Money management

A guide to online bill payments and accounts payable for businesses


In today's fast-paced digital and international environment, businesses are constantly looking for ways to streamline operations and work more efficiently. One of the areas that many businesses find more time-consuming than it needs to be is the accounts payable process, which traditionally has been outdated and inefficient. The good news is that the rise of online payment solutions has completely changed the way businesses handle their financial obligations—and with just a few clicks, organizations can manage their bills swiftly, securely, and conveniently.

What’s your biggest pet peeve when it comes to paying your bills?

Online payment platforms help you operationalize your accounts payable so you can focus more on running your business. Set up recurring bills for automatic payments, plus securely share account access with trusted team members so they can log in with their own credentials and submit bill payments for your approval.

If you’re afraid of getting hit with unexpected fees while paying your business bills, you’ll want to find an online payments tool that’s both competitively priced and upfront about the fees it charges. This way, you’ll know what to expect when you choose to pay via check, same-day ACH, wire transfer, or credit card. Plus, you shouldn’t have to guess about foreign transaction fees on international payments.

When your payments are integrated with your business checking account, you can minimize manual bill creation and upload bills directly to your banking dashboard. From there, your dashboard will automatically digitize them, and you can sync with accounting tools like QuickBooks Online to keep everything up to date. Some bill payment platforms also let you create a custom email so you can send attachments there and manage bills directly from your banking dashboard.

You can also save time on accounts payable by using an online platform that lets you choose your payment method, schedule automatic payments, and share access so your team can help set up and approve bill payments. Vendors want to be paid via check? Some tools even let you pay from your business checking account or credit card, then send a paper check to your payee for you.

Worried if your bill payment will arrive on time? The best online accounts payable platforms track payments for you, so you don’t have to reach out to your payees to confirm they’ve received your money.

If you typically pay by check, many services send paper checks for you and let you track it while in transit.

When all your bills are due around the same time of the month, you might run into some cash flow issues, especially during a slow season. A good option could be paying your bills by credit card to give your business a little bit of extra time to come up with the money. Depending on your credit card terms and monthly due date, you could give yourself up to 45 days of float.

You can also try to negotiate better terms with your vendors, especially if you’ve been working with them for a while.

Many vendors only accept checks for payments. Luckily, some payment platforms let you pay by credit card or your bank account, then will send a paper check to payees for you—letting you skip envelopes, stamps, and a trip to the bank or post office.

What is accounts payable?

Accounts payable refers to money that your business owes to suppliers and vendors for goods and services. This type of debt is short term, typically in the form of business expenses like inventory, equipment, raw materials, travel, transportation, etc. Accounts payable does not include your company payroll or long-term debt like mortgages—though, your business should always record monthly payments toward long-term debts like your mortgage in your accounts payable platform.

What are online bill payments?

Online bill pay refers to convenient and efficient digital payment tools that allow businesses to manage bills through an internet-based platform. Paying bills online eliminates the need to write physical checks, handle cash, or go to a post office or bank location to send a payment. Online bill payments help improve your business’ financial processes while moving away from error-prone and unsecured bill payment transactions. For businesses, online bill pay tools offer advantages like automating and scheduling recurring payments, integrating with existing accounting software, real-time expense tracking and reporting, and an extra layer of security and fraud protection.

Types of business bills you can pay online

Online bill payment tools offer a wide range of flexibility when it comes to the types of business bills you can pay. Here are some common types of business bills you can pay online using these tools:

  • Business travel
    expenses such as
    flights, fuel, hotels,
    and meals

  • Utility bills such
    as electricity, gas,
    and water

  • Telecommunication
    services like phone,
    internet, and cable

  • Inventory and
    supply invoices
    for goods, services,
    and raw materials

  • Business liability
    and property
    insurance, along
    with premiums

  • Repayments for
    business loans,
    financing, etc.

  • Business credit
    card bills

  • Local, state, and
    federal taxes

  • Marketing and
    ad spend

Because many bills such as utilities, telecommunications, rent, and loans are usually recurring expenses, you can automate payments to avoid needing to set them up every month. Once these bills are programmed with your online bill pay provider and the payee, they are paid automatically on an arranged schedule.

How do online bill payments work?

Instead of making individual payments, using separate websites, mailing checks, or running to the bank, online bill pay allows you to digitally manage all your bills in one place. This includes one-time, recurring, and automatic payments. While there are a lot of different online bill payment solutions, the best ones provide you with flexibility and integrate directly with your business checking account. One-stop solutions help you save the most time because you’re able to view and manage your business finances from one dashboard, making it easier to keep track of money in and money out.

High-yield business checking with
built-in accounts payable tools.

Integrating with accounting software

A major benefit that online accounts payable solutions can offer is syncing your business checking account and bill pay tools with accounting software like QuickBooks Online.BVSUP-00056 This keeps all your bills and related information in a central location, allowing for effective organization and easy access. Here are some of the major benefits of connecting your accounting software to your accounts payable platform.

  • Save time

    Skip manual data entry by automatically importing bills,bill categories, and payees from accounting software you’re already using.

  • Reduce errors

    Lower the risk of manual errors by keeping your accounts in sync.

  • Get real-time data

    Track your business’ financial health in real time with up-to-date information about cash flow, expenses, and payment histories.

  • Streamline reconciliation

    Easily match transactions with bills and invoices, making your reconciliation faster and more efficient.

  • Simplify expense tracking

    Analyze spending patterns, reallocate budgets, and generate expense reports using automatic payment categorization.

  • Enhance reporting capabilities

    Get valuable insights for financial analysis and decisions with the robust reporting tools of both your accounts payable solution and your accounting software.

  • Improve compliance

    Maintain a clear digital payment record to smoothen the process for internal audits, tax compliance, and financial reporting requirements.

More ways to upload bills

In addition to importing bills from accounting tools like QuickBooks Online,BVSUP-00056 accounts payable platforms also provide different options to upload your bills.

Snap a photo and upload

Many bill payment platforms now use OCR (optical character recognition) image processing technology that automatically captures data from your image of an invoice. You scan or take a photo of the invoice and the OCR technology extracts and populates the relevant payment information to set up the bill for you. This option is especially useful if your business receives paper bills or invoices, allowing you to automate data entry. Just be sure to review for accuracy before you start scheduling payments.

Forward via email

All-in-one banking dashboards allow you to set up a dedicated email address that you can send bills to as attachments. Your dashboard will automatically capture information from email attachments and create bills in your business checking dashboard. So, you can simply attach your invoice to an email, send it to your dashboard, and then manage or pay that bill from the same place you manage your business checking account.

Set up a bill manually

If you don’t have access to a paper or electronic version of your bill or invoice, you may need to enter bill details manually. This method makes sense when the above options are not available and you need to keep track of the bill and make a timely payment.

Options for paying your bills online

As your business evolves and works with more vendors, you need to be able to pay your payees the way they want to be paid. Many businesses rely heavily on ACH payments, as well as wires and international transfers, but it can be helpful to have access to other options like paying from your credit card or sending a paper check. Let’s take a closer look at how these payment methods work.

Payment source options

Before making a payment, you have to choose where the funds come from. The two most common payment sources are business checking accounts and business credit cards. While they are somewhat similar, there are important differences between the two.

  • Business checking account or business debit card. Business checking accounts make it easier to separate personal and business-related finances. Paying from your account or debit card helps keep your expenses in a centralized location, and can sometimes help speed up transaction processing times. 
  • Business credit card. Paying by credit card functions similarly to making a payment with your business debit card. However, using your business credit card can help you establish and build business credit, earn rewards, and set your business up for future financing opportunities. Plus, paying bills by credit card can help you free up cash flow by giving you more time to cover payments—especially if you strategically take advantage of your credit card float.
  • External bank account. If you have multiple business checking accounts, your bill pay platform may be integrated with one of them. But you still might be able to connect your other business checking account to fund bill payments.

Payment method options

Once you’ve selected where your payment funds will come from, the next step is choosing how the payment is delivered to your payee. Here are some common payment method options:

  • Standard ACH. Short for Automated Clearing House, ACH is a widely used electronic payment system in the U.S. that enables the transfer of funds between bank accounts. ACH transfers typically take several business days to go through and are processed in batches.
  • Same-day ACH. While standard ACH transactions can take several business days to complete, same-day ACH payments can be processed in the same day if the payment is initiated within a specific time frame.
  • Wire transfer. Wire transfers are a popular method of moving funds both nationally and internationally because funds can be available in as fast as one business day.
  • Paper check. Many businesses still prefer to pay and be paid via paper check, which often involves writing a check, sealing it in an envelope, and sending it out from the post office or a bank location. However, some online bill pay platforms will do the legwork for you and send out paper checks to payees on your behalf—while still allowing you to initiate the payment from your business checking account.
  • eCheck. Electronic checks can be a fast, convenient, and cost-effective alternative when payees don’t prefer other payment forms.

Domestic and international payments

Some payment tools enable you to send money across borders, which is an important feature for businesses that work with international vendors. If your business sends money internationally, you’ll likely prefer a tool that’s transparent about its foreign transaction fees so you always know how much you’ll be paying before you set up a global payment.

How do I set up automatic payments?

Getting started with automated bill payments is usually pretty simple and straightforward. Here are the general steps you’ll need to take to set up automatic payments for your business.

  • 1

    Create a list of all your highest-priority needs to help you research and find the right online bill pay solution.

  • 2

    Make a list of all your bills, identifying recurring payments that are ideal for automation. These usually include utilities, rent or mortgage payments, subscriptions, insurance premiums, etc.

  • 3

    Reach out to your payess to ask them about their preferred payment method and request account information. If you receive invoices, their information may also be available there.

  • 4

    Decide how you want to pay and how you want your payments to be delivered. Keep in mind that some payees may have specific requirements or limitations when it comes to receiving automatic payments from certain sources.

  • 5

    Because some payees may have a special authorization and security process, provide them with the requested information and complete the required verification steps.

  • 6

    Once everything is set up, reviewed, and approved, you should be good to go.

Although automatic payments function on their own, it’s recommended that you keep an eye on your accounts and transactions. Doing so not only helps ensure that the correct amounts get sent on the right dates, but also that you have enough funds in your account to cover these payments.

What are the benefits of accounts payable automation?

Many online bill payment and accounts payable solutions offer automation tools to streamline payments of recurring bills. Along with convenience, automating bill payments provides a number of other benefits.

  • Save time

    Automatic payments help eliminate manual processes like setting up bills and writing physical checks every month.

  • Manage your cash flow

    Get a better handle on your cash flow and schedule payments to align with your income in slower seasons. You can also consider negotiating terms with vendors so your dates line up better.

  • Avoid late payments

    Make sure recurring bills are paid on time so you can avoid penalties and fees for late or missed payments.

  • Simplify record keeping

    You’ll always be able to refer back to the digital trail to see when payments are scheduled, sent out, and received by payees.

  • Strengthen vendor relationships

    Consistent timely payments help you foster strong relationships with your vendors and suppliers. This also makes them more likely to agree to favorable changes in payment terms if you try to negotiate.

  • Reduce risk of fraud

    With no manual sharing of sensitive information, you can reduce your risk of important data falling into the wrong hands.

  • Make admin work more efficient

    By delegating tasks to your team and customizing approval workflows, you can reduce administrative burdens and establish a more efficient, cost-effective approach to paying your bills.

Using bill approval workflows to save time

When choosing an online bill payment or accounts payable solution, you should also consider the collaboration options and delegation needs of your team. For example, some online bill pay platforms let you set up customized approval workflows that automatically route payments to approvers for review. These workflows allow decision-makers to give team members secure individual logins with different permissions for setting up bills, scheduling payments, and even providing approval. Not only does this eliminate manual and time-consuming tasks—it accelerates your bill approval cycles while facilitating collaboration.

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Final thoughts on online bill pay and accounts payable solutions

Embracing online bill payments is a smart move for businesses of all sizes. By leveraging digital platforms and automated processes, you can streamline your payment workflow, reduce manual errors, and get a big-picture view of your financial obligations. Plus, online bill pay enhances security measures and compliance with regulatory standards, protecting sensitive payment information.

As technology continues to evolve, businesses must adapt to stay competitive—and online bill payments are an essential component of this transformation. Adopting online bill pay and accounts payable solutions not only improves your organization’s financial management processes but can also help open your business up to growth opportunities.

Manage your business checking
account and bill payments from
one intuitive dashboard.

Online bill pay FAQs

Yes, many bill payment tools allow you to pay bills using your business credit card as a payment method. This option often comes with a fee, which is typically a percentage of the payment.

Absolutely. In some cases, paying business bills online is more secure than sending your vendor a check in the mail or dealing with cash. Online bill payments ensure there is a digital paper trail, plus there’s a lower risk of losing your check in transit.

If you do choose to have your payment provider mail a check to a payee on your behalf, you’ll be able to track it every step of the way until it’s received. Most bill pay platforms also offer protection against fraudulent check deposits, so you can rest assured that your payments are going to the right place.

If your business sends a lot of payments via paper check, you’ll need an online bill payment solution that securely sends checks on your behalf. This way, you can track your payment while it’s in transit—plus you’ll get automatic check fraud protection, which helps prevent fraudulent deposits so you can make payments with confidence.

When it comes to bill payments and your business checking account, you never want to face hidden fees. Be sure you know how an account provider compares to other solutions before you sign up. Every solution you consider should have a fee chart readily available, like the one below.

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It’s important to find a suite of payment tools that’s built for small businesses, with a combination of self-guided resources and an accessible customer support team that’s there to help if you have issues. If a payment doesn’t process on time, you shouldn’t need to go to a physical bank branch to get assistance—you should be able to get the support you need online or over the phone, so you can resolve the issue and get your vendor paid as quickly as possible.

Keep in mind that these payment processing times are not set in stone and can be influenced by your funding source. Payments funded by a business credit card or a connected external bank account may take longer than paying directly from your integrated business checking account. The actual time of the transaction, along with weekends and holidays, can also affect how long your payment takes to be processed.

On average, ACH payments can take up to 3–6 business days. This time frame accounts for the necessary verification and transfer of funds between bank accounts. Wire transfers tend to be faster than standard ACH, with average processing times of 1–4 business days, depending on your funding source. Of course, if sent before the cut-off time, same-day ACH payments can arrive within 1 business day.

Physical checks usually have the slowest processing times because they need to get printed and mailed, taking up to 5–10 business days. eChecks, on the other hand, have a faster processing time, similar to ACH payments.

How you can save
time paying bills
with Bluevine

Seamlessly manage and pay your bills online with Bluevine—all from the same dashboard you use to manage your business checking account.

  • Fast payment methods like same-day ACH, wire, and international payments

  • Easy bill uploads with automated bill capture for photos and email attachments

  • Convenient, two-way sync with QuickBooks OnlineBVSUP-00056

  • Simple check payments and tracking directly from your dashboard

  • Customized bill approval workflows with multiple permissions for your team

  • High-yield business checking with no monthly fees or minimum balance

Get started today


This content is for educational purposes only and should not be construed as professional advice of any type, such as financial, legal, tax, or accounting advice. This content does not necessarily state or reflect the views of Bluevine or its partners. Please consult with an expert if you need specific advice for your business. For information about Bluevine products and services, please visit the Bluevine FAQ page.