What Does ‘Pay by Invoice’ Mean?

September 28, 2020
Gavin Bales
bookkeeping, accountant, invoicing, freelancer, entrepreneur, laptop, invoice generator

‘Pay by invoice’ is a payment option that allows customers to defer immediate payment for goods or services purchased. Instead of paying upfront at the time of purchase, customers are given a specified period, typically 30 days, to settle the payment. This arrangement is commonly used in business-to-business (B2B) transactions, where companies extend credit to their clients for a mutually agreed period.

Understanding the Concept of ‘Pay by Invoice’

Invoicing is a critical aspect of business transactions, serving as a request for payment from a seller to a buyer. It outlines the details of the transaction, including the products or services provided, their quantities, prices, and any applicable terms and conditions. ‘Pay by invoice’ gives customers the flexibility to make payment after receiving the goods or services, which can be beneficial for managing cash flow and aligning payment with business cycles.

When a customer opts to pay by invoice, they are essentially agreeing to settle the payment within the agreed period mentioned on the invoice. The invoice will typically provide the seller’s bank details, payment instructions, and other relevant payment information. It is crucial for customers to adhere to the payment terms to maintain a good credit standing and ensure a smooth business relationship with the seller.

There are some essential terms related to invoice payment that customers should be familiar with:

  1. Due Date: This refers to the date by which the payment must be made. It is usually mentioned on the invoice and represents the end of the agreed payment period.
  2. Payment Terms: These are the agreed-upon conditions for payment, including the due date, any applicable early payment discounts or penalties, and the payment methods accepted by the seller.
  3. Credit Limit: In some cases, sellers may set a credit limit for customers, which specifies the maximum amount they can owe at any given time. This helps manage risk and ensures responsible credit utilization.

Understanding these key terms associated with invoice payment is crucial for both buyers and sellers. The due date serves as a deadline for payment, ensuring that sellers receive their funds in a timely manner. By adhering to the payment terms, buyers can maintain a good credit standing and foster a positive relationship with the seller.

Payment terms can vary depending on the agreement between the buyer and seller. Some sellers may offer early payment discounts to incentivize prompt payment, while others may impose penalties for late payments. It is important for buyers to carefully review the payment terms to avoid any misunderstandings or potential financial consequences.

Additionally, the credit limit set by sellers can play a significant role in managing risk. By establishing a maximum amount that a buyer can owe, sellers can mitigate the potential for excessive debt and ensure responsible credit utilization. This not only protects the seller’s financial interests but also helps buyers maintain a healthy financial position.

Overall, the concept of ‘pay by invoice’ provides a flexible and convenient payment option for buyers. It allows them to receive goods or services before making payment, which can be particularly advantageous for businesses with fluctuating cash flow or longer business cycles. By understanding the basics of invoice payment and familiarizing themselves with key terms, buyers can effectively navigate the invoicing process and maintain strong business relationships.

The Process of Paying by Invoice

The process of paying by invoice involves several steps that both the buyer and seller must follow:

Steps Involved in Invoice Payment

1. Invoice Generation: The seller prepares an invoice that details the goods or services provided, along with the agreed-upon payment terms.

2. Invoice Delivery: The seller sends the invoice to the buyer via email or traditional mail.

3. Invoice Review: The buyer carefully reviews the invoice, ensuring its accuracy and verifying that products or services have been received as expected.

4. Payment Initiation: Once the buyer approves the invoice, they initiate the payment process, either through online banking, a check, or another agreed-upon payment method.

5. Payment Confirmation: The buyer notifies the seller of the payment made, providing any necessary payment references or confirmation details.

6. Payment Reconciliation: The seller confirms the receipt of payment, matches it against the corresponding invoice, and updates their records accordingly.

The Role of the Buyer and Seller in Invoice Payment

The buyer and seller each have specific responsibilities throughout the invoice payment process:

The Buyer:

  1. Reviewing and validating the invoice details
  2. Ensuring prompt payment within the agreed period
  3. Maintaining open communication with the seller regarding any payment issues or disputes

The Seller:

  1. Generating and delivering accurate invoices
  2. Providing necessary payment instructions and details
  3. Confirming payment receipt and updating records accordingly
  4. Resolving any payment-related queries or discrepancies promptly

However, the process of paying by invoice can sometimes be more complex than it seems. For example, in some cases, the buyer may request additional documentation or proof of delivery before approving the invoice and initiating payment. This is particularly common in industries where goods or services are delivered over a period of time or in multiple installments.

Furthermore, the payment terms agreed upon between the buyer and seller can vary significantly. While some invoices may require immediate payment upon receipt, others may allow for a certain grace period before payment is due. This flexibility in payment terms can be beneficial for both parties, as it allows the buyer to manage their cash flow effectively while giving the seller some assurance of timely payment.

In addition to the steps outlined above, there are other factors that can impact the invoice payment process. For instance, in international transactions, currency exchange rates and international banking regulations may come into play. Buyers and sellers involved in cross-border trade must navigate these complexities to ensure smooth and efficient payment processing.

Moreover, technology has greatly influenced the invoice payment process in recent years. Many businesses now use electronic invoicing systems, which streamline the generation, delivery, and payment of invoices. These systems often integrate with accounting software, making it easier for both buyers and sellers to track and manage their financial transactions.

Overall, the process of paying by invoice is a crucial aspect of business transactions. It requires careful attention to detail, effective communication, and timely action from both the buyer and seller. By following the necessary steps and fulfilling their respective responsibilities, both parties can ensure a smooth and successful payment process.

Benefits of Paying by Invoice

There are several advantages for both businesses and customers when choosing to pay by invoice:

Advantages for Businesses

1. Improved Cash Flow: Paying by invoice allows businesses to preserve their cash reserves, which can be crucial for managing operational expenses and investments.

Managing cash flow is essential for businesses to ensure their day-to-day operations run smoothly. By choosing to pay by invoice, businesses can maintain a healthy cash flow by extending the payment period. This flexibility allows them to allocate their funds strategically, addressing immediate needs and planning for future growth.

2. Enhanced Relationship Building: Offering ‘pay by invoice’ as an option can strengthen relationships between businesses, fostering loyalty and repeat transactions.

Building strong relationships with customers is vital for any business. By providing the option to pay by invoice, businesses demonstrate trust and flexibility, which can lead to increased customer satisfaction and loyalty. This trust can result in long-term partnerships, as customers appreciate the convenience and reliability of paying on their own terms.

3. Credit Management: Businesses that provide credit to their customers have the opportunity to assess creditworthiness and build trusted customer relationships through responsible lending practices.

By offering credit to customers, businesses can evaluate their creditworthiness and establish responsible lending practices. This allows businesses to mitigate the risk of non-payment and build long-term relationships based on trust. Additionally, providing credit can attract new customers who may not have immediate funds but have a genuine need for the products or services offered.

Advantages for Customers

1. Flexibility: Paying by invoice provides customers with a defined period to make payment, allowing them to align their cash flow with their business needs.

Customers often face fluctuating cash flows due to various factors such as seasonal demand, unexpected expenses, or delayed payments from their own clients. Paying by invoice gives customers the flexibility to manage their finances effectively by providing a specific timeframe to make payment. This enables them to allocate their funds strategically and maintain a healthy cash flow.

2. Quality Assurance: Customers have the chance to review the invoice and confirm that the goods or services received match their expectations before making payment.

One of the significant advantages of paying by invoice is that customers have the opportunity to review the invoice and ensure that the goods or services received meet their expectations. This review process allows customers to verify the accuracy of the invoice, including quantities, pricing, and any additional charges. By having this quality assurance step, customers can avoid potential disputes and ensure they are paying for what they have received.

3. Supplier Trust: Consistently paying invoices on time establishes trust with the seller and can lead to better business terms and opportunities in the future.

Timely payment of invoices is crucial for building trust between customers and suppliers. By consistently paying invoices on time, customers establish themselves as reliable partners, which can lead to improved business terms and opportunities. Suppliers are more likely to offer favorable pricing, discounts, or exclusive deals to customers who have proven their trustworthiness through prompt payment. This trust can also open doors for collaboration and partnership in other areas, benefiting both parties involved.

Potential Challenges with Invoice Payment

While paying by invoice offers numerous benefits, there are some potential challenges that buyers and sellers may encounter:

Common Issues in Invoice Payment

1. Delayed Payments: Buyers may struggle to pay invoices within the agreed timeframe due to cash flow constraints or internal administrative processes.

Delayed payments can have a significant impact on the cash flow of sellers, especially small businesses that rely on timely payments to meet their financial obligations. It can lead to difficulties in paying suppliers, employees, and other operational expenses. Additionally, delayed payments can strain the business relationship between buyers and sellers, as it may create a sense of mistrust and frustration.

2. Disputed Invoices: Buyers may raise disputes regarding the accuracy of the invoice or the quality of goods or services received, causing delays in payment resolution.

Disputes over invoices can arise from various reasons, such as discrepancies in pricing, quantity, or quality of goods or services. Resolving these disputes can be time-consuming and may require additional documentation, negotiation, or even legal intervention. In the meantime, sellers may face financial uncertainty and difficulties in managing their cash flow effectively.

3. Payment Defaults: In some cases, buyers may default on invoice payments, leading to financial losses for the seller and potential strains on the business relationship.

Payment defaults occur when buyers fail to make any payment towards the invoice, either intentionally or due to financial difficulties. This can have severe consequences for sellers, as they may have already incurred costs in providing the goods or services. It can also lead to strained relationships with buyers, making it challenging to secure future business opportunities.

How to Overcome Invoice Payment Challenges

To mitigate the challenges associated with invoice payment, it is essential for both buyers and sellers to:


  • Prioritize timely payment by managing cash flow effectively and planning for invoice payments.
  • Communicate openly with the seller, promptly addressing any disputes or concerns to reach mutually satisfactory resolutions.
  • Utilize invoicing software or tools that assist in streamlining the payment process and providing reminders for upcoming payments.
  • Establish strong relationships with sellers, fostering trust and open communication channels to address any payment-related issues effectively.
  • Consider negotiating payment terms or installment plans with sellers if facing temporary financial constraints.


  • Ensure invoices are accurate, clearly stating the goods or services provided and their respective costs.
  • Implement efficient invoicing systems that generate invoices and deliver them promptly to the buyer.
  • Establish clear communication channels to address payment queries, resolve disputes, and provide necessary support to customers.
  • Consider offering incentives for early or timely payments, such as discounts or extended credit terms.
  • Regularly review and update credit policies to minimize the risk of payment defaults.

By implementing these strategies, both buyers and sellers can navigate the challenges associated with invoice payment more effectively, ensuring smoother transactions and stronger business relationships.

Different Types of Invoice Payment

In addition to the regular invoice payment process, there are other types of invoice payments that businesses may encounter:

Proforma Invoice Payment

A proforma invoice is a preliminary invoice issued by the seller before goods or services are provided. It serves as an estimate and details the proposed terms and costs. Proforma invoice payments can occur when there is a need for upfront payment or when goods are made to order.

Interim Invoice Payment

In some cases, particularly with long-term projects or service agreements, interim invoices may be issued to request partial payment for work completed to date. Interim invoice payments help maintain cash flow for the seller during extended projects while providing the buyer with transparency and flexibility.

In conclusion, ‘pay by invoice’ is a payment option that offers flexibility to both businesses and customers. By understanding the concept, process, benefits, and potential challenges associated with invoice payment, buyers and sellers can effectively navigate this payment method and build strong business relationships based on trust and responsible financial practices.

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