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Top 10 questions to ask your payments provider

Today’s students and parents have high expectations for paying their international tuition and fees, which can be challenging for schools.

The right payments partner can make a big difference for your educational institution and offer students choice
The right payments partner can make a big difference for your educational institution and offer students choice

With new technological innovations, the payments landscape is changing faster than ever, giving students and their parents a rapidly expanding number of ways to pay. These users are looking for flexibility, choice and ultimately a better purchasing experience. Payers want a solution that is convenient, accessible and seamless to use on any device. As your institution evolves to deliver on these expectations, choosing the right international payments provider can be an overwhelming task. The right payments partner can make a big difference for your educational institution and offer students choice. Choosing the wrong payments provider can put at risk your institution’s reputation and your student’s funds.  

Here are top ten questions to ask your international payments provider:

1. Can your partner meet all of your incoming and outgoing payment needs, allowing you to send and receive funds internationally?

Accounts payable and receivable teams devote endless hours to chasing missing funds, reconciling payments and answering student queries. Your payments provider should enable you to manage incoming payments from your international students and allow you to make outgoing international payments, often with no additional fees. This option streamlines the payment experience and reduces the cost for your institution by avoiding manual reconciliation of each transaction.

2. Does your international payments provider offer many payment options through its own in-country bank accounts or do they rely solely on third party banking relationships to deliver their local currency capability?

Although it may not seem necessary, this feature can help with the cost and speed of international payments processing. Rather than have each tuition payment travel through multiple third party financial institutions for exchange, funds can be deposited and transferred with ease through a local account held by the payments provider in the student’s home country.

3. Is your partner a licensed money transmitter that is able to support your global payments needs?

Choosing your service provider for collecting foreign tuition payments and processing refunds is crucial. In the U.S., licensed money transmitters can offer a full range of incoming and outgoing payment services. Moving money around the world can be complicated, requiring compliance with a whole array of U.S. and foreign regulations and requirements designed to prevent money laundering and fraud. Licensed providers have both the compliance experience and the necessary licensing to fully meet your needs and best protect your students and your institution.

4. Can your payments provider easily integrate with the school’s existing system?

Your international payments provider should seamlessly integrate with all major education platform technology providers, such as Cashnet, Nelnet, and Touchnet. This allows international wire payments to be timely applied to student account balances, as part of the student account payment flow, ensuring transaction completion within one system. Your school often realize savings in money and time while delivering additional payment options for your students.

5. Do you have proof that your partner is financially stable?

Private companies are not required to publish their financial statements, or provide customers or the public with audited financial statements. Do you have proof that your partner has the size and the financial strength and stability to withstand any significant changes in the market? Economic downturns and business failures are an inevitable part of the global marketplace. A provider’s untimely business failure or disruption during a market downturn could impact your ability to receive payments in a timely manner or even result in a loss of funds. This can affect the school’s reputation, its ability to attract international students and impact a school in other unforeseeable, negatives ways. By working with a provider that is part of a public company with publicly-available, audited financial statements you can review and monitor the financial strength of your provider and have confidence that your students’ money and your reputation is not at risk.

6. Does your international payments provider have a fraud prevention program in place?

A good payments provider will be knowledgeable about the risks of payments fraud and have a program in place to help clients detect and prevent fraud. Unfortunately, foreign students can be targeted by fraudsters hoping to steal money set aside for tuition and fees. Does your provider have a dedicated team to protect clients from fraud and to work with the client to recover the funds if fraud does occur ? Look for providers with fraud-fighting specialists with a proven track record. Partner with a trusted provider that can accept payments in the student’s home country, while provide an easy to use platform that permits both you and the student to track their payment status.

7. Does the international payments provider carry sufficient amounts of insurance to protect against certain losses?

Operating technology platforms, receiving and storing personal data, and processing student funds involves many risks, including the risk of internal fraud, third party fraud, and cyber incidents. Does your provider carry insurance that covers any of these items?

8. Is your provider meeting regulatory and/or industry standards related to the processing of data and the protection of privacy?

Both educational institutions and payment processors are subject to a number of strict regulations and compliance standards relating to the processing of data, and the protection of privacy. Your payments provider must demonstrate that it has qualified personnel and sufficient expertise and controls in place to comply with such requirements. They need to be an expert in this area and serve as an asset in your ongoing efforts to adhere to these rules.

9. Will you receive payment quickly, after a student initiates a transfer? Will the solution automatically link messages and reports related to student payments to their account records?

Simplify the payments process for international students and accounts receivable staff so you can limit manual work. Not only will automated options save time, but they will also reduce errors. Receiving timely payment of outstanding balances from students can be a challenging and inefficient process. Effective and timely engagement is the key to successfully receiving payments from students who are currently enrolled and those who have recently left your institution with an outstanding balance. Ideally, your provider can help you communicate with students before a payment is missed.

10. Will both the student and your institution have complete access to payment tracking?

Payment reconciliation output needs to be easy for both the student and the accounting staff. To reduce confusion, students should be able to use their student ID number, since they are likely using it for other administrative tasks. This unique identifier will also help internal staff match payments to their correct enrollee. If both parties can easily check a payment’s status online it will reduce the tedious paperwork and phone calls normally associated with reconciliation.

Whether you are receiving tuition from a student in India, making an equipment purchase in China or sending funds to a professor on assignment in Brazil, make sure your international payments provider can answer yes to all of these crucial questions. Western Union Business Solutions allows you to simplify international student payments, give students a seamless payment experience, and expand your recruitment strategy and efforts into new markets with access to new payment corridors. In today’s political climate, it is critical that your international transactions are carefully scrutinized. We bring a serious commitment to regulatory compliance, aiming to confirm that every single transaction is above board.