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Oceania, Regent the latest lines to charge for mailing checks


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 payments.

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.

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