Agents selling Oceania and Regent Seven Seas Cruises might
start noticing a $4 service fee being deducted from each commission payment this
month if their commissions arrive by snail mail instead of electronically.
The two lines have contracted with a third party to pay
commissions, and getting paid by paper check now costs agents
$4 per check.
Other cruise lines also use third-party accounts-payable
vendors, and the move isn't rare, but it underscores the drive to pay
commissions digitally in a bid for increased efficiency and security.
Oceania director of public relations Tim Rubacky said the
lines transitioned to payments supplier Paymode-X in May but delayed
implementation of the $4 service fee to give agents time to adjust.
"We have communicated this change, the waived fees and
instructions on setting up direct-deposit multiple times over the past four
months, including emails and phone calls encouraging travel agents to enroll in
the direct-deposit program," Rubacky said."We value our travel agent
partners, and many have told us they prefer electronic deposit, which is more
secure and allows the travel agents to receive their funds faster."
About 385,000 businesses use Paymode-X to process $200
billion worth of payments annually, according to Portsmouth, N.H.-based
Bottomline Technologies, which developed the payments platform.
While the B-to-B use of checks is declining, a Bottomline
Technologies investor presentation asserted that 63% of organizations still
make at least half of their payments by paper check.
Rubacky said the number of agencies getting paid commission
by check at Oceania is much lower, likely around 10%.
Oceania's sister Norwegian Cruise Line has used Paymode-X
for "many years," spokeswoman Stephanie Cardelle said.
Other cruise lines also use outside vendors for payments. A
Carnival Cruise Line spokeswoman said its vendor requires the initial payment
received by an agency to be via check and includes a $2 processing fee "to
collect accurate payment information."
Thereafter, agencies are encouraged to opt for direct
deposit to avoid processing fees. Agents who prefer paper checks are assessed a
$2 per check fee, Carnival said.
Bank research shows that the cost of issuing a check is
about $1 more than a direct deposit. By setting fees at more than $1, payment
companies can offer rebates to businesses that drive vendors toward electronic
Direct deposit is also touted as more secure, because paper
checks can be lost in the mail, stolen or forged.
Rubacky said any agent needing help in setting up direct
deposit should contact the cruise line for support.