Intuit says it is addressing a major concern of small businesses in offering a product to enable faster online payments by automating invoices generation and data entry.

As part of QuickBooks Online, the new QuickBooks Payments update allows businesses to get funds two weeks faster, on average, says Alvin Young, Intuit's senior marketing manager of payments and commerce solutions.

QuickBooks Payments allows a merchant to send electronic invoices that customers pay online with credit cards or ACH transfers. After the payment, QuickBooks Payments immediately updates the merchant invoices and books.

"A lot of errors are made when you are manually matching invoices and the books," Young says. "The best part is that we also put the money right into the bank, so that money is available to the merchant right away."

Forty-five percent of small-business owners say late payments create a significant cash flow challenge, Young says, citing a Bank of America survey.

When a merchant using QuickBooks Payments sends an invoice, the e-mail will carry the business logo and address. A "pay now" link appears on the top-right corner of the invoice, allowing the customer to click and then select a payment option.

Intuit can monitor e-mailed invoices to make sure the customer has opened the file and viewed the bill. Intuit can send extra messages if the customer has not opened the invoice file.

In addition, the customer can communicate with the merchant in real time by clicking a link on the bill, Young says. "It is like a chat room for the customer if they have any questions about the invoice," Young adds.

QuickBooks Payments is currently available for U.S. merchants, and Intuit has plans to expand it globally.

"We know there are a lot of small businesses internationally, and we are moving fast to address all their pain points as well," Young says. "It's all part of Intuit moving to the cloud, because it sets us up for this first move and a push to go globally with an ecosystem of online applications and services."

QuickBooks Payments also integrates with Intuit's GoPayment mobile card reader for smartphones and tablets. Intuit recently introduced a feature that lets GoPayment users scan card details from an iPad's camera.

Businesses using QuickBooks Payments can choose from two payment plans. A pay-as-you-go plan allows a business to pay only when it gets paid. With this plan, Intuit charges 50 cents per ACH bank transfer and a percentage of credit card payments. Intuit also offers a monthly fee plan with lower transaction rates.

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