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Increase Your Income by Accepting Credit Cards

Navigating the Insurance Maze by Barbara Griswold, LMFTAs a psychotherapist you can now easily realize the income-boosting advantages of the credit card payment revolution!  For years, online small businesses have reaped the benefits of accepting credit cards.  According to Visa International, credit card payments have provided web-based sellers the ability to increase sales and boost their bottom lines by 30-70%.  This extra income would not have been possible if the customer had been limited to paying by cash or check.  Considering that psychotherapy practices are not online retailers, and that many therapists don’t sell anything outside of therapy services, how can accepting credit cards really benefit a psychotherapy practice and help boost the practice's income?  Here’s how...

Eliminate non-payment.   In a lecture at the American Psychological Association (APA) Annual Convention, Dr. Jan Willer, author of The Beginning Psychotherapist's Companion, emphasized the benefits of keeping your client’s credit card information on file, and recommends requesting credit card information as part of your Fee Agreement on intake.  Whether the situation is a chaotic or forgetful client, a missed or late-cancel appointment, or an early-termination client who hasn’t paid, having gotten your client’s credit card information up-front at the time of intake will ensure that you can charge their credit card and get payment for the valuable service you’ve provided and that the client has agreed to pay for.  If you keep the credit card information on file, then you don’t need to ask the client to produce the card at each session.  Practice management solutions such as Argonaut Practice Management or one of the many other easy-to-use online credit card processing solutions can even allow you to enter and store your client’s credit card number once at intake, and then charge the client’s card for each session without the need to re-enter the number each time or use any card-reader equipment.

Stop wasting time and money on chasing past-due fees.  If your client doesn’t have cash or check with them, or pays by check but the check bounces, you will end up spending time and money on trying to collect that payment.  But if you have the client fill out a fee agreement on which they provide their credit card information, then you can collect payment immediately after the session with no worry about non-payment.  Any fees you pay for credit card processing will be far less than the amount of money you lose or spend on non-payment or payment collection if clients only have the options of cash or check.  Your cash flow is instantly increased, and remember that bad debts related to professional services rendered are not tax deductible.  So if you incur bad debt, it's like throwing away your time and money.

Get money in your account more quickly and effortlessly.  In addition, credit card processing increases your cash flow since your income will be available and in your account within days.  Compare this to the turnaround time it takes to collect payments, make the weekly trip to deposit the payments to the bank, wait for the bank to process the payments or return the checks that have insufficient funds, and it's easy to see how the simple act of accepting credit cards can increase your bottom line and decrease your headaches.  

Attract new clients and keep existing clients happy by providing additional payment options.  Considering that up to 50% of people do not carry cash and prefer to pay for goods and services by credit card, it makes sense to give clients the option to pay their way.  In fact, having the ability to pay by credit card is a convenience for clients; one that most Americans have come to expect.  In today's world, it is quite possible that clients may end up choosing another mental health provider simply because they can pay by credit card. 

Creating opportunities to acquire new clients is just as important as retaining your current clients.  Practices that don't accept credit cards run the risk of excluding clients who want to use your professional services, but do not have the cash funds available to do so.  Advertising that your practice accepts credit cards can help increase your clientele, and thus increase your income. 

Increase your number of full-fee clients.  Another issue facing many potential new clients is the affordability of your services.  As therapists, you are often faced with wanting to charge your full rate, but end up charging on a sliding scale, based on the financial constraints of the client's immediate cash resources.  By accepting credit cards, you may find that you tend to discount your fees less often.  Fewer discounts, obviously, result in greater income. 

Improve the client-therapist relationship.  Lastly, having clients provide a credit card that you can store permanently and securely within Argonaut is an effective way to maintain a healthy client-therapist relationship.  Dr. Willer suggests that, in addition to helping guarantee payment, having your clients complete a payment agreement including credit card information as part of their intake forms removes the payment discussion completely from the therapeutic setting.  When clients enter into a payment agreement at the outset, they obtain an understanding of the fees associated with each session, late cancellations, and missed appointments, and are far less likely to dispute such fees.  By providing an option to pay fees by credit card at time of intake, unpaid bills become a thing of the past!



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