Setting up Online Bill Pay and managing payment gateways

You can use Populi to accept online payments for tuition, fees, bookstore purchases, applications, and donations. Online payment options include credit cards, debit cards, electronic checks (ACH), and external checkouts.

  • If you use a payment processor—Stripe or—credit/debit and ACH payments are handled within Populi—the payer stays on the Populi payment page (while the transaction is handled on Stripe/Authorize behind the scenes).
  • An external checkout—Paypal, for example—takes the user to a third-party website where the payment is processed. The third-party site may accept any number of payment methods (cards, cryptocurrency, bank transfers, etc.).

The setup story

  1. If necessary, you set up accounts in your Chart of Accounts to which you direct funds received through online payments.
  2. You fill in the required settings in Financial > Settings > Online Payments.
  3. In Financial > Settings > Payment Gateways, you get set up with a payments processor. Your options:
    • Fill in the Stripe account setup form accessed through Add a Payment Gateway> Stripe. This takes just a few minutes.
    • Apply for an payment gateway account. You may also need a credit card merchant account.
    • Connect your school's Paypal Business account to Populi (we recommend this as a supplement to a Stripe or setup, rather than as a primary processor; that said, do as you wish).
    • Non-profit institutions can get discounted pricing for by signing up for it through Moolah. Use the signup link provided in the Add a Payment Gateway dialog (more below).
    • If you wish to take echecks through™ (an service), that requires a separate application. Make sure you get set up for Internet-initiated Entry(a.k.a. WEB)—there are other options, and they don't work with Populi!
  4. You run a test transaction. If everything checks out, you can now start accepting online payments!

Step one: Chart of accounts

Several settings in the online payments setup process require that you link an item to your Chart of Accounts.

  • You'll need to select an asset account into which you'll deposit funds received through cash, check/echeck, and credit/debit card transactions.
  • Likewise, you'll need to select asset accounts for your payment gateway accounts (if you have more than one).
  • If you're charging a convenience fee for credit/debit transactions, you'll need an income account for it.

Review your Chart of Accounts and make sure you have the accounts you'll require for the above settings. There's a chance you won't need to do anything, but it never hurts to be sure.

Step two: Financial > Settings > Online Payments

Go to Financial > Settings > Online Payments and fill in the following settings. When you're done, scroll back to the top of the screen so you can Save Settings.

Asset accounts

Select asset accounts from your Chart of Accounts into which payments from credit cards, checks (including electronic checks), and cash will be deposited.

Minimum credit card purchase

Enter the minimum amount for which a person may use a credit/debit card to pay an invoice. Each such transaction incurs a fee; imagine having to pay out 33 cents because someone paid a 10-cent library fine with their credit card!

Privacy Policy

A good Privacy Policy discloses, at minimum, the following items:

  • What information you collect
  • With whom you share it
  • How it can be corrected
  • How it is secured
  • How you communicate changes to the policy
  • How to address customer concerns over misuse of personal data

Receipt address and phone number

Enter the receipt and phone number you wish to print on receipts for online payments.

Refund Policy

Your Refund Policy must cover tuition, fees, and anything else for which you will accept credit cards and/or electronic checks as payment. Use clear, simple, direct language. Cross-reference what you enter here with the automated refund policies in Billing > Settings.

Send online payment notification emails to:

If you wish, enter an email address (or multiple addresses, separated by commas) to receive a notification every time someone makes an online payment.

Credit card convenience fee

Before adding a credit card convenience fee, please check with your payment processor and the applicable local laws to see what laws or regulations apply to such fees.

Enter the percentage you wish to charge as a convenience fee for credit/debit card transactions. This percentage will be added on the Pay Now page. Then, select an income account for the fee.

Recurring payments

Choose what kind of recurring online payments to permit using the drop-down. You can also enter optional text for an email to be sent to the payer every time you charge a recurring payment. Read more about recurring payments.

Recurring payments/donations work with Stripe and—they do not work with external checkouts!

  • Simple only lets payers make monthly fixed-amount recurring payments.
  • Plan only lets payers set up automatic payments determined by their payment plan.
  • Both simple and plan permits both kinds of recurring payments.

Email Online Payment Receipts to Students and Payers

When someone makes an online payment to a student's account, select whether to email an online payment receipt to the student and the payer.

Online payments may not exceed balance

Select Yes to prevent students and third-parties from paying more than the student's entire outstanding balance.

Include a comment text field on the online payments form

If you'd like to give online payers the option to leave a text comment on the payment, select Yes.

Step three: Financial > Settings > Payment Gateways

Go to Financial > Settings > Payment Gateways. The Add Payment Gateway dialog lets you set up a new account with a payment processor or enter credentials for an existing account.

  1. Click Add a payment gateway.
  2. Select a provider:
    • If you select Stripe, click Connect to Stripe. Fill in the signup form (or log in with an existing Stripe account). Once you save, it will automatically connect to Populi.
    • If you select, enter the Login and Transaction Key they sent you after your account was approved.
    • Non-profit institutions can get special pricing by signing up for using Moolah. Click the ...Moolah signup link to get connected with their Populi customer setup form.
    • If you select Paypal, you'll be taken to Paypal's login page, where you'll log in with your school's Paypal Business account credentials (a personal Paypal account will not work).
  3. Check the payment methods you wish to enable for this gateway. If you'd like to accept e-checks and ACH payments through Stripe, please contact Populi Support.
    • Paypal can only be set up as an "External Checkout".
  4. If funds received through this gateway should go to an asset account other than the one you selected for credit cards in the Online Payments settings view, choose an override account.
    • To help with reconciliation, Stripe users can designate an expense account in which to record the processing fees charged by Stripe for transactions. See below for more details.
  5. Convenience fees charged to payers can help you offset the processing fees levied by your payment provider for credit/debit card transactions. If you wish to charge one, enter the convenience fee's percentage. This percentage will be added on top of the charges shown on the Pay Now page. Then, select an income account for the fee.
    • Before adding a credit card convenience fee, please check with your payment processor and the applicable local laws to see what laws or regulations apply to such fees.
  6. Finally, click Save to add this payment gateway.

How convenience fees and processing fees work

If you elect to add a convenience fee and an expense account for processing fees for payments made through particular gateways, here's how they'll work. To make the math easier to follow, let's say someone makes a $1000 payment when your processor charges 2.9% + .30 and you have a convenience fee of 2.9%:

  • On the online payment page, a $29 convenience fee is added to the payment for a total of $1029. In your GL, you'll then see two separate transctions...
  • One with four entries:
    • $1000 debit to your Stripe asset account
    • $29 debit to your Stripe asset account
    • $1000 credit to your accounts receivable
    • $29 credit to your convenience fee income account
  • And a $30.14 [($1029 x 2.9%) + .30] transaction for the processing fee:
    • $30.14 debit to the processing fee expense account
    • $30.14 credit to your Stripe asset account

Uses for payment gateways

You can specify which payment gateway you wish to use for different kinds of online payments. For example, you may use for bookstore, but you want tuition, fees, and donations to go through your Stripe account. Or you may want to specify different gateways for different campuses.

  • eChecks are not available for use in Bookstore or to pay application fees. eChecks are best suited for larger transactions between trusted parties (for example, an enrolled student paying tuition) and Bookstore and application fee transactions can be A) quite small and B) involve payers with whom you have no relationship.
  • Remember that recurring payments and donations only work with Stripe or—they do not work with external checkouts like PayPal!
  • The uses for your payment gateways are Tuition & Fees, Application Fees, Bookstore, and Donations. You should seldom have any need to change these uses. To change the uses:

    1. Click the use name.
    2. Select the gateway you wish to use for the different payment types, or select None if you don't wish to use that payment type for that use.
    3. If you wish to allow an external checkout option for the use, check the box and select the checkouts you'd like to use.

    Step four: Run a test transaction

    Now that you've enabled online bill pay, you're ready to run a test transaction. This helps verify that everything's working as it ought to.

    1. If you're using, make sure that you've taken your account out of Test Mode. Consult's documentation for details. If you're using Stripe, you're ready to go the moment you complete the signup form.
    2. Invoice yourself for a small fee that's due today. For testing purposes, you might want to lower your minimum credit card purchase setting.
    3. On your Populi Home page, there will be an alert about the invoice. Click the alert to go to the payment page.
    4. Pay with a credit card and/or electronic check (if you've enabled both, you should repeat this testing process for both payment methods).
    5. After the transaction is completed in Populi, check your Stripe dashboard or your merchant terminal (and your credit card account) to verify that it went through properly.
    6. Optional, but probably quite helpful in the long run: refund the transaction to familiarize yourself with that process.
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