ACH FAQs

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What is an ACH payment?

ACH (Automated Clearing House) payments are a secure electronic funds transfer (EFT) from one bank account to another. Transaction types include Direct Debit, Electronic Checks and Direct Deposits.

What is Direct Debit?

Direct Debit is a payment system whereby creditors are authorized to debit a customer’s bank account directly at regular intervals. Similar to Electronic Checks.

What is an Electronic Check?

Electronic Checks are an electronic version of a paper check. Similar to Direct Debit.

What are the costs for Direct Debit vs. Credit Card or PayPal?

Direct Debit or Electronic Check transactions cost less than the price of a stamp. Credit Card and PayPal transactions cost between 2 ½ – 3 ½%, depending on the type of card. As an example, if a Nonprofit receives $1,000,000 per year in Credit Card or PayPal, that equates to $25,000 to $35,000 in fees. If the average donation was $100, those fees would be less than $4,000 using Direct Debit.

What type of companies use Direct Debit or Electronic Checks?

Cable, Phone, Insurance, Gyms, Utility, Loan and any other sophisticated company processing recurring payments, dues or subscriptions. The IRS and DMV also offer, or even require, it for payment.

Do many Nonprofits use Direct Debit?

Yes. Close to 25% offer Direct Debit or Electronic Check donation options on their websites. Mostly because they don’t know about it or understand it. It wasn’t offered or explained to them by their Credit Card Company.

Don’t Credit Card donors want to receive points or miles?

Some do. Most don’t and most of the ones that do, when it comes to charities or Nonprofits, would rather see as much of their donation as possible go to support the mission and cause.

Does Optimal Giving offer credit card services also?

Yes. We offer credit card because we understand that it is necessary—some people will always choose to pay with their credit card. Offering credit card allows our clients, should they choose to, to have everything on one platform. Whether they use our credit card solution or someone else’s, our objective is to help migrate as many of those transactions to Direct Debit as possible. That is the whole point. That said, we will match or beat whatever credit card fees you are now paying – guaranteed.

Will people choose the Direct Debit option for donations?

Yes. The majority will if they understand that more of their donation will be used to reach more people and change more lives.

Who oversees the ACH network?

NACHA ( National Automated Clearing House Association) www.nacha.org/aboutus

What information is needed to create an electronic Check or Direct Debit?

The routing and account numbers from a checking or savings account.

Who is Optimal Giving’s processor?

Forte Payment Systems, a large, well-established Payment Processor specializing in ACH transactions. Formally known as ACH Direct, Forte provides a full array of payment processing options. Forte utilizes Independent Sales Organizations, like Harvest Strategies, to sell their services to the public.

Why did Optimal Giving choose Forte?

Length in business, Price, Technology and Security.  PCI guidelines tend to be more stringent than those outlined by NACHA, but we make sure that even our Electronic check processing meets or exceeds similar PCI requirements.

How secure is Forte?

Very Secure. Forte operates per PCI Level 1 Service Provider (top level in payment industry, strictest requirements) and NACHA guidelines

Who are some of Forte’s clients?

Roughly 40% of Forte’s portfolio is Government. Forte also has large for-profit” companies such as Verizon, LA Fitness, Virgin and Progressive Insurance.

What is Optimal Giving’s relationship with Forte?

Optimal Giving is a strategic partner and is focused on educating the Nonprofit community about ACH, which is a “Best-Practice” in the for-profit and government sectors. We are also an authorized agent and help implement and optimize Forte’s payment processing tools.

What donor information is stored, where and for long?

The virtual terminal can store client records indefinitely. Some fields are optional. The information that can be collected and stored is as follows:
• First Name
• Last Name
• Company Name
• Address 1 (Billing and Shipping)
• Address 2
• City
• State
• Postal Code
• Country Code
• Phone Number
• Fax Number
• Email
• Consumer ID (Billing Info)
• Client ID
• CC or E-check Type
• Last 4 of card/DDA
• Account Info
• Account Holder Name
• CC or E-check Account Type
• Procurement Card (Y/N)
• Payment Method ID

What rights does the Nonprofit have to view the whole donor information?

You will only give access to information allowed by PCI and NACHA guidelines.

What is the Implementation time needed?

Creating the account on our end can be 4-10 business days. It varies based on the volume of applications that we are receiving at that time. It is important to note that the clock does not start ticking until we have everything needed from the merchant. Once an account has been created it is as simple as logging in. Customizing your Virtual Terminal or SWP Pay now button shouldn’t take more than 20 minutes for a first time user.

Cycle times from transaction to deposit?

Flexible. Up to next day funding for E-check/ACH.  Credit card is 24-72 hours, usually 48.

Can we accept international e-Check and Credit donations?

International Credit Cards can be accepted, but will carry a max-surcharge and potentially additional assessment fees from the card associations (V/MC/D). ACH cannot be transacted cross-border per NACHA guidelines.  We do support Canadian ACH, but require Canadian Checks to be deposited to Canadian Bank accounts.  A U.S. merchant may maintain a Canadian bank account.

What rights does the Nonprofit/Merchant have to view the whole donor/payment information?

We will only give access to information allowed by PCI and NACHA guidelines

What is the Term?

12 Months.  Merchants can cancel with no penalty within the first 30 days.  Canceling outside of that 30 days and within 12 months, there is a $99 ETF.


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Cycle times from transaction to deposit

Flexible.  Up to next day funding for e-check/ach.  Credit card is 24-72 hours, usually 48.

Implementation time needed

Creating the account on our end can be 4-10 business days.  It varies based on the volume of applications that we are receiving at that time.  It is important to note that the clock does not start ticking until we have everything needed from the merchant.  Once an account has been created it is as simple as logging in.  Customizing your Virtual Terminal or SWP Pay now button shouldn’t take more than 20 minutes for a first time user.