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Regardless of the size of your business, paying bills is an integral part of your month-end book closing checklist. But for far too long, this process has been marred with inefficiencies and archaic processes, like cutting paper checks and mailing them.

Unfortunately, these cumbersome processes can become a big hassle as both your company and your bill pay checklist grow larger. But there are better, more efficient ways to tackle this critical task.

You can automate bill payments in two ways:

  • Using AI-powered software to scan invoices for line items, vendor payment details, and more to speed up your month-end book closing.
  • Setting up autopay on everyday business expenses such as rent, SaaS software, and other fixed monthly payments.

What is automatic bill payment?

Typically, once they receive an invoice, bill payment for businesses goes something like this:

  1. Receive invoice
  2. Manually enter invoice details into your accounting software of choice
  3. Confirm payment details and send for approval
  4. Manually process payments and cut paper checks
  5. Go back to accounting software to verify journal entries and mark bills as paid
  6. Repeat for all invoices
  7. Close your books

This process can easily require up to 15 minutes per bill and possibly longer if there are errors. So imagine you have 20 bills to pay at the end of the month: that’s 300 minutes or 5 hours solely devoted to processing invoices and paying bills! Not only is this unsustainable, but it can also cost many hours of productivity and, ultimately, money.

Enter automated bill payments.

Typical bill pay process
         

With automated online bill pay, you simply upload an invoice you receive from a vendor and let AI work its magic. In a few seconds, you’ll have a generated bill with appropriate line items and payment details. All that’s left is for you to review, approve, and schedule a payment.

Alternatively, autopay allows you to set up a bill with your payment details and reliably pay every month on time. Not only does this save you time, but it also gives you the peace of mind to know that all of your bills are getting paid when they should be.

What are the benefits of automated payments?

It’s hard to overstate the many advantages that come with switching to this form of finance automation. Here are a few of those benefits:

Eliminate manual data entry

Even the most experienced accounts payable teams are prone to making mistakes when they spend hours on manual data entry. Platforms like Ramp allow you to automate your entire accounts payable workflow, which ensures that every bill is recorded, approved, and paid on time. More importantly, automated bill payments dramatically reduce the amount of manual work (and the associated risks) for everyone on your accounts payable team.

Increased security and controls

According to a 2022 report by the Association for Financial Professionals, more than 80 percent of financial professionals reported that their organizations were targeted by fraudsters in 2018. Automated bill payment platforms like Ramp give you stronger protections against potential threats. For example, our Bill Pay tool identifies duplicate invoices, routes approvals for you, and two-way matches to purchase orders.

Easier payment processes

Historically, paying bills required you to use multiple payment systems. Even today, far too many accounts payable teams rely on paper checks to pay bills. Automated bill payment tools like Ramp Bill Pay consolidate all your payment methods in a single platform, which allows you to pay domestic and global vendors by check, card, or same-day ACH or international wire transfer.

Increased time savings

According to research from IFOL, accounts payable pros spend 56% of their weeks manually processing invoices and supplier payments. Automatic bill payment tools like enable them to complete this tedious work just by uploading an invoice. Ramp Bill Pay offers an added layer of automation, thanks to its rich integration library with popular accounting and ERP solutions that auto-sync bill pay transactions and pull in your purchase orders and amortization schedules.

More consistent on-time payments

Even the most complex manual tracking system increases the likelihood that your accounts payable team may inadvertently miss a payment. Automated bill payment platforms like Ramp give you full visibility into the status of every outstanding invoice. This gives accounts payable the ability to accurately forecast cash flow and ensure bills are paid when they want them paid.

Which bills should you set to autopay?

Auto bill payments can provide many benefits for businesses. But just because it’s a good solution doesn’t mean it’s a one-size-fits-all fix, especially when it comes to specific types of bills.

For example, you may want to consider putting expenses like SaaS software, charge or credit cards, or anything that tends to have a fixed cost per month on autopay using a corporate card like Ramp.

On the other hand, expenses that can vary from month to month, like utility bills or vendors, should be reviewed before payment. Why? Since these bills fluctuate, if they jump significantly month-to-month, you’ll want to have an opportunity to review why. You can use AI software like Ramp Bill Pay to speed up that review.

So when you’re deciding whether to add something to autopay, consider if it’s a constant, relatively predictable expense with a fixed cost or one that varies from month to month.

How to set up automatic payments for your business

For businesses of all sizes, automatic bill payments can be like a lifeline–saving precious time and resources. But like any other system, there are some best practices to keep in mind when using them for your business.

Regularly audit your bill payments

Just because your bills are being automated doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t check in on recurring expenses to make sure everything looks accurate. You should plan on auditing both your fixed and variable-cost bill payments frequently, to look for any errors, redundancies, and more–particularly if you’re using autopay.

With variable expenses, the reason is clear: you want to make sure you don’t end up getting charged more than what you bargained for. With fixed costs, you’ll want to regularly check in to make sure that a bill hasn’t suddenly increased without your knowledge. If not, you can be in for some sticker shock.

Ramp Bill Pay will automatically check for variable and fixed-cost bills such as vendors to see if you’ve accidentally paid a bill twice and look for duplicate spending across categories, giving you a good idea of where your finances stand.

Use tools that offer real-time visibility of your expenses

Just like doing regular audits of your bill payments can give you better insight into your finances, having real-time visibility into your expenses can help you tenfold. When looking for expense management software, be sure to look for one that offers real-time, up-to-the-minute tracking so that you have a clear understanding of your financial picture.

Use a secure virtual card

Today, you can never be too secure. If you want to add an extra layer of security to autopay, be sure to use a virtual card. With Ramp, you can create an unlimited number of virtual cards to pay your bills. Even better, you have total control over the way that these cards are spent.

Not only can you set up merchant restrictions so that cards are spent appropriately, you can also issue spend limits to protect you from erroneously overcharged bills, as well as usage and frequency limits.

Ramp merchant restrictions example
         

All of these controls ensure that if you set up a virtual card for a specific purpose and amount, it will never be charged outside of the parameters you set.

Automated payment examples with Ramp

If you’re a QuickBooks to Xero user, you can quickly and easily process your bills with Ramp’s software, saving you time and money. Here’s a walkthrough:

Ramp bill pay process
         

Step #1: Upload an invoice or forward it to our dedicated inbox

With Ramp Bill Pay, all you have to do is upload an invoice or email it to our inbox. Then just sit back and watch the magic happen. Our AI will automatically pull all relevant information from your invoices like vendor names, line items, and due dates.

Step #2: Review flags for duplicate invoices

Our system will automatically flag any invoices that appear to be duplicated, saving you from costly errors.

Ramp duplicate invoice notification
         

Step #3: Receive vendor bank account information

If the vendor did not list their ACH information on the invoice, Ramp will reach out to them automatically and remind them to send details on their bank or financial institution to complete payment processing. And for even more peace of mind, Ramp will release payments even if the vendor submits their payment details after the due date.

image
         

Step #4: Route bill for approval

Bill payments then get routed for approval based on spend amounts, ensuring that the right people have visibility. Once the payment is approved, it’s scheduled to be paid on the due date.

No more daily log-ins by finance heads to release payments.

Example of routing a bill for approval in Ramp
         

Step #5: Pay bills by card, check, or ACH

When you pay bills with your Ramp card, you save an average of 5% by spending less time and money across your entire business. And if a vendor doesn’t accept card payments, you can opt to pay via ACH.

Once the vendor passes our risk check, payments can be issued in as little as two business days.

Ramp interface showing bills paid by ACH, Ramp card, or check
         

Step #6: Automatically sync bills with QuickBooks and Xero and categorize line items

Ramp automatically adds new bills to your general ledger, increasing your real-time visibility into your business expenses. Ramp even matches line items to the relevant GL accounts, saving you even more time.

image
         

Make automated payments easier with Ramp

Paying bills can be a huge pain point for businesses. But with Ramp’s corporate card and bill pay, that process has become much more manageable. Now you can pay your bills 15x faster, saving your business time and money.

Move on from the old way of paying your bills with Ramp. Ready to try it out? Learn more and sign up for Ramp today.

Try Ramp for free
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Content Lead, Ramp
Fiona writes about B2B growth strategies and digital marketing. Prior to Ramp, she led content teams at Google and Intercom. Fiona graduated from UC Berkeley with a degree in English. Outside of work, she spends time dreaming about hiking the Pacific Crest Trail one day.
Ramp is dedicated to helping businesses of all sizes make informed decisions. We adhere to strict editorial guidelines to ensure that our content meets and maintains our high standards.

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