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Friday, October 19, 2012

How to Avoid Wasteful Late/Penalty Fees

In a stagnant economy, organizations cannot afford to pay late or penalty fees on invoices. What is the difference between a late fee and penalty fee? There isn’t much difference at all; both are charges levied by a company against their client for a particular breach of contract. A late fee is a specific type of penalty fee and is also the most common. It is incurred when a client makes a payment after a certain, often agreed-upon, due date. Another good example of a penalty fee is when a client spends over a pre-established credit limit. Both fees are a waste of money and can make a tight budget even more strained. Fortunately, there is good news; below are some tips on how to avoid wasteful late/penalty fees on invoices.

  • When possible, open a line of credit with companies that you do business with on a regular basis where the payment terms are more favorable than “Payment Due Upon Receipt” or “Net 10.” This will give you extra time to save all of the money owed so the invoice can be paid in full and on time.
  • If you open a line of credit, be sure to read the agreement terms and conditions to learn the payment due date, time of day payment is due, and acceptable forms of payment. For example, the credit agreement with XYZ Company may state that payments are due on the 30th of every month before 5pm Central and must be in the form of a money order.
  • Sign up for a premium account where various benefits are offered to members. One benefit should be no late fees or an extended grace period to pay your invoice in full. For example, a premium account member receives Net 60 or Net 90 instead of Net 10 or Net 30 terms. Or perhaps a 5 or 10% discount off all orders is offered for being a premium account member. Remember to weigh the cost of the premium account membership, if any, against the benefits that apply to you. If the benefits don’t out-weigh the cost, then forego the premium account.
  • Set up email and/or calendar reminders of invoice due dates to ensure each invoice is paid on or before the due date.
  • Set up auto bill pay with the bank or the company where the purchase was made and schedule invoice payments to occur on or before the due date.
  • Request the company to put you on an interest free payment plan. Review your finances first before making a large purchase to figure out a monthly payment amount that will fit your budget and allow the invoice to be paid in full before interest is accrued.

Another option is to try and lower the cost of necessary purchases; effectively reducing the amount owed will make paying the invoice on time and in full more manageable.

  • Depending on what you are purchasing, order in bulk when possible. Typically, the more you buy at one time, the cheaper the cost per item.
  • When maintaining your electronic office equipment, purchase used or refurbished parts and consumables. On average, they are 50% less expensive than purchasing new parts.
  • In addition to used/refurbished parts/consumables, check to see if the company offers a discount on new orders in exchange for the old or broken parts or consumables. Companies often like the inoperative parts returned so they may be refurbished and resell them again.
  • Lastly, if paying for each maintenance event on your office equipment as they occur is unmanageable, using a third party service might be a viable option. Engaging a company like The Remi Group will allow you to pay one monthly fee to maintain your electronic equipment, thus eliminating the burden of budgeting for unexpected events. For more information, visit How the Program Works at

Have you used one of the tips above to avoid wasteful late or penalty fees? Please share your success story with us in hopes of helping others. If you have any tips to add to the list, feel free to leave a comment.