The Ever-elusive Accounts Payable Profit Center

The Accounts Payable Profit Center is a strategy that aims to turn paying an organization's vendors into a positive revenue stream. The formula for achieving this goal is simple: drive down invoice approval and payment processing costs to the point where card rebates and negotiated vendor discounts provide more value than the total cost of Accounts Payable (AP) and procurement departments.

While turning AP into a profit center is difficult, leveraging technology to optimize payment processes can lead to wide-ranging financial benefits. By optimizing who, what, where, when, and how payments are made, organizations can reduce costs and streamline operations.


Checks are the simplest and most common method, but also the most manual. The most common reasons we hear for utilizing checks are “ease of use” and “check float.” Check float is the time between writing a check and when it clears the bank during which the funds are still accessible in your account. If the check you send today takes one week to be delivered and then your vendor takes three days to deposit the check, your organization has use of those funds for 10 additional days. While check float can be a source of internal cash flow funding for an organization, it can also wreak havoc on the organization’s ability to accurately cash forecast their financial position.

  • On average, organizations process between 500-999 checks per month, which is roughly half the volume indicated in the 2015 AFP Payments Cost Benchmarking Survey. 3
  • 74% of organizations spend more than one hour on check processing weekly. This includes approvals, check/remittance printing, dual signatures, mailing and preparing positive pay files.

Automated Clearing House

Automated Clearing House (ACH) electronic payments are more efficient and easier to manage, with the originator having more control over when funds leave the bank account.

  • The average cost for outgoing ACH payments is $1.63 each, with 62% of organizations spending more than one hour on ACH processing weekly.
  • The average cost for disbursing a paper check is $4.72 per check and is comprised of $2.98 in internal costs and $1.74 in external costs, while the average cost of an outsourced check is $2.89.
  • Per-check cost is directly tied to volume of checks. Higher volumes equal lower cost, and lower volumes equal higher cost.

Purchasing/Corporate Cards

Purchasing and corporate cards can have a wide variety of costs associated with them depending on several factors. While they can be cost-effective when the card program pays a rebate and the transaction is large enough, smaller transactions may not justify the effort.

  • On average, the cost per purchasing/corporate card transaction is $2.58, with 65% of organizations surveyed reporting costs of less than $2.00.
  • Additionally, 60% of organizations earn rebates ranging from 0.10% to 0.75%, while only 10% receive rebates over 1.50%.

Transforming your Accounts Payable process into a profit center is achievable by optimizing payment methods and leveraging technology. To explore how your organization can establish a plan to turn vendor payments into a positive revenue stream, we encourage you to speak with your Treasury Management banker. They can provide valuable insights and guidance tailored to your unique business needs, helping you unlock the potential of the Accounts Payable Profit Center strategy.


(1) 2022 AFP Payments Cost Benchmarking Survey.

(2) 2023 AFP Payments Fraud and Control Survey.

(3)2015 AFP Payments Cost Benchmarking Survey.