Australia don't meet these requirements and can't participate in the network.

  • Technical limitations: The BPAY system is designed for the Australian currency and banking system. Integrating a foreign business would require complex technical adaptations and may not be feasible.

However, there are alternative options for international businesses to receive payments from Australian customers:

  • International credit card processing: Accepting international credit cards through a secure payment gateway is straightforward.

  • Direct bank transfers: Some businesses provide bank account details for international customers to pay via direct bank transfer.

  • Global payment platforms: International payment platforms such as Stripe allow businesses to receive payments from multiple countries, including Australia.

How does BPAY work?

BPAY's functionality typically integrates easily with existing payment systems, simplifying billing for businesses and customers. Here's how it works:

For businesses

  • Biller registration: Businesses partner with their financial institution to register as a BPAY biller. This involves agreeing to terms and fees, and completing administrative setup.

  • Biller identification: Upon registration, the business receives a unique Biller Code, which acts as its digital identifier within the BPAY network.

  • Bill design: Invoices and e-bills incorporate the Biller Code and individual Customer Reference Numbers (CRNs) for payment tracking.

  • Bill presentment: Optional integration with BPAY View allows businesses to send bills directly to customers' online banking platforms.

  • Payment reconciliation: Businesses receive detailed transaction reports from their banks, including CRNs for reconciliation with outstanding invoices.

  • Customer payment management: Banks provide real-time payment data, enabling businesses to monitor accounts receivable and proactively manage potential delays.

For customers

  • Payment access: Customers access BPAY features through their bank's online, mobile or telephone banking interfaces.

  • Payment initiation: Customers use the Biller Code and CRN from their bill to initiate payments.

  • Transaction processing: Upon confirmation, the platform processes the payment and provides immediate acknowledgement.

  • BPAY View integration: Customers of businesses using BPAY View receive bills directly within their online banking platforms.

  • Payment scheduling: Customers can schedule future payments or set up recurring payments for regular bills.

  • Payment tracking: Online banking services provide detailed transaction histories for customer reference and bill payment management.

  • Flexible payment options: Customers choose the preferred payment source from their linked bank accounts.

How much does BPAY cost?

BPAY costs vary depending on whether you're using it as a business or a customer, and what specific types of transactions you're engaging in. Here's an overview:

For businesses

  • Establishment fee: Some banks charge a one-off establishment fee for registering as a BPAY biller.

  • Transaction fee: Most banks charge a per-transaction fee for BPAY payments received. Some banks may have lower fees for bulk transactions or high-volume billers.

  • Additional fees: Some specific types of transactions within BPAY, such as BPAY Direct Debit or API integrations, might incur additional fees.

For customers

  • Generally fee-free: In most cases, customers don't incur any fees for making BPAY payments. However, a few banks may charge small fees for specific types of transactions, such as credit card payments.

  • Indirect costs: Some businesses might choose to pass on transaction fees they incur to their customers, either by adding a surcharge to the bill amount or by giving discounts for alternative payment methods.

How long does BPAY take to send payments?

BPAY doesn't directly send payments; it acts as a facilitator within the Australian payments system. The actual transfer speed depends on two key factors:

  • Biller processing: Once a customer has initiated a BPAY payment, the information is transmitted to the BPAY clearing house. The biller then needs to receive and process the payment data, which can take up to 24 hours, depending on their internal systems and processes.

  • Bank settlement: After the biller processes the payment, the funds are routed from the customer's bank through the Australian bank settlement system. This settlement usually occurs by the next working day after the biller processes the payment.

The time it takes for a BPAY payment to appear in the recipient's account can vary:

  • Same day: If the customer makes the payment early in the day and the biller processes it quickly, the funds could be available by the end of the same working day.

  • One to two working days: This is the most common time frame, with the biller taking up to 24 hours to process and the bank settlement occurring the next working day.

  • Longer delays: In rare cases, technical issues or specific situations with either the biller or the bank could lead to longer delays.

Public holidays, when banks and some businesses operate on reduced hours, may affect processing times. You can typically check the expected time frame for a specific payment within your online banking platform or by contacting your bank.

Benefits of BPAY for businesses

BPAY is a secure and customer-friendly payment solution for businesses in Australia, providing advantages in cash flow management, cost reduction, customer satisfaction and internal efficiency. Here are the main benefits of using BPAY as a business:

  • Smoother cash flow management: One of the primary benefits of BPAY for businesses is accelerating cash flow. BPAY enables faster payment processing, and funds are typically deposited into the business's account within one working day. This reduced turnaround time between invoicing and payment receipt improves liquidity – allowing businesses to access funds more quickly, manage financial obligations efficiently and seize growth opportunities.

  • Fewer administrative tasks: BPAY simplifies the payment collection process by consolidating accounts receivable management. Focusing on a single payment method reduces administrative complexities, saving time and resources.

  • Improved customer experience: Offering BPAY can enhance customer satisfaction and loyalty. Customers value the convenience and flexibility of electronic payment methods, creating stronger customer relationships and encouraging timely payments. This can generate a more stable and predictable revenue stream.

  • Automated reconciliation and error reduction: BPAY payments include unique Customer Reference Numbers (CRNs), which facilitate automated reconciliation. This automation enables businesses to match payments accurately to customer accounts and invoices, reducing errors and delays associated with manual processing. This ultimately strengthens cash flow management.

  • Security and fraud reduction: BPAY's secure platform reduces the risk of fraud. BPAY Biller Codes add confidence that the account receiving funds is a legitimate business, lowering the chances of sending money to a bank account that's been misrepresented.

  • Flexibility in customer payments: Customers have the option to choose their payment methods, such as debit accounts or credit cards, when using BPAY. Providing this flexibility can increase the likelihood of on-time payments and boost overall customer satisfaction.

  • BPAY View for efficient bill delivery: BPAY View allows businesses to send bills and statements directly to customers' online banking apps. This feature saves time, manages costs effectively and helps maintain prompt payments through electronic reminders.

  • Service expansion: BPAY has service expansion features such as the ability to become a Master Biller or Sub Biller, which allow businesses to collect payments on behalf of other firms or get support with billing, respectively. These features can help businesses expand their services and build partnerships, further improving their financial operations.

  • Cost-effectiveness: BPAY payments tend to be more cost-effective compared to traditional banking and payment methods. The system has low fees and integrates with other business services, contributing to overall savings for the business.

  • Customisation options: BPAY provides options such as intelligent CRNs (iCRNs), which give businesses more control over payment terms, amounts and due dates. This customisation helps with financial planning and customer relationship management.

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