Car park managers and owners do not need to offer their customers every type of payment system that exists. However, the basic rule of thumb is that the more payment systems or methods that are offered at a car parking facility, the more profitable it is likely to be. This is because when motorists park in a car park and are not able to pay because they do not have the necessary payment method at their disposal, they will most likely drive on elsewhere. Equally, what might suit a car park that caters for the general public is not likely to be as favoured by commercial operators. So, for example, if your facility is used frequently by the employees of neighbouring businesses, it is likely that you’ll need more commercial payment systems in place compared to a car park that serves general motorists.
Which blend of payment methods would best suit your car park? Read on to find out more about the available options.
Pre-payment systems commonly use software-based accounting methods. Customers place credit into their account and then the parking facility will deduct a sum from this account every time the associated license plate for the account holder enters the parking facility. Single charges can be made for each visit to your car park or you can calibrate the system to charge according to amount of time that has been spent in it. With this model, you’ll need a license plate recognition system at the entrance and exit of your facility, of course. Generally speaking, pre-payment systems suit frequent parkers as well as people who are looking for long-term parking arrangements. This approach is not flexible enough for most public-facing car parking facilities, however.
Commercial invoicing is also a good approach to take if you have businesses that use your car park every day. Unlike pre-payments, however, invoicing means that you will need to bill the companies concerned after they have parked and not expect them to pay beforehand. Although commercial invoicing suits many types of business, there is the issue of credit control to consider. Because payments are generally made in arrears, you need to be on top of late and non-payers. Systems like ParkBase Management help car park managers to supervise their invoicing schedule and structure, a particularly useful thing if some businesses require monthly invoices while others prefer to be billed on a quarterly basis, for example.
Direct Debits and Standing Orders
Many car parks will debit their customer’s accounts automatically these days. Unlike commercial invoicing, a direct debit means that the payment will flow into your bank account without needing to be approved by an accounts payable department. Equally, direct debits are just as useful for individuals who will use your car park frequently as well as companies. The direct debit system is a very trusted one but you have to be aware of any customer who chooses to cancel their direct debit mandate, as is their legal right. Not noticing this could mean that they are able to continue to park for free. The main alternative to this sort of automated payment system is to ask customers to set up standing orders. If so, they should use their account number or license plate as their payment reference so you can track which payment relates to which client.
Online payments are increasingly popular nowadays. With nearly all drivers able to access the internet from their mobile devices, so setting up a payment portal for them online makes sense even if they choose to pay this way once they have parked rather than booking their bay ahead of their visit through ParkBase. Online payments need to be secure and there are some privacy issues to think about when it comes to storing customers’ private data in the cloud. However, online payments offer a great deal of flexibility to customers who might want to top up their payments if they take longer to come back to their car than they had initially expected, for instance.
These days, most online payment portals will accept payments from debit and credit cards as well as direct bank transfers and other digital payment methods, such as PayPal. Remember, too, that online payments can issue digital receipts for any transactions that have been made, usually by emailing them to customers after the payment has been received.
For many years, cash was the preferred payment method for many people who frequented car parks. There are two main drawbacks with cash, however. The first is that it needs to be stored securely, often in an unmanned receptacle, so that it cannot be stolen. The second is that it requires customers to have the right coinage on them to pay for the parking they need. As such, it is sometimes now seen as the least preferable payment option for numerous retail environments, including parking facilities.
However, some people still greatly prefer the simplicity that cash payments afford them. If you want to offer cash payments to your customers, then moving the payment hardware that will process it away from the exit will be preferable. Customers can take a long time to find the necessary cash when paying. Furthermore, coins are often dropped or rejected the first time they are processed. Pay stations that do not hold up motorists as they want to leave the car park are, therefore, the best way to proceed.
Tap and Go payment systems work in much the same way as cash-based ones only much, much quicker. The near-field technology that is used by contactless payment machines means that cards can be read, approved and have appropriate payments made within a second or two. Of course, it is not just debit and credit cards that these systems can process nowadays but a raft of other devices. Many mobile phones will be linked to their owners’ bank accounts these days and these can also be used for swift contactless transactions that help to prevent queues from forming around pay stations as well as car park entrances and exits.