This is a guest post from Victoria Sullivan. Victoria is a Marketing Manager at Payability. She has over eight years of social media, copywriting and marketing experience. Prior to joining the Payability team, Victoria developed social media content and strategies for top technology brands such as Skype and Samsung. She holds a degree in Advertising from Syracuse University’s S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications. She can often be found in a yoga class or working on her fashion blog.
As an Amazon seller, you’re likely familiar with the cash flow gaps that result from their two-week payment delays. But what you might not understand is why Amazon pays out on a delay — or worse, doesn’t pay at all.
Today, we’re going to break down exactly how Amazon payments work, what an unavailable balance actually means, and how to overcome one so you can maximize cash flow and get back to growing your business.
How Amazon Payments Work
Generally speaking, professional sellers get paid by Amazon every two weeks. Each payment includes 14 days of orders that were successfully delivered seven days ago. The actual dates of your payouts depend on when you opened your seller account, and you might not actually receive payment on the day of your payout.
Let’s consider this example:
- In this example, your payout dates are the 16th and 30th of each month (as in, these are the dates Amazon initiates payment to your business bank account — not necessarily the dates the funds are posted to your account).
- Your payment on the 30th includes sales made and delivered (less Amazon’s fees) between the 10th and 23rd of that month.
- The seven day “grace period” is there in case a customer wants to return an item.
- Amazon initiates payment on the 30th, but because some ACH transfers are on a delay, you might not see the payment post to your account for 3-5 additional days.
When all is said and done, you could wind up having to wait up to 20 days to get your money in-hand. Or, you might not get paid at all because you have an unavailable balance.
What is an Amazon Unavailable Balance?
An Amazon unavailable balance is an amount of your payout that Amazon is keeping on hold for longer than the usual 14 days. Why you have one could depend on a number of factors. These are the most common:
- Issue or delay with delivery: As we mentioned in the previous section, Amazon already waits seven days post-delivery to issue payment on a sale. This ensures that there will be necessary funds in case a customer makes a return. That seven day hold essentially turns into an unavailable balance if there’s a delivery delay and Amazon doesn’t get confirmation of receipt on time.
- Claims or chargebacks: If a customer files an A-to-z Guarantee claim, you’ll have to wait 14 additional days or more to get payment (assuming the claim is resolved, that is). Additionally, if there’s a chargeback for any transactions in the last 30 days, you’ll have to wait for those to be processed before payment is released.
- Account under review: If your account is under review for another reason — sudden drop in seller performance or ratings, change in sales activity, or you’re simply new to selling and still ramping up — you can expect Amazon to hold payment until the review is over and everything is resolved.
To see if you have an unavailable balance, go to Seller Central > Payments Report > Statement View > Closing Balance. If one is posted, you can get more information on your specific reason by visiting the Account Health page.
How to Avoid an Unavailable Balance
Before we get into ways to overcome an unavailable balance, let’s look at how you can avoid one. As you can see from the list of common causes, you’ll want to make sure that all areas of your business are running smoothly — this means running an audit of your seller performance, customer feedback, fulfillment and delivery, stock levels, etc.
If you see any red flags, dig further into them to see what’s causing them and how you can fix them. Spotting the issues before Amazon does (and then resolving them) decreases your chances of initiating an account review and thus, an unavailable balance.
Pro Tip: Some categories are more prone to unavailable balances than others. Take clothing and shoes, for example. Customers are more likely to return these items because of sizing issues, so your return rate will be higher and could flag Amazon’s attention. As such, you might want to consider diversifying your product offerings so you don’t put all your income-eggs into one unavailable balance-prone basket.
How to Overcome an Unavailable Balance
Amazon’s regular payment delay can wreak havoc on your cash flow and your growth plans. When you throw an unavailable balance into the mix, things get even worse. You’re not only getting paid late, you also don’t know when the balance will become available. Without those funds, you might not be able to order more inventory, pay employees, or cover other business expenses.
To avoid these issues, consider one of these financing options:
You could open a new credit card or ask your bank for an increased spending limit. Just keep in mind that you should only use a credit card if you’re able to make payments in full and on-time, otherwise you’ll wind up with hefty interest charges.
You could talk to your bank about a term loan or line of credit. After all, banks offer large dollar amounts, long payment terms and low APRs. However, their application process can take weeks or months and their approval rates for small and online businesses are very low.
Online Business Loan
Alternative lenders offer simple online applications, fast decisions and, in some cases, next-day funding. Dollar amounts tend to be in the five- to mid-six-figure range, payment terms are short (typically no more than 36 months) and interest rates are higher than banks.
If you have a savings account, you could tap into it to cover your cash flow issues, but you might not have enough and you really should wait to use the funds as an absolute last resort.
See if your supplier will give you longer payment terms so you can get an inventory order in before you actually get your Amazon payout. This way you can avoid adding a stockout to your unavailable balance. If you have a good track record with your supplier, they might be open to negotiating. Just make sure you’re confident you’ll be able to make the new payment deadline.
A financing company designed specifically for marketplace sellers, Payability has solutions for pretty much every cash flow need a seller like you might face. For example, their Instant Access product can solve your unavailable balance headache in as fast as 24 hours.
Their simple application process looks solely at account health and sales performance (not credit) and, once approved, they’ll transfer 80% of your available balance the next day. Then, you’ll continue getting 80% of yesterday’s scanned and shipped sales each business day, which you can transfer to your bank account with same-day ACH or spend on their Seller Card. This acts as insurance against future unavailable balances as 80% of your money will already be in your pocket or reinvested in your business.
As for the remaining 20%, that’s kept on hold to cover any returns or chargebacks and is then paid out according to your regular payment schedule. Payability charges a flat 1-2% fee on sales for Instant Access. Your rate depends on your seller metrics and existing track record with Payability.
Tip: If you’re new to Payability, visit http://go.payability.com/Deliverr to learn more about their cash flow solutions and how their marketplace customers grow 2.5x faster. You’ll receive a $200 sign on bonus just for being referred by Deliverr.
Payability offers eCommerce businesses so much more than than next-day Amazon payouts. They can also get you up to $250,000 in 24 hours based on your future sales in the form of an Instant Advance. In addition to Instant Advance, they also offer accelerated payouts and financing options on Walmart, Jet, Newegg, Tophatter, Shopify and more.
At the end of the day, you want to find strategic ways to boost your cash flow when Amazon stops paying you in full and on time. That means understanding your payout schedule inside and out so you can line up expenses and invoices accordingly, continuously monitoring your account to make sure you’re not prone to an unavailable balance to begin with, and finding the right financing partner to bridge your cash flow gaps in real-time so you can focus on growing your business.
Disclaimer: The above is based on publicly available information and trends we have observed. Payability does not claim to have any insider information on the processes Amazon uses to decide when to release payments. Unavailable balances are subject to additional fees.