Payments for schools, academies, colleges and universities

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Libby James
Merchant Services Expert

Libby James is co-founder, director and an expert in all things merchant services. Libby is the go-to specialist for business with more complex requirements or businesses that are struggling to find a provider that will accept them. Libby is regularly cited in trade, national and international media.

Payment solutions for the educational sector

Gone are the days of paying for dinner money with a fiver in a reused envelope! The educational sector is now catching up with the ongoing trend of paying for tuition, trips, fundraising and dinner money online and ultimately will end up being cashless businesses.

Well-known companies such as Payment 4 schools, Paypal and Parent Pay offer online payment systems for schools, colleges and universities to accept payments from parents with ease and very little administration time their end. The advantages of having a cashless business include the following:

Saving time – Online payment solutions for schools mean that for many establishments the time spent on counting takings, trips to the banks and administrative tasks is a small fraction of what it would be when taking cash.
No room for human error – well thought out school payment systems leave little room for human error, reporting can be linked to internal database and accounts.
Ease for parent – educational payments made online don’t just save the school time but also the parents, making it easy for everyone involved.
Live prompts – cashless payment systems for schools have the ability to prompt for payments, with text or emails.

ParentPay costs

The business hours saved with taking school and college payments online massively outweighs the costs, see below the costs of processing credit and debit cards as of February 2016, issued on ParentPay’s website;

Credit Cards


No fixed amount fee

No minimum fee

No minimum payment amount

Debit Cards


No fixed amount fee

No minimum fee

No minimum payment amount



No fixed amount

No minimum fee

Minimum payment amount of £1

Alternative options

ParentPay and similar alternatives offer their own merchant account provider – however it could prove to be much cheaper to do it yourself, saving up to 40% on the prices quoted above. So, let’s look at what’s needed to process card payments within school, colleges and universities.

The majority of payments taken within the educational sector are processed online. Processing online payments requires two elements, a payment gateway and a merchant account.

Finding the correct payment gateway for your school is relatively straight forward. The purpose of the payment gateway is to protect the parents or students card details, when processing the payments. The gateway, encrypts the customer details to ensure that it doesn’t fall into the wrong hands. The charges for the payment gateways is a small amount per month, roughly £30.00.

Processing both face to face and online payments for schools requires a merchant account. The merchant account authorizes the funds in the customer, student or parents personal account before the sale is processed, ending in completing the sale by transferring the funds to the business account (normally a few days later.) Merchant account providers normally charge a percentage of the transaction amount, this can be as little as 0.40% if you shop around!

Schools, colleges and universities have the ability to take control of their payment systems and processing at a fraction of the cost of mainstream brands. For example; college payment invoices can be emailed to the students directly, they are then paid with a click of a button. With the help of independent broker, arranging payment processing for schools can be a straightforward process. Our expert advisors will guide you through from start to finish for free, remaining your main point of contact when your new payment system goes live.

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Libby James

Libby James Co-founded Merchant Advice Service alongside David Bird in 2016. Her finance background, coupled with retail and customer service experience, gave Libby the drive to bring transparency and non-biased advice to the world of merchant services. Having come from the heavily regulated mortgage and insurance industry, Libby found it puzzling that other financial sectors lacked regulation and transparency leaving customers confused and unable to make informed decisions when it came to accepting card payments. This was soon to become Libby’s obsession!

With the help of some of the industry’s best, Libby began to research acquiring banks, complex terminology/regulation, and the problems customers experience within merchant services and payment gateway markets. She spent years on sourcing solutions for complex clients, which previously others were unable to assist with. Libby established relationships with brokers and banks which would soon form the cornerstone of Merchant Advice Service. As a result Libby has been featured in high-profile publications across the web.

Libby is proud to be the entrepreneur’s champion, supporting start-up businesses regularly. Her industry insights can often be found on LinkedIn where she provides free of charge advice and money saving pointers. It’s safe to say she has her finger on the pulse of everything card payments related.

Libby speaks of her experience in founding and running Merchant Advice Service…

‘Merchant Advice Service is one of my greatest achievements to date. We help business owners to overcome card processing issues which can become detrimental to their business. We assist SME’s in finding suitable card payments solutions, helping them create their vision. Each and every day is different, exciting and fore filling. As technology advances I can’t wait to see the way in which the merchant services market advances, and I’m pleased that our business will play a part in educating company owners along the way.’

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