The holiday season is almost upon us, and the USPS is bracing to deal with an unprecedented peak in delivery demand

In 2020, year-end postal delivery demand soared by 40% compared to 2019, resulting in substantial delivery delays. With the economy steadily showing signs of recovery, 2021 is expected to surpass last year’s USPS holiday workload, as people are more likely to indulge in a “spend & send” holiday spirit. 

If there’s a lesson to be learned for business owners across the U.S. from last year’s holiday season, it’s that traditional check delivery methods mean risking late payments. There’s a fair chance that your checks will get stuck in delivery traffic together with cousin Henry’s reindeer socks and arrive a week after they’re due.

With just a little planning, you can give your vendors the best holiday gift of all - timely payments. Here are three ways to make sure your payments arrive on time:

Ask your vendors to accept ACH (bank transfers) instead of checks 

ACH payments are an easy, fast, and secure way to pay your vendors, and usually take up to 3 business days to process. The funds are transferred electronically from one bank account to another through the Automated Clearing House network, which includes the Federal Reserve and is managed by the National Automated Clearing House Association (NACHA).

While some vendors still insist on accepting checks, this is a golden opportunity to ask your vendors to transition to this quicker, simpler payment method, at least for the holiday season. It’s in their interest to get paid on time, as much as it is yours, if not more. 

Melio offers an ACH service for small businesses that need to pay their B2B bills swiftly and securely. The service is also free from subscription or transfer fees, for you and your vendor. 

For every vendor you transition to ACH payments, you’re not only eliminating the risk of late payments, but also saving transactional costs and resources for both of you. 

Does your vendor still insist on getting checks? Use expedited check delivery services (like FedEx)

If your vendor is still adamant about getting paid with a paper check, you can (and should) still ensure they get it on time. After all, maintaining a healthy relationship with your vendors is key to running your business, especially during the upcoming hectic time period. Mail carriers (like FedEx) offer expedited delivery options.  

If you are already using a bill pay service, it’s also worth your while to check if they have an expedited delivery service for sending checks. 

Melio, for example, provides small business owners like you with the option to send their vendors a check by FedEx, with a fast delivery time of three business days. All you have to do is pick the fast delivery option when scheduling your payment.'

Ask vendors to pay early for a discount

Another option you should consider is coming to an agreement with your vendors on paying early, in return for an early payment discount. It’s a win-win for you both: your vendor gets paid faster, secures the payment, and improves their cash flow and you get to pay less for the goods or services and avoid the holiday rush.

If you want to take advantage of early payment discounts and hang on to your cash longer, consider using bill pay services that allow you to pay with your credit card (and defer your payment to the next billing cycle) while still delivering the funds to your vendor with ACH or check. 

Conclusion

To quote Benjamin Franklin, “In this world, nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes.” Not far off this level of certainty, are holiday delivery delays. 

However, with proper planning and foresight, you can ensure your vendor payments arrive on time, in spite of the expected delays. Talk to your vendors, outline a payment schedule, and use one or more of the tools mentioned in this article. You’ve got this.