Web-Based Services Help You Get Money, Keep Money

Unless you’re an accountant, you probably didn’t start your own business only to wind up being an accountant. But managing cash flow is vital to every business’ survival, so American Express Open — the small business division of American Express — has introduced a new Web-based invoicing service to help small business owners get paid faster while also streamlining the billing process.

The company’s AcceptPay online tool offers automatic invoicing to help you get bills to clients and customers more quickly, payment tracking and automatic reminders of overdue payments, plus multiple payment-collection options that can help make it easier — and perhaps faster — for customers to pay.

“It’s difficult to do invoicing and cash-flow management well, and to do it well you have to work on it every day,” noted Alice Bredin, small business adviser to American Express Open. “Entrepreneurs have to wear many hats, and AcceptPay is a way to outsource this vital function to an expert.”

American Express Open partnered with online invoicing pioneer PaySimple to design AcceptPay. The “cloud” service lets business owners create and send invoices, then track and organize invoices, payments and outstanding receivables online through a single Web portal.

AcceptPay also makes it more convenient for customers to pay by offering multiple payment options including major credit and debit cards, e-checks, traditional checks or even cash. Customer payments are deposited directly into a linked bank account designated by the AcceptPay subscriber.

Business owners can also keep tabs on invoices and receivables via the service’s pre-built and customized reports. AcceptPay records can also be seamlessly integrated into Intuit’s popular QuickBooks accounting software, so business owners who use QuickBooks don’t need to enter invoice and payment information twice.

“AcceptPay puts a consistent system in place for invoicing and also cuts down on the time spent doing it,” said Bredin. AcceptPay is available to any business owner, whether or not they are an American Express Open card holder. There is no set up fee, and the service is priced at $20 per month.

The company also offers AcceptPay Lite, a free Web-based invoicing service, which includes the online invoicing but not the payment-acceptance features of AcceptPay.

Manage Your Cashflow

To help business owners save money once they’ve received it, BillShrink, Inc. has launched BillShrink for Business. Best know for its consumer-focused Web service that helps visitors save on wireless plans, banking, credit cards and even gas, the company is turning its attention to small business owners. The first offering is a tool to help entrepreneurs find the credit card or charge card that offer the most benefits for them.

“We’re helping small business owners improve cash flow by matching them with the card that best fits their needs, be that cash rebates, points rewards or payment,” explained BillShrink CEO Peter Pham.

For example, a business owner who travels frequently might be best served by a card that offers travel rewards, while an entrepreneur with high up-front cost outlays (such as a contractor) might be better off with a charge card that lets her push the billing of purchases out 30 days without interest.

To determine the best fit, the site walks business owners through a series of questions — do you pay off your primary card each month, do you prefer cash back or points rewards and so on — to filter the results tailored to them.

“We aim to deliver very personalized results based on your usage and preferences,” said Pham. “We show you the results, but also an explanation as to why a certain card is best for you — its fees, blackout dates for travel rewards and so on — and also the dollar amount value the card could be worth to you.”

BillShrink for Business is free to use, and the service doesn’t collect any personal information to go through the recommendation process. The company plans to launch tools to help save on business wireless plans and to help determine the best savings account for businesses later this year.

Jamie Bsales is an award-winning technology writer and editor with more than 15 years of experience covering the latest hardware, software and Internet products and services.

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