Industry Guide

B2B Payments

Fast, seamless B2B payment processing is vital to the success of any business. Learn more about B2B payment processing, platforms and the future of B2B payments

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What are B2B payments?

Business-to-business (B2B) payments broadly refer to any transaction between two businesses, wherein one company acts as a merchant and the other as a buyer. B2B payments are tailored to meet the unique needs of businesses engaged in commercial activities by facilitating the seamless exchange of goods and services. 

How do B2B payments differ from consumer payments?

Beyond the obvious distinction — that is, that payments are made to another business, as opposed to an end consumer — other key differences between B2B payments and business-to-consumer (B2C), business-to-business-to-consumer (B2B2C) and peer-to-peer (P2P) payments include: 

  • B2B payments typically involve larger transaction volumes and higher monetary values as compared to B2C, B2B2C or P2P payments due to the fact that businesses often engage in bulk purchases or enter into long-term contracts with recurring payments. 
  • Due to their larger monetary value and the various compliance requirements businesses are subject to — including anti-money laundering and Know Your Customer requirements — B2B payments generally include additional security layers such as internal protocols, multifactor authorization, encryption, tokenization and fraud monitoring tools.
  • Compared to B2C transactions, in which payments are typically made at the initial sale or even before receipt of goods or services, B2B payments are often made after the fact, once a supplier has issued an invoice to the buyer.
  • B2B payments often require more complex payment arrangements than consumer payments and may include customized payment terms, such as net payments or payment installments, based on agreements negotiated between both parties. Due to these complexities, B2B payments typically take longer to process than B2C or P2P payments and transactions can sometimes create weeks to complete.

What are the most common B2B payment methods?

B2B payments come in a wide variety of formats, including (but not limited to):

  • Automated Clearing House (ACH) payments
  • Cash-based payments
  • Credit transfers
  • Corporate credit cards or purchasing cards
  • Digital or mobile wallets
  • Buy now, pay later (BNPL)
  • Electronic funds transfer (EFT)
  • Invoices
  • Online payment gateways
  • Paper or electronic checks
  • Purchase orders
  • Wire transfers
  • Instant payments
  • Request to Pay (RTP)

Which of these payment types a business chooses to use for B2B payment processing depends on a range of factors, including transaction size, business preference, geographic locations, industry norms and the desired speed and security of the transaction. 

How do different industries handle B2B payments?

Which B2B payment methods a business uses — and even how it handles B2B payment processing — is often influenced by the industry in which it operates. Here are a few examples of how B2B payment processing differs from one industry to another:

Retail and eCommerce

In the traditional retail and eCommerce spaces, merchants frequently make B2B payments to suppliers. In this dynamic, merchants typically issue purchase orders for inventory replenishment, while suppliers provide invoices for payment. Depending on the size and scale of the business, a merchant may rely on online payment gateways, corporate cards or electronic transfers for B2B payment processing.

Financial Services

B2B payment processing plays a crucial role in facilitating transactions between banks, investment firms, insurance companies and other financial institutions. Common examples of B2B payments in the financial services sector include wire transfers, EFTs and ACH payments. It’s important to note that banks and other financial institutions are subject to strict regulatory requirements and stringent security measures, meaning any B2B payments platform they use must possess robust data privacy and fraud prevention capabilities and adhere to any compliance terms. 


Similar to financial services, organizations within the healthcare industry are subject to strict regulatory and security requirements. When combined with billing intricacies, payment variability, insurance reimbursements and a long list of stakeholders, including insurance companies, government entities and suppliers, these requirements create a great deal of complexity within the B2B payments process. 

Additionally, the healthcare industry as a whole is transitioning toward greater electronic payments adoption. As a result, EFTs, ACH payments, electronic checks, online payment portals and electronic data interchange platforms have become some of the most common B2B payments processing methods in recent years.


Tech and software companies often rely on B2B payment processing for licensing agreements, recurring payments for SaaS subscriptions and IT infrastructure services. Some of the most common B2B payment methods in this section include electronic payment gateways, online invoicing and recurring billing systems. 

How can companies process cross-border B2B payments?

Many B2B payments are cross-border payments, so it’s essential that businesses automate and reconcile cross-border transactions. In order for companies to handle cross-border B2B payments, they must:

Develop a compliance strategy that accounts for local regulations, tax requirements and World Trade Organization (WTO) rules

Companies are subject to various rules and requirements for cross-border payments, including country-specific regulations, central bank documentation requirements, maximum limits, foreign exchange rules, international taxation rules and customs requirements. Organizations such as the WTO and G20 also impose their own set of rules on cross-border payments.

Define and accept payment terms and conditions amenable to all parties involved in the transaction

It’s important that all parties establish and accept payments in an invoice, as well as adhere to international norms and banking practices. Banks, which are typically responsible for facilitating cross-border payments, will carefully review the terms and conditions outlined in both the invoice and transaction before issuing letters of credit or bank guarantees.

Create an approval matrix within their enterprise resource planning system for processing invoice payments

This step applies to all parties involved in the transaction. A seller should use an approval matrix to sign off on an invoice before dispatching, as both customs and the exporter bank will refer to this invoice when processing the payment. The buyer, who must accept the invoice and pay for it based on the agreed-upon terms and conditions, should also create an approval matrix based on the value and geographical origin of the payment.

Automate key aspects of the cross-border payments process

This includes the due date of the invoice if it’s already approved and the payment receipt by the exporter once the payment is made partially or in full.

Reconcile payment confirmations according to invoices

Ensure that all B2B payment information is accurate by reconciling the payment information against the invoice from the bank statement using the invoice number assigned to that particular transaction.

What are the benefits of using a B2B payments platform?

Businesses that routinely process B2B payments — essentially, every business — should consider implementing a full-service B2B payments platform. 

A comprehensive B2B payments platform solution offers a wide range of payments-related functionality, including invoicing, B2B payment processing, payments reconciliation, reporting and analytics. Many such solutions integrate with existing systems, such as accounting software, enterprise resource planning (ERP) systems and fraud monitoring systems, offering a truly holistic approach to managing B2B payments. 

These are just a few of the ways in which businesses can benefit from implementing a B2B payments solution — other benefits include:

Streamlined payment processes

From managing invoices to initiating payments to tracking the status of payments, a B2B payments platform can automate the entire payments process, saving businesses valuable time and enhancing operational efficiency.

Fraud detection and prevention

Many B2B payment solutions include built-in security measures, such as multi-factor authentication, data encryption, tokenization and secure data transmission protocols to reduce the risk of data breaches and cyber attacks. Additionally, some platforms offer advanced fraud monitoring, detection and scoring capabilities to help businesses assess risk levels and proactively respond to perceived threats.

More ways to pay

With the right platform in place, businesses can support a wider variety of payment methods, including credit cards, debit cards, ACH transfers and EFTs. By diversifying payment options, businesses can cater to their customers’ preferences, create a more convenient payments experience, mitigate risk and more easily navigate the complexities associated with cross-border transactions — all of which can lead to faster payment or repayment.

Optimized cash flow management

B2B payment platforms automate much of the payments process, including invoicing and issuing payment reminders. When combined with the ability to offer multiple payment methods, these automations can accelerate the payments process, ensuring timely receivables and allowing for faster settlement and disbursement.

By setting up integrations between their B2B payments solution and other core systems, including their ERP and accounting systems, companies can create seamless data synchronization, automate reconciliation and generate more accurate cash flow forecasts. Taken as a whole, the efficiency gains that B2B payment platforms offer can give businesses greater control over their cash flow, so that they can confidently meet financial obligations.

Advanced reporting and analytics

With the right platform in place, businesses can support a wider variety of payment methods, including credit cards, debit cards, ACH transfers and EFTs. By diversifying payment options, businesses can cater to their customers’ preferences, create a more convenient payments experience, mitigate risk and more easily navigate the complexities associated with cross-border transactions — all of which can lead to faster payment or repayment.

Support for other financial activities

B2B payments orchestration — the process of integrating and managing the end-to-end B2B payments process — can optimize other financial activities, including end-to-end reconciliation, invoice purchasing and factoring, cash flow forecasting and liquidity management.

What should companies look for in a B2B payments platform?

When evaluating B2B payment platforms, it’s important to look for one that offers the following capabilities:

  • Support for a wide variety of payment methods, including mobile and digital wallets, real-time payments and BNPL
  • Strong fraud detection and prevention tools, including artificial intelligence and machine learning algorithms
  • The ability to connect to hundreds of payment service providers through a single payments layer using payments orchestration
  • Robotic process automation to streamline operational workflows, consistently apply policies and reduce the risk of human error in B2B transactions

The decline of paper checks

Even in today’s highly digitized payments landscape, paper checks remain a popular B2B payments option, largely due to their familiarity. The tide seems to be turning, though: The Association for Financial Professionals reports that, in 2022, 33% of B2B payments in North America were made by paper check, a nine-point decline from 2019. Globally, paper checks accounted for 31% of B2B payments.

As demand for real-time payments increases and younger generations move to the forefront of the B2B payments space, we can expect to see a continued decline in the popularity of paper checks, with more businesses pivoting to digital payment methods.

Real-time payment processing

Given how essential cash flow management is to business operations, it likely comes as little surprise to hear that there’s growing demand for real-time payment processing in the B2B payments space. Although usage currently remains low, the ISO 20022 global financial messaging standard and SWIFT gpi initiative have started to accelerate payments modernization efforts, motivating businesses to phase out legacy systems and utilize payment rails.   

Blockchain and distributed ledger technology

Businesses across all industries are beginning to realize the benefits of blockchain and the distributed ledger technology (DLT) on which it’s built. DLT provides a decentralized and immutable ledger system that enhances the security, transparency, traceability and efficiency of B2B payments. Additionally, blockchain eliminates intermediaries, allowing for faster settlement times and lower processing costs.

Although there are still risks to consider — blockchain-based payments have gained notoriety for their lack of regulation — we can expect B2B blockchain transactions to become more commonplace in the future. 

Open banking

Open banking has already gained significant traction in the B2C space due to its enhanced security measures, the control it offers consumers over their financial data and its ability to create seamless payment experiences. We’re starting to see open banking adoption in the B2B payments sector as companies look to take advantage of many of these same benefits, as well as utilize the vast quantities of data to which open banking offers them access in order to enhance data collection and analytics. 

Request to Pay

RTP — which comprises any transaction in which the payee initiates the payment request, rather than the payer — has been a popular payment method in the P2P space for some time because it makes repayment for smaller purchases fast and convenient. Businesses are also starting to realize the benefits of RTP, which enables them to request payments with detailed information, including invoices, purchase orders and payment terms, which reduces errors and potential disputes.

Additionally, RTP enables businesses to accommodate a wider range of B2B payment methods, including card payments, bank transfers and digital wallet payments, giving companies more flexibility and simplifying the reconciliation process for all parties involved.

Digital wallets

As payments have become digitized, so too have the methods that companies use to store payments information. Digital wallets have become a popular way for businesses to send and receive payments, as they eliminate the need to repeatedly enter payments information when making transactions, reducing the risk of error associated with manual data entry. 

Many digital wallets can also integrate with companies’ accounting software and other financial systems, enabling them to easily track, report on and reconcile transactions. And with built-in security measures, digital wallets can help businesses safeguard their payment credentials, adding a layer of security to the B2B payments process.

The emergence of global marketplaces

Businesses are increasingly moving toward marketplace models for B2B transactions, as global marketplaces offer greater convenience for buying and selling. With this model, payments must be settled and reconciled within the marketplace itself, after which the platform will distribute funds to the appropriate parties.  

How does ACI Worldwide support B2B payments?

ACI Worldwide offers a wide range of B2B payment solutions, including the ACI Payments Orchestration Platform, which facilitates global payments orchestration; ACI PayAfter and ACI Wallet Hub, both of which support popular alternative payment methods; ACI Instant Pay, which enables companies to process real-time payments; and ACI revenue optimizer, which support streamlined reconciliation and cash flow forecasting.