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“How would you like to pay for your lesson today?” These words have followed many flight lessons over the years, but now the payment options are more numerous than ever before. Traditionally, cash or checks were primary forms of payment until credit cards became the norm. Credit cards make accepting payment easier and more flexible, and can help avoid situations where training charges end up on account and the school needs to follow up later to get paid. With options for mobile payment tools more plentiful than ever, flight schools and independent flight instructors have even more customer considerations for payment processing.

Traditional options—and drawbacks

Cash. Most instructors and flight schools are still more than happy to accept cash, but it does have drawbacks. Flight training isn’t cheap. Customers paying large sums of cash means the business has large sums of cash on hand. That cash can become a target for theft.

Checks offer efficient record keeping and payment tracking, but there is the potential for a customer to accidentally bounce a check—something you won’t discover until after the customer has gone. Tracking down payment from a long-term customer who accidentally made a mistake is one thing; finding a transient customer is another.

Credit cards became the norm over the last few decades. While these offer immediate verification of funds, they do take a percentage of the transaction, and most frustratingly, they can hold funds for release into a business bank account for anywhere from one to five days in some instances. These are funds that a flight school would like immediate access to for the operation of its business.

Go mobile

New options are available for base locations or for the instruction provider away from a home office. A cellphone or tablet can now be your point-of-sale device at a fixed office location or on the road (or even in the air) to accept payment from your customers.

Setting up payment options on these devices offers some of the same traditional benefits for payment processing, along with a few new ones. Verification of transactions (approval) is still available. Many of these tools, which can be taken with you when you are away from the home office, allow vendors to receive payment immediately for situations in which the only option traditionally was invoicing and collecting payment at a future date.

As competition for the percentage of the payment that applications charge per transaction has grown fiercer, the percentages have gone down. Additionally, convenience features have been improved.

In the Jan. 27 edition of Flight School Business, we will take a closer look at some mobile payment options worth considering, including Square, Intuit, PayPal, and Apple Pay.

Jason Blair

Jason Blair is a National Association of Flight Instructors master flight instructor and a designated pilot examiner. 

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