• 7 MIN READ

Payment reconciliation: What it is and how it's done

December 11, 2023

Keeping accurate financial records is critical for businesses to maintain robust financial health and make informed decisions. However, with a high volume of daily transactions, discrepancies between internal accounting and external bank statements can quickly occur. Payment reconciliation plays a vital role in ensuring the integrity of financial data by systematically matching incoming and outgoing transactions to identify inconsistencies.

Essentially, payment reconciliation means reconciliation between two companies, comparing a company's internal payment logs with bank and payment processor statements to confirm that money leaving and entering the business bank account has been adequately documented. When transactions are periodically reconciled, businesses can trust their cash flow is being precisely tracked.

Reconciliation act of mutual payments is an accounting process vital for verifying the accuracy of a company's financial records. Businesses can ensure integrity across the financial workflow by systematically matching internal and external payment data.

What is Payment Reconciliation?

Payment reconciliation is an accounting process vital for verifying the accuracy of a company's financial records. Businesses can ensure integrity across the financial workflow by systematically matching internal and external payment data.

Defining Payment Reconciliation

At its core, payment reconciliation involves cross-checking a company's internal payment logs, captured in accounting software or other internal systems, against external bank and payment processor statements documenting every transaction.

By comparing these two data sources, discrepancies between what a business recorded as money owed or paid out versus the actual cash leaving or entering bank accounts can be identified. Resolving these inconsistencies through a methodical payment reconciliation process gives companies an accurate picture of cash flow.

The Role of Payment Reconciliation in Business Operations

It impacts a variety of critical business functions. At a basic level, systematically verifying financial transactions allows finance teams to produce precise financial statements that management depends on for strategic decisions.

Additionally, routine payment reconciliation is essential in regulatory compliance, ensuring payments are appropriately documented and safeguarding against fraud. This process also streamlines accounting procedures, saves time, and minimises errors by identifying discrepancies early to correct them.

Implementing standardised payment reconciliation protocols provides the foundation for reliable financial reporting across a company. As a standard practice, it is critical to growth and operational efficiency.

Why Payment Reconciliation Matters

Ensuring finances are accurately documented is critical for businesses to operate smoothly and make strategic plans based on a precise picture of spending and revenue. Payment reconciliation is crucial in providing this clarity while safeguarding companies.

Ensuring Accuracy in Financial Records

For any business, maintaining accurate financial records is essential for regulatory compliance and producing reliable reporting. Systematically verifying transactions through payment reconciliation supports proper accounting documentation across the board.

With routine reconciliation, companies can ensure payments in and out reflect natural cash flow, allowing finance teams to produce financial statements that accurately represent performance. Additionally, businesses remain audit-ready and compliant by confirming transactions are appropriately logged. Overlooking reconciliation can lead to incorrect or fraudulent reporting.

Identifying Discrepancies and Fraud

A key benefit of regular payment reconciliation is uncovering transactions that don't match between internal and external records early, before issues compound. Quickly spotting discrepancies allows companies to pinpoint the source of errors, whether they are accounting mistakes, bank errors, or suspicious payments that require investigation.

Neglecting this verification process leaves room for multiple issues to go unnoticed, from innocent data entry typos that skew financial statements to fraudulent payments draining profits. It is much easier to identify a single improper transaction soon after it occurs compared to discovering systemically inflated revenue figures that have developed over months without intervention. Just as routine payment reconciliation can catch issues early, it can prevent problems before they start by deterring fraud through active oversight.

Types of Payment Reconciliation

Businesses utilise various payment methods, from traditional checks to emerging options like mobile wallets. Consequently, different forms of reconciliation are necessary to verify all transactions.

Bank Reconciliation

One of the most common types of reconciliation, bank, involves verifying a company's documented outgoing and incoming transactions with bank statements. Records within business accounting systems detailing money withdrawn or deposited into bank accounts are cross-checked with the banks' reports of processed payments to identify discrepancies.

Confusing formats or incomplete transaction descriptions within bank statements can challenge matching entries. Strategies like flagging cleared versus pending transactions and grouping unspecified repetitive fees can aid the bank reconciliation.

Merchant Reconciliation

As point-of-sale payments and e-commerce transactions expand, thoroughly reconciling credit card merchant statements has become crucial for many businesses. Merchant reconciliation compares payment gateway data documenting processed customer credit or debit card payments with a merchant account statement from the bank to confirm fees were accurately charged.

Resolving disputes over inaccurately assessed fees or improperly credited transactions according to card network regulations is critical for merchants. Implementing strategies to address discrepancies quickly can prevent growing issues with payment processors that hurt cash flow or revenue. Automating matching between merchant and gateway records can also streamline this process at scale.

How Payment Reconciliation is Done

To maximise efficiency and minimise errors, companies should follow consistent payment reconciliation procedures and consider automating them where beneficial.

Step-by-Step Guide to Payment Reconciliation

Conducting thorough payment reconciliation involves several key steps:

  • Collect data - Compile internal accounting logs documenting payments in and out of company bank accounts. Gather related external bank and merchant statements that cover the same period.
  • Match transactions - Compare internal and external records, identifying matching entries from both data sets.
  • Investigate discrepancies - Research transactions present in one data set but not the other to pinpoint the source of inconsistency.
  • Make corrections - Record adjustments to account for identified discrepancies from data entry errors, bank fee omissions, or other causes.
  • Finalise reconciliation - Upon resolving all discrepancies, conclude the accounting records to reflect verified transactions, ensuring integrity across financial datasets accurately.

Payment reconciliation software and tools that allow transaction metadata tagging and surface reporting inconsistencies can significantly improve the efficiency of completing these reconciliation steps.

Automating Payment Reconciliation Processes

Automated reconciliation technology can match millions of transaction records across multiple systems with ease and surface inconsistencies for manual review, allowing finance teams to focus efforts on investigating and resolving issues while eliminating tedious manual verification.

Advantages of automation include:

  • Reduced manual work - Less time wasted on manual data entry and number checking
  • Increased accuracy - Minimising human data entry errors
  • Improved efficiency - Frees up employees to handle value-add exceptions
  • Enhanced reporting - Provides insight into reconciliation health

Implementing automated payment reconciliation streamlines this vital process, saving costs and resources in the long term as transaction volumes grow.

Challenges in Payment Reconciliation

While an essential process, the reconciliation act of mutual payments can pose multiple challenges, from data inconsistencies to staffing barriers, that companies must address.

Common Challenges Faced in Reconciliation

Transaction discrepancies that hinder may stem from:

  • Incomplete bank statement information
  • Inconsistent internal transaction coding
  • Improper transaction documentation
  • Unrecorded fees by financial institutions

Operational challenges around staffing, internal communication issues between finance teams, and data standardisation can also obstruct efficient reconciliation.

Preventing Reconciliation Errors

Best practices to enhance processes include:

  • Transaction coding standards - Maintain consistent formats
  • Employee training - Ensure understanding of procedures
  • Secondary review - Verify work to catch oversights
  • Communication norms - Foster collaboration between teams
  • Automation - Minimising manual manipulation of data

Regular training of reconciliation staff and robust processing controls minimise the potential for human error, while automation eliminates many tedious tasks. A multi-pronged approach builds a strong foundation for reliable payment, representing reconciliation statements between two companies.

A multi-pronged approach builds a strong foundation for reliable payment, representing reconciliation statements between two companies.

Integrating Payment Reconciliation with Business Strategy

Rather than viewing payment reconciliation as an isolated accounting process, businesses should recognise the insights it provides and strategically leverage them for operational success.

Leveraging Reconciliation Insights for Decision-Making

Comparing detailed external records of processed transactions with internal documentation provides visibility into genuine cash flow unavailable elsewhere. Analysing reconciliation reporting allows businesses to make strategic decisions backed by accurate financials, such as:

  • Budgeting based on actual profits and losses rather than projections
  • Identifying customer payment patterns to guide credit policy
  • Selecting optimal payment processors by cost and reliability

Companies that prioritise reconciliation benefit from long-term planning through comprehensive knowledge of their financial position.

Continuous Improvement in Reconciliation Processes

As transaction volume changes over time, reconciliation procedures must adapt efficiently. Businesses should foster a culture of regularly reviewing reconciliation processes against current needs and pain points.

Updating approaches to leverage new technologies and automation opportunities allows finance teams to keep pace with scaling transaction reconciliations. Leadership must also invest in employee reconciliation training and cross-team collaboration for sustained excellence.

Conclusion

In today’s complex financial environment, reconciliation payment is indispensable for maintaining accuracy across accounting workflows while uncovering errors and potential fraud early. Manual payment data verification may have sufficed decades ago, but automated reconciliation powered by specially designed software now preserves integrity across exponentially larger transaction volumes with significantly less effort.

By prioritising robust reconciliation processes, companies can be confident that their finances are accurately documented and draw strategic insights from detailed performance reports. Implementing efficient and automated payment reconciliation is fundamental to supporting growth and operational success for any organisation handling frequent payments in and out.

FAQ

What is payment reconciliation?

Payment reconciliation is an accounting process that systematically matches internal documentation of transactions with external records from banks and payment processors and ensures that reported cash flow accurately reflects genuine movement while identifying discrepancies needing review.

What are the three main types of reconciliation?

The three most common types of payment reconciliation are bank reconciliation between accounting systems and bank statements, credit card reconciliation between internal transaction logs and processor reports, and cash reconciliation, which compares physical cash transaction receipts with register totals.

Why should you automate payment reconciliation?

Automating reconciling large transactions between internal and external systems saves significant manual effort and minimises data entry errors.  Automation also speeds up discrepancy identification, allowing businesses to investigate issues and make corrections quickly and improving accuracy and efficiency across accounting workflows.

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