Anyone who needs a crash course in electronic payments, direct deposits, checks by phone, credit/debit cards, lockboxes or any other e-transaction should visit some of the better Web sites on paperless e-commerce. As the rapidly evolving worlds of business information technology, e-commerce and electronic financial delivery services converge, what seems to be an overwhelming maze of information can confuse even the most savvy business professionals.
The e-questions abound: What are the emerging trends, and which will be most viable 10 years down the road? What are the risks involved in e-commerce? What laws, regulations and pitfalls must I be aware of? What's the most profitable mix of services to offer my customers? How does it all fit together?
Fortunately, you can find answers about online payment/billing systems by going--where else?--online. For example, the University of Texas, Austin offers the first online journal of e-commerce (http://yama.bus.utexas.edu/ejou/eps/links), a great resource for information on all small-business electronic billing and payment developments. Also check out http://www.cism.bus.utexas.edu, the site for the Center for Research in Ecommerce.
The National Automated Clearing House Association's (NACHA) site, http://www.nacha.org, links to the Electronic Payments Association and the Direct Deposit and Direct Payment Coalition. Consider this a one-stop shop for information about setting up direct-deposit and e-deposit accounts. "As an industry, we've come a long way in developing healthy and mature electronic-payment products and services," says Harold J. Piotrowski, former chair of NACHA and manager of retail operations for Charter One Financial Inc.
According to NACHA, use of direct payment is growing substantially--more than 18 percent per year for the past three years. In 1998, 1.2 billion bills were paid using direct payment, saving consumers more than $375 million in postage.