Financial Matters Managing Your Vacation Rental Technology and Internet of Things

The Benefits of Offering Your Guests Online Payment Options

Written by Elizabeth Weedon
The Benefits of Offering Your Guests Online Payment Options
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In case you hadn’t noticed, the world has gone digital. And in the vacation rental industry, growing numbers of vacationers prefer to pay for their rental homes online rather than by sending a check. If you are a vacation rental homeowner and want to maintain an edge over your competition, we recommend that you consider offering alternative methods of payment that are 1) secure, 2) simple and easy for both parties, and 3) free or at least very low in cost. 

On our site, the entire payment process is controlled by the homeowner – we do not require that bookings be made through our site, nor do we interfere with the process in any way.  So it’s up to you.

In the past, we have suggested that requesting payment by personal check remains a perfectly acceptable practice – and we still believe that it is.  There are, however, a number of merits to also providing an online alternative.  

What are some advantages of online payments?

Many Millennials don’t even use a checkbook!  And those are the young families who are and will be renting your homes in growing numbers.  Technology and sites like ours enable these vacationers to search for and identify a perfect vacation rental home quickly and efficiently – they are also used to being able to book it and pay for it as quickly, safely, and effortlessly as possible.

A recent WeNeedaVacation.com survey of thousands of vacationers provided us with some pretty clear insights about vacationer payment preferences – and they really prefer to pay online!

Until recently, other online options such as PayPal usually required the payee (you, the homeowner) to pay service fees, which provided plenty of incentive for us to prefer checks.  But times change, and there are now quite a few options enabling anyone to accept funds without incurring fees. The important thing, of course, is to choose a method that is secure and reliable, in addition to being free. In our next blog post, I will explore some of the great options that are currently available for your use.

There are advantages of online payments to you, the homeowner, as well.  Naturally, you don’t need to wait until a check clears and can receive the funds much more quickly, locking in the booking without such a long wait period.  This is particularly important if you are accepting a last-minute booking.

Like providing Internet for your guests, online payment options are likely going to become not just an attractive option to vacationers but something that they will come to expect as routine.

What can you do?

Take a look at our blog post, Online Payment Options for Your Guests, which suggests some good, reliable, safe methods to consider, in addition to PayPal. Then, decide on at least one payment option to offer your guests, preferably a few.

Once you’re ready to accept online payments, promote this advantage on your listing. We may be implementing on all our listings an icon indicating that the homeowner accepts online payments. At some point, this may even become a “searchable” amenity for vacationers.  In the meantime, if you do accept online payments, you should say so in the “Other price info” field at the bottom of your Calendar page.  

Given its growing popularity, advertising that you accept online payments may well bring you more inquiries and bookings.

About the author

Elizabeth Weedon

Elizabeth Weedon - Although I’ve worked for WeNeedaVacation.com since 2008, I’ve been a loyal homeowner on the site since early 1998, just a few months after the website was launched by the Talmadges. I grew up summering on the Vineyard and have managed my family's rental home there since the mid-1980’s. I’m passionately devoted to the Vineyard – and to WeNeedaVacation.com, which I credit with enabling me to hold onto the special property that has been in our family since the 1920’s. An enthusiastic member of the WNAV.com Homeowner Support Team, I am particularly involved with our new listers, providing assistance with the sign-up process and advice about how to create the most effective listing to ensure their booking success with us. I have recently taken over our press and public relations needs. And, with owner Joan Talmadge, I am also responsible for editing and writing much of the content on our website, our monthly newsletters, and the blog posts. My husband and I live in Wellesley where we have raised our 2 grown kids and our Black Lab, Maisie. Email Elizabeth

16 Comments

  • I too was looking into Venmo as my 20 something-year-old daughter uses it with all her friends, however she pointed out to me to read the fine print which states that Venmo should only be used with people you know and whom you trust. Unfortunately because of the world we live in today with all the scams going on I would not feel comfortable using Venmo. Make sure to read the fine print before deciding to use this option.

    • Thanks for your feedback about Venmo. There is no question that pretty much every online payment option that does NOT charge a fee also does not provide as much protection as fee-based ones. But the protection fee-based options provides is primarily, if not entirely, for the consumer/vacationer! To our knowledge, there is little or no risk to the recipient of the payment. This Blog post is meant merely to make homeowners aware of the growing demand from vacationers for an online payment option. It’s imperative that everyone do the research on each payment vehicle, be aware of the risks involved, and make a decision that they feel comfortable with. But, given that the risks in using a fee-free vehicle are much higher for your tenants than for you, we suggest that you offer them a few different choices.

  • We cannot afford to offer credit card payments, but there is a system called Venmo. I use it to pay my daughter’s rent to her landlord at college. We also use it to send money back and forth for different reasons and there are no fees. This may be something to offer as an option.

  • Personally I favor no credit cards. Previously I’ve had people ask if I accept credit card payment and when I respond that I do not they are fine with sending check or money order. I cannot afford to lose the 2.9-3% processing fee as the season is so short to start out with. Most of us are just trying to make ends meet and pay our expenses. I believe that it is against Massachusetts law to ask the customer to pay any kind of processing/convenience fee so the owner would have to eat the fee. I have never lost a rental due to not accepting credit card payment. And if that should ever happen I’m confident that I will find other tenants. Again, I would not like to see the “pay by credit card” option be added as a searchable field because I strongly feel that it would provide less exposure to those not accepting this form of payment. Does anyone else agree with this?

    • I agree with you Andrea. As a business owner, the 3% fees we are hit with become quite substantial at the end of the month when the credit merchant deducts these fees.
      I certainly hope that we can move ahead without options that will cost us more.

  • Hi Elizabeth,
    I think you read my mind because I just had this conversation with my Husband about accepting credit cards! I know you said you were going to put out another email but I am about to send out an email myself to previous guests to hopefully welcome them back, mention any upgrades on our property and tell them what’s new. One of the things I was thinking of saying that is new is “accepting credit cards”! I already have a Square One” account as I had a store for years and now just sell online. Typically I use PayPal for selling but I could also use Square One. My biggest stumbling block are the fees. If we accept $1000 payment online or on the phone and have to type in the info manually, the processing fee is 3.5% plus $.15/transaction or $35.15.on Square One or 2.9% plus $.30 on PayPal. Using PayPal however requires the renter to also have an account which may be difficult for older folks not as computer savvy. My question is would it be off putting to have a service charge for using a credit card to cover our costs? I would be interested in knowing how other homeowners feel.

    • Hi, Cindy. Yes, those pesky fees are the main reason I have been reluctant to offer online payments in the past, too. But now, with other fee-free options available, you can give your guests a choice of a couple of those. Another suggestion is that you offer PayPal or any other credit card processing site to your guests, but let them know that, if they choose that option, THEY (not you) would be responsible for the added fee. The credit card charge would be added on to the payment you receive. This gives them the choice but without harm to you. Flexibility is very attractive to consumers/vacationers, which is fine – as long as it isn’t detrimental to you or your bottom line.

  • Hi Deb…

    I have to totally disagree with you!

    There are numerous problems associated with credit cards and Paypal.

    First, the credit card companies will always favor a charge back to the card holder, even if they cancel a day before and your contract, etc. says no cancellations, prior to even one week!

    Trust me on this. I was a tour operator and was forced to refund thousands of dollars over a 30 year period because of cancellations, even in the favor of an agreement with the tour operator!!

    Secondly, PAY PAL defines the words CROOKS. I put a security deposit of $100 downs for a condo in Italy.

    When it was given back to me by the owner I got $90. I requested a check, two weeks to get and they deducted another $25 for the check.

    Just send me the check!! Better, go to any Bank America and put the funds in my account, I will give you the number!!!

    Bob Kaufman Owner of three rentals …one on Cape Cod

    • Hi, Bob, thanks for your feedback. I’m not surprised to hear your experience with credit card companies and PayPal, too, if the Friends and Family option of paying was not used. I, too, have heard that, although PayPal supposedly looks into every contentious situation, they are apt to side with the consumer/payer. And my guess is that a big reason why they PayPal charges a fee (that we homeowners would be responsible for) is to cover their expense of dealing with chargebacks initiated by the consumer/payer/vacationer. That’s why, if you can offer an online payment option to your guests that requires no fees to be paid by you, it usually also does not give your guests the added protection of a chargeback option. Most of the options I recommended in this post are the free ones, and those tend NOT to be the ones providing protection for the consumer/payer. But if your guests are willing…

  • While I do agree that providing an option for online payments would satisfy a need for many vacationers, I feel that providing this option in the search field would put those owners who do not wish to accept online payments at a disadvantage. Your suggestion of putting an icon in the listing and also the homeowner putting this info on the “Other Payment Info” on the Calendar page is a good option. If you were to implement as a searchable option many homeowners may find they are at a disadvantage and be forced into accepting credit card payments in order to have equal access to their listing being viewed. Once communication between homeowner and renter has started payment options can be discussed and implemented depending upon each individual circumstance/preference. WeNeesAVacation does a great job providing a service that is fair and equitable for its customers so would hate to see this being compromised.

    • Hi, Andrea, First, please rest assured that we have no definite plans to start including Online Payments as a searchable amenity on our site. But I do need to push back a little. Have you rented out your home long enough to remember when offering Internet/WIFI was a rather unique and special amenity? Nowadays, the vast majority of us provide Internet for our guests, and it’s because we quickly realized that this is a service business, and, in order to remain competitive, it became necessary for us to offer it. And then it became a searchable amenity due to the tremendous demand for it from vacationers. I’m not saying that online payments will become as highly demanded as Internet access, but it’s possible. And we don’t want our homeowners to miss out on bookings because they were too reluctant to change.

  • I agree that online payments are a good thing and would like to add that option. How do I set this up on the site?

    • Hi, Debbie, you can log in to your listing, go to your Calendar page, and scroll down to the “Other price info” field near the bottom. You can be as specific as you wish, but you could also just say something vague like, “Online payments considered.” That way, you wouldn’t be committed accepting online payments, or which specific ones, but you would still have the marketing benefit of showing that you do offer flexible payment options. You can also repeat this information at the end of your listing’s Property Description – and there’s plenty of room there to be as informative as you like.