What to Look for in a Child Care Payment Portal

  • Billing
  • Software
  • Tuition

Searching for the best child care payment portal that can help you manage invoices, billing and payment processing for your child care business?

Managing child care payments is a critical process for child care centers of all sizes. It can be especially time-consuming for centers with complex billing needs, including centers with diverse tuition plans, centers offering extra programs and activities, and centers that serve families receiving child care subsidies.

Whether you’re opening a brand new child care center to serve your community, or working to improve processes at your existing center, choosing the right child care billing software and payment solution can help you simplify the billing process, save time and improve cash flow while offering more flexible payment options for parents.

In this blog post, we highlight the most important qualities that child care providers or administrators should look for in a child care payment portal.

What to Look for in a Child Care Payment Portal: 10 Key Elements

Automated Invoicing and Billing 

The first and most important feature you should look for in a child care payment portal is automated invoicing and billing. 

The more you can automate the invoicing and billing process at your center, the more time you’ll save every week – leaving you with more hours to focus on maximizing developmental outcomes for kids in your care. That’s why it’s crucial to look closely and determine exactly which parts of the billing process are automated by a given child care payment solution.

The best payment solutions offer attendance-based billing, a form of billing automation that uses attendance records and customized billing plans to automate invoice creation.

Automated Payment Tracking & Statements

Most child care payment portals offer automated invoices, but you and your team can save even more time with a child care billing software that automates payment tracking, receipts and account statements for parents and for your center.

Once parents pay their tuition, receipts are automatically generated and emailed to parents, and a centralized system is updated in real time to indicate that the invoice was paid. When parents request a statement of account, they can be generated automatically with little or no hands-on effort.

When combined, these automation features result in an end-to-end streamlined process for collecting tuition that’s easy and convenient for parents and child care centers.

Flexible Payment Options 

The best child care payment portals offer a range of payment options for parents, making it as convenient as possible for parents to send their tuition money on time.

Look for a child care payment portal that supports multiple payment options, including credit, debit, electronic fund transfer or in-app payments.

Some child care payment portals allow parents to automate tuition payments, resulting in a steady and predictable flow of cash into your business. To maximize convenience, parents should be able to automate payments with either pre-authorized debit or recurring credit card billing, according to their preference.

Fast Payment Processing 

Maintaining cash flow is a vital component of child care center management, so it’s important to choose a child care payment solution that processes payments quickly and gives you timely access to funds from tuition that are needed to cover ongoing costs.

If you’re looking at different options for your child care payment portal, look for ones with “Next Business Day Funding.” Many payment processors can make their customers wait until the funds have been verified, which can take several days. With Next Business Day Funding, you’ll be able to access cash from tuition payments the day after you receive it.

Comprehensive Payment History 

One of the best features that you’ll find in most child care payment portals is a comprehensive payment history for each family at your center.

With this data available, you can be confident that your records on child attendance, invoicing and payments received are correct. If parents have any questions about billing or notice any discrepancies, you’ll be able to provide relevant and efficient customer service and resolve the problem quickly by looking through the family’s account history, billing plan and attendance records.

Integration with Child Care Management/Accounting Software

While some child care payment portals are available as a stand-alone product, the best ones are usually integrated with child care management and accounting software solutions that provide more complete control and oversight of your center’s financial situation.

Integration with child care management and accounting software adds extra capabilities and reporting features that save you time and money – things like total revenue and income reports, year-end tax statements and automatically-generated receivables journals. 

You’ll be able to track child care tuition alongside child care subsidy and CACFP payments to obtain a more complete overview of your center revenue. 

Lowest Processing Fees 

Payment processing fees always seem small, but they add up to over hundreds or thousands of transactions and just a small change in percentages can make a huge difference to your financial results.

Consider two child care centers using different child care payment solutions with different transaction processing fees. Portal #1 charges 2.85% + $0.30 per transaction and Portal #2 charges 2.35% + $0.25 per transaction.

Each center enrolls 50 kids whose parents each pay a $700 tuition fee (near the national average) each month. 

As a result, each payment portal processes 600 transactions annually, totalling $420,000.

Under this fee structure, the first payment portal takes a total of $12,150 in fees, while the second one takes $10,020 – a difference of over $2,000!

Think about how you could improve your child care center with a $2,000 budget for new toys, games or activities, and you’ll see why it’s important to search for competitive payment processing fees when choosing a child care payment portal.

Exceptional Digital Security 

A child care payment portal needs to offer the best digital security features available to protect your customers and your business from financial loss. 

Electronic fund transfers are securely processed through the Automated Clearing House (ACH), but the best payment portals go the extra mile, layering their own encryption methods and digital security protocols on top of what the financial system provides to safeguard your business from malicious actors online. They also adhere to payment card industry (PCI) guidelines for credit card processing, meaning they follow global best practices for keeping credit card data secure. 

Reliable Customer Support & Extensive Documentation

Before you sign up for a child care payment portal, see if they provide any additional resources and documentation that can help set you up for success.

The best payment portal options provide access to letters and forms that you can distribute to introduce parents to your new payment system, inform them about features and benefits, and help them register for automatic payments.

Customer support is also an important factor to consider – will help be available when you need it? Choose a payment portal that offers reliable, always on customer support. If you can only access customer support via online text, ask yourself if this will be adequate when you need to solve payment questions quickly.

Trust & Reputation 

The final factors you should consider when selecting a child care payment portal are trust and reputation.

Child care payment portals need to be trustworthy because they’ll be handling all your tuition payments, totalling thousands of dollars per year. A payment portal with a great reputation in the industry should have a track record of providing consistent, high-quality service to its customers. They should also submit to regular PCI audits as required by the payments industry. 

Procare Solutions is proven in the business of child care, with 30 years of experience delivering child care products and services that help centers streamline processes and increase efficiency. Since 2003, we’ve processed billions of dollars in child care payments through Tuition Express, our feature-rich payment portal for child care centers.

Make Tuition Express Your First Choice Child Care Payment Portal

Tuition Express Payments

Tuition Express offers an automated end-to-end process that covers invoicing, billing, payment, receipts and reporting. Parents benefit from a variety of payment options, and with next business day funding, you’ll be able to access the funds from new tuition payments within 48 hours. 

Tuition Express integrates fully with Procare, so payments are automatically posted to the right customer account. Tuition Express also offers exceptional digital security, pre-made forms and letters to help you get parents on board, and some of the industry’s lowest payment processing fees.

Get in touch with us and we’ll show you how you can streamline child care payments at your center with Tuition Express.

Request a Demo

About The Author

Jessica Flitcraft

Jessica Flitcraft serves as Senior Product Manager at Procare Solutions, overseeing the Procare Connect and Tuition Express product lines. As a product leader, Jessica focuses on developing deep customer insights to ensure Procare products meet the evolving needs of the child care industry.

Procare is here to help.

We know the business of child care. For more than 30 years we’ve been guiding child care professionals just like you to help stay connected and in control.