BillPay

Secure, Convenient, and Oh-So-Sleek


NOTE: Some of the BillPay features described here are still under development. Check back often to see the latest updates. If you'd like to begin testing in BillPay as a Beta Merchant, contact Customer Service.

BillPay, Forte's newest iteration of bill payment processing, gives you the ability to create and customize a payment portal where customers can search for and pay their bills in a few simple steps. BillPay takes the best features of BillPayIt, Forte's legacy bill payment system, and adds UI enhancements, a more user-friendly navigation, and the ability to create registered customer accounts.

With BillPay you get a responsive payment portal that can be accessed from any device—including tablets, phones, and PCs. In addition, your customers get improved messaging, faster search results, the ability to create a registered account, the ability to schedule their bill payments, and so much more:

  • Granular Amount Settings Provide Added Flexibility
    Set overpayments and partial payments as either a percentage of the due amount or a set amount.

  • Maintain Invoice Aging Schedules to Ensure Older Balances are Paid First
    Keep your accountant happy by requiring customers to pay older balances first with Grouping IDs.

  • Improve Customer Communications with Customized Portal Messaging
    Keep your customers up-to-date with announcement messages in a dismissible banner that displays at the top of the BillPay Portal homepage. Add customized messages regarding Portal suspensions to adequately plan and communicate service interruptions with your customers. To help first-time users become acclimated to paying their bills online, you can now add Hint Text and/or a Hint Image that displays where to find a value for a search field.

  • Create a Custom UI that Preserves Your Unique Branding Standards
    From the logo to the datagrids—your Portal can be customized to your exact branding specifications.

  • Print Receipts Directly from the Portal
    Customers can print receipts directly from the Portal after making their payments.

  • Access Bills from Anywhere
    The BillPay Portal is 100% responsive. Customers can access it from any modern browser on any device, including phones and tablets. Customers can also view, download, and print PDF versions of their bills, which can be emailed to them or sent via text message.

We’ve redesigned the BillPay Portal with a clean, modern UI and intuitive navigation. You can customize the look and feel of each page in the Portal to meet the needs of your specific customers. After all, who knows your customers better than you?

 

Browser Requirements

The BillPay Portal supports the last three versions of the following browsers on a rolling basis:

Each time a new version of one of these browsers is released, the Portal begins supporting it and continues to support the previous two versions (and only the previous two). For example, the Portal currently supports versions 65, 66, and 67 of Chrome; however, if and when Google releases version 68, the Portal will support versions 66, 67, and 68 and will no longer support version 65.

This browser version standard enables BillPay to use the latest and greatest security and performance features of the newest, most up-to-date browsers.

 

Homepage

Your BillPay Portal homepage can be customized with your logo, your text, and a full-width background image that represents your business or industry. You can also include announcements, seasonal messages, service updates, or legal verbiage to keep your customers up-to-date. The following figures displays a sample BillPay Portal and the elements you can customize.

 

 

Use the following table when planning the UI for your BillPay Portal homepage:

UI Element Description Type Length/Size Required?
Site Title/Tag Line The title or tag line for your business. This value displays on every page of your Portal. alphanumeric 100 R
Welcome Text Title A brief message that welcomes visitors to your site. This message should succinctly describe the Portal and its capabilities. alphanumeric 100 R
Welcome Text Body alphanumeric 350 R
Site Logo

Your logo image in one of the following formats:

  • JPG
  • PNG
  • BMP

 

For optimal image quality, the logo should be no bigger than 250px x 70px. Clicking the logo returns the customer to the Portal homepage.

Image 2mb R
Background Image

A high-resolution image that represents your business or industry in one of the following formats:

  • JPG
  • PNG
  • BMP

 

For optimal image quality, the width of the background image should be 960px–1600px and the height should be no less than 400px.

Image 2mb R
Feature Content

If desired, you can add up to three BillPay feature descriptions to your Billpay Portal in the "Feature Content" section. These messages highlight the benefits of paying bills with BillPay. Choose from the following library of feature descriptions:

  • Convenient - Pay your bills from your mobile device or computer. Quickly search, submit, and confirm payment through the Pay Now button.

  • Secure - Say no to mail fraud and digital intruders. Data is kept safe and confidential using the highest standards in data security and compliance.

  • Support - Easily contact our responsive support team online or by phone when you need assistance.
N/A N/A O
Service Fee Title

If applicable, add a service fee statement that provides an explanation of what the service fee will be and why it’s collected along with the bill payment. The default body text for this message is the following: "Forte will charge a "service fee" for credit/debit cards and electronic checks processed using this service. The "service fee" is not part of your bill payment and [merchant name] will not receive any portion of the fee associated with this payment service."

For service-fee merchants, Forte strongly recommends adding service fee verbiage to the homepage of your BillPay Portal, so that your customers will not be surprised when their total amount reflects the addition of a service fee.

alphanumeric 100 O
Service Fee Body alphanumeric 200 O
Additional Messages Title Add up to three messages to display to your customers. Use these messages to describe the types of bills customers may see, to explain alternative ways customers can pay their bills (e.g., in-person or over the phone), and/or to simply display a seasonal message related to an upcoming holiday. alphanumeric 100 O
Additional Messages Body alphanumeric 400 O
Payment Settings Displays the type of payment methods you accept for bill payments. This setting depends upon the setup of your merchant account (i.e., if you only accept echecks, credit cards, or both echecks and credit cards). N/A N/A R
Announcement Message Title Use announcement messages to prominently display important news about your business. These messages display in a dismissible banner across the top of your Portal. alphanumeric 100 O
Announcement Message Body alphanumeric 250 O
Contacts Add up to five merchant contacts, so that customers know who to get in touch with if they have a question about their bills. You can also include Forte’s Customer Service phone number and email address for customers who have technical issues with the Portal. alphanumeric 50 O

 

Bill Search and Display

Customize how your customers search for their bills by choosing up to four search fields. You can define whether or not to make fields required, how precisely the customer-provided search value should match (e.g., exact match, partial match, contains match), and whether or not the BillPay backend should ignore certain characters in the search term when querying for data.

BillPay also enables you to customize the bill summary and bill detail datagrids with as much or as little data as you’d like. A datagrid is an online table that displays rows of information in a defined sequence of columns. A summary datagrid is the table that displays after a user inputs values into search fields while a detail datagrid is a sub-table that displays data about a specific record in the summary datagrid. BillPay lets you define the sequence of the columns and add custom label names to each column. The following fields are available for all search and summary datagrid displays in the Portal:

  • Customer ID
  • Bill Number
  • Unique Bill ID
  • Address
  • Customer Name

 

You can also add up to ten additional data fields relevant to your customers. These fields could include the following plus a dynamic data field passed in the XDATA 1–10 (Merchant Defined FIelds (MDF) in BillPayIt):

  • Due Amount
  • Minimum Amount
  • Late Fee Amount
  • Paid Amount
  • Due Date
  • Presentation Date
  • Expiration Date
  • Paid in Full Date
  • State
  • City
  • ZIP code
  • Billed For
  • Account Number

 

When adding your own custom data fields, be sure to tell your Implementation Specialist whether or not you want BillPay to ignore certain characters at the beginning or end of a search and/or display value. For example, if your software generates bills with Bill IDs that are preceded by six zeros, you can configure the BillPay Portal to ignore those first six characters so that the Bill Summary datagrid is cleaner and easier for customers to understand. So, a bill with a Bill ID of 00000123456789 would display as 123456789 in the Bill Summary and Bill Detail datagrids of your Portal.

 

Configuring the Search Page

Your Search page can have between one and four search fields, which you can make required or optional. Search fields can be placed in any order on the page and you can define how closely the customer-provided value should match your data. For example, should a customer searching for his/her Bill ID receive results with only exact matches, results that contain the value he/she provides, or results that begin or end with the value he/she provides? As a best practice, Forte recommends exact matches for search terms unique to a particular customer, such as Bill ID or Customer ID.

To help customers search for their bills, you can also include Hint Text and/or a Hint Image that describes the search field and/or displays where on the bill the customer can find the value for that search field. The following figure shows a Search page with two required fields and Hint Text.

 

The following figure shows a Search page with one required search field and a Hint Image.

 

Configuring the Datagrids

After completing a search, the BillPay Portal displays the search results in a datagrid that you configure. The Portal displays both summary bill search results and a detailed view of a bill that gives customers all the pertinent data related to that bill. Bill Summary datagrids must contain between three and eight data columns, which can be labeled and arranged at your discretion.

Customers can also click on the Bill Detail link to view the details of a bill. Bill Detail datagrids can contain as many fields as you like, which you can label and arrange at your discretion. The following figure displays both Bill Summary and Bill Detail datagrids.

BillPay simplifies the billing process for both you and your customers. After setup, the Portal requires little to no maintenance; however, it’s imperative that you understand how the billing lifecycle works within the Portal. The following figure displays a simplified version of this lifecycle:

 

Successful bill presentment and collection hinges upon key dates that you can define in your bill definition file:

  • Presentation Date
    The date the bill becomes visible to customers in the BillPay Portal. This date should coincide with any email or paper notification you send to customers about the availability of their bills.
  • Due Date
    The date when payment on the bill is due. BillPay applies a late fee to the total amount of the bill once this date has passed. This parameter is required in both standard and custom bill definition files.
  • Expiration Date
    The date when the bill expires and customers can no longer pay it in the BillPay Portal. You can allow customers to view expired bills by defining a specified number of Bill Visibility Days. This setting enables customers to look up and view bills past the expiration date; they cannot, however, pay these bills.
  • Paid in Full Date
    The date when the customer pays the entire balance of the bill. Once you provide a Paid in Full Date, the BillPay Portal no longer accepts customer payments on the bill.
  • Last Payment Date
    The date you received the previous payment from the customer. When a customer makes a payment through the Portal, it is considered a pending payment until you indicate acceptance of the payment via an updated bill definition file. To do this, you update the bill with a modified paid amount and set the Last Payment Date. If you do not provide a Last Payment Date, BillPay uses the date the bill was last modified.

 

Bill Amounts

You define bill amounts in each bill definition file that you submit to Forte. To give your customers flexibility in how much they’re required to pay to avoid penalties or late fees, BillPay gives you the ability to set allowable payment amounts within the Portal (e.g., allow overpayment of 10% of the total bill and a minimum partial payment of 25% of the total bill) and within the individual bill definition file. If the Minimum Amount submitted in a bill definition file is less than the allowable partial payment amount defined in the Portal settings, BillPay will display the lower Minimum Amount to the customer. When tracking payments in the billing lifecycle, keep these bill amounts in mind:

  • Due Amount
    The total amount of the bill including any late fees incurred if the Due Date of the bill has passed. This amount should not include the service fee as Forte assesses service fees as a separate charge added to the total authorization amount.

  • Paid Amount
    The amount the customer has paid toward the balance of the bill. This field starts at $0 and increases as your customer makes partial or full payments through the Portal or via other channels, such as phone payments, mailed payments, and/or in-person payments.

  • Minimum Amount
    The minimum amount your customer can pay without incurring a late fee. If this field is not passed in the bill definition file, BillPay uses the Portal settings defined for partial payments (i.e., as either a percentage of the Due Amount or a set dollar amount). If both a Minimum Amount is passed in the bill definition file and partial payment settings have been defined for the Portal, BillPay displays the Minimum Amount passed in the bill definition file.

  • Late Fee Amount
    The amount of the late fee that BillPay assesses once the bill’s Due Date has passed. You can pass this amount in the LateFee field of the bill file and BillPay will present it as a separate line item that is added to the Authorization Amount (i.e., Due Amount + Service Fee Amount + Late Fee Amount). You can also add it to the Due Amount prior to uploading the bill file and communicate the added fee to the customer via the Bill Details datagrid or another method.

 

Ordered Bill Payment

If you want to require your customer to pay a series of bills in sequence, you can group these bills by setting a shared GroupingID value. A GroupingID ensures that BillPay applies any payments the customer makes to the oldest bills first (according to their Due Dates). Once the customer has paid the oldest bill in full, then BillPay begins applying collected payments to the second oldest bill in the group and so on until every bill is paid off. To ensure that customers understand this concept, the BillPay Portal displays the following message to customers attempting to pay a current bill that is part of a group.

Customers can select Add All to view/pay all of their bills or Add Oldest and view/pay the oldest bill balance according to the Due Date. When a customer selects the Add Oldest button, the Portal Payment Center selects only the oldest bill in the displayed search results. When a Customer selects the Add All button, the Portal selects all bills currently due from the list of displayed search results.

Successful bill collection depends upon the bill definition files you submit to Forte. BillPay supports both standard file formats and custom file formats. If you opt to use a custom file format you will need to provide Forte with a sample bill with, at a minimum, the required BillPay fields. We’ll use this sample bill to create a file specification that the BillPay Portal will use to parse your bill definition files and properly display bill data to your customers.

 

Standard File Format

Standard file formats provide the easiest and most efficient method for uploading bill definition files. Standard bill definition files use a single-line-per-record CSV format with the following quoted text qualifiers in this specific order:

Sequence Name Description Type Length Required?
1 UniqueBillID A unique value representing the bill in this record. Alphanumeric 36 R
2 MerchantID The merchant's Forte-assigned Location ID (e.g., 115161). Numeric 6 R
3 PresentationDate

The date your customers can view the bill in the BillPay Portal. The following date formats are supported:

  • mm/dd/yyyy
  • m/d/yyyy
Date 12 O
4 DueAmount The total amount of the bill based on the Due Date. Numeric 12 R
5 MinimumAmount The minimum amount the customer can pay without incurring a late fee. Numeric 12 O
6 CurrencyCode The ISO-4217 alpha currency code. For most merchants, the value of this field will be USD. Alphanumeric 3 R
7 DueDate The date when payment for this bill is due.

The following date formats are supported:

  • mm/dd/yyyy
  • m/d/yyyy
Date 10 R
8 LateFee The amount of the late fee that BillPay will apply to the Due Amount of the bill if the Due Date has passed. Numeric 12 O
9 ExpirationDate The expiration date of the bill. This field defaults to 90 days if not passed in the file. Customers can still view expired bills if you’ve defined the number of Bill Visibility Days in the BillPay Portal settings.

The following date formats are supported:

  • mm/dd/yyyy
  • m/d/yyyy
Date 10 O
10 PaidAmount The amount the customer has already paid toward the balance of the bill. Numeric 12 O
11 PaidInFullDate The date when the customer paid the full balance of the bill.

The following date formats are supported:

  • mm/dd/yyyy
  • m/d/yyyy
Date 10 O
12 CustomerName The First and Last Name or Company Name of the customer. Alphanumeric 50 R
13 ContactName The First and Last Name or Company Name of the customer’s primary contact. Alphanumeric 50 O
14 StreetAddress The first line of the customer’s billing street address. Alphanumeric 35 O
15 StreetAddress2 If necessary, the second line of the customer’s billing street address. Alphanumeric 35 O
16 City The city of the customer’s billing address. Alphanumeric 25 O
17 StateProvince The state or province of the customer’s billing address. Alphanumeric 10 O
18 PostalCode The ZIP code of the customer’s billing address. Alphanumeric 10 O
19 Country The country of the customer’s billing address. Alphanumeric 3 O
20 Phone The customer’s phone number including country and area code (e.g., X-XXX-XXX-XXXX). Alphanumeric 25 O
21 EmailAddress The customer’s email address. Alphanumeric 40 O
22 CustomerID The merchant-defined ID or Account Number associated with the customer. Alphanumeric 36 R
23 BillNumber The ID or invoice number associated with this bill. Alphanumeric 36 O
24 InvoiceDate The date when you created the bill or invoice.

The following date formats are supported:

  • mm/dd/yyyy
  • m/d/yyyy
Date 10 O
25 Terms The version number of the Terms of Service to which the customer must agree before paying his or her bill on the Portal. Alphanumeric 30 O
26 Memo Any merchant-defined memos associated with this bill. Alphanumeric 2048 O
27 GroupingID The ID number used to group bills so that BillPay applies payments to the older balances first. Alphanumeric 10 O
28 XDATA1 Up to 10 XDATA fields that you can use to pass pertinent information about the bill. These fields support string, amount, date, and URL values. Alphanumeric or Date 60 O
29 XDATA2
30 XDATA3
31 XDATA4
32 XDATA5
33 XDATA6
34 XDATA7
35 XDATA8
36 XDATA9
37 XDATA10

The easiest method for generating a bill definition file in the standard format is to create the file in Microsoft Excel and save it using the .csv tag.

 

Custom File Formats

If you or your software service provider cannot produce bill definition files that follow the standard field format described above, you can submit a sample bill file in your preferred format to your Implementation Specialist who will create a file specification. This specification enables BillPay to read and parse your bill definition files and properly display bill data in the Portal.

BillPay can support file formats of up to 10,000 alphanumeric and special characters and must contain values for the following required fields. The sequence of the fields does not matter.

Name Description Type Length Required?
UniqueBillID A unique value representing the bill in this record. Alphanumeric 36 R
MerchantID The merchant's Forte-assigned Location ID (e.g., 115161). Numeric 6 R
DueAmount The total amount of the bill based on the Due Date. Numeric 12 R
CustomerID The merchant-defined ID or Account Number associated with the customer. Alphanumeric 36 R
GroupingID The ID number used to group bills so that BillPay applies payments to the older balances first. Alphanumeric 10 R
CurrencyCode The ISO-4217 alpha currency code. For most merchants, the value of this field will be USD. Alphanumeric 3 R
DueDate The date when payment for this bill is due.

The following date formats are supported:

  • mm/dd/yyyy
  • m/d/yyyy
Date 10 R
LastPaymentDate The date of the previous payment toward the balance of the bill.

The following date formats are supported:

  • mm/dd/yyyy
  • m/d/yyyy
Date 10 R
CustomerName The First and Last Name or Company Name of the customer. Alphanumeric 50 R
PresentationDate The date your customers can view the bill in the BillPay Portal.

The following date formats are supported:

  • mm/dd/yyyy
  • m/d/yyyy
Date 12 O
MinimumAmount The minimum amount the customer can pay without incurring a late fee. Numeric 12 O
LateFee The amount of the late fee that BillPay will apply to the Due Amount of the bill if the Due Date has passed. Numeric 12 O
ExpirationDate The expiration date of the bill. This field defaults to 90 days if not passed in the file. Customers can still view expired bills if you’ve defined the number of Bill Visibility Days in the BillPay Portal settings.

The following date formats are supported:

  • mm/dd/yyyy
  • m/d/yyyy
Date 10 O
PayTypesAllowed

The types of payment methods you accept on your BillPay Portal. Supported options include the following:

  • C = Credit Card only
  • E = EFT (echeck) only
  • B = Both credit card and echecks allowed
Alphanumeric 1 O
PaidAmount The amount the customer has already paid toward the balance of the bill. Numeric 12 O
PaidInFullDate The date when the customer paid the full balance of the bill.

The following date formats are supported:

  • mm/dd/yyyy
  • m/d/yyyy
Date 10 O
ContactName The First and Last Name or Company Name of the customer’s primary contact. Alphanumeric 50 O
StreetAddress The first line of the customer’s billing street address. Alphanumeric 35 O
StreetAddress2 If necessary, the second line of the customer’s billing street address. Alphanumeric 35 O
City The city of the customer’s billing address. Alphanumeric 25 O
StateProvince The state or province of the customer’s billing address. Alphanumeric 10 O
PostalCode The ZIP code of the customer’s billing address. Alphanumeric 10 O
Country The country of the customer’s billing address. Alphanumeric 3 O
Phone The customer’s phone number including country and area code (e.g., X-XXX-XXX-XXXX). Alphanumeric 25 O
EmailAddress The customer’s email address. Alphanumeric 40 O
BillNumber The ID or invoice number associated with this bill. Alphanumeric 36 O
InvoiceDate The date when you created the bill or invoice.

The following date formats are supported:

  • mm/dd/yyyy
  • m/d/yyyy
Date 10 O
Terms The version number of the Terms of Service to which the customer must agree before paying his or her bill on the Portal. Alphanumeric 30 O
Memo Any merchant-defined memos associated with this bill. Alphanumeric 2048 O
XDATA1 Up to 10 XDATA fields that you can use to pass pertinent information about the bill. These fields support string, amount, date, and URL values. Alphanumeric or Date 60 O
XDATA2
XDATA3
XDATA4
XDATA5
XDATA6
XDATA7
XDATA8
XDATA9
XDATA10

 

To ensure uniformity and error-free uploading, BillPay requires specific naming conventions for bill definition files. Each bill definition file name contains a string of commands that tells BillPay how and for whom to process the file.

 

Standard File Naming Convention

For standard bill files, use the following naming conventions for upload files and ready-to-process files:

  • bstd247584.u01 (Upload)
  • bstd247584.b01 (Ready-to-Process)

 

Where:

b – Indicates that this file is a bill definition file.

std – Indicates to BillPay that this bill definition file is being delivered in standard format.

2 – Indicates that this bill definition file is compatible with the newest version of BillPay (i.e., not BillPayIt, Forte’s legacy solution)

47584 – Indicates that this bill definition file belongs to a merchant with this transmitter ID number. Transmitter IDs can have up to six characters.

u or b – Signifies when the bill definition file is ready to be uploaded and when the bill definition file is ready to be processed by BillPay. Use the u when uploading files to the FTP Interface. This letter indicates that this bill definition file needs to be placed or staged on the FTP Interface. After placing the file on the FTP Interface, change the u to a b to indicate that the bill definition file is ready to be processed by BillPay.

01 – Indicates that this file is the first bill definition file upload of the day. If you upload additional bill definition files using the same name, the 01 will need to be changed to 02, 03, 04, etc.

 

Custom File Naming Convention

Bill definition files using custom file formats follow similar naming conventions. However, you will replace the std value in the standard file naming convention with another three-letter acronym that your Implementation Specialist will provide. Forte creates this acronym when we create the file specification that enables us to read your custom file format. For example, let’s say Acme County uses BillPay to collect their property taxes and sends us their bill definition files in a custom format. Their file names could look something like the following:

  • bAPT247584.u01 (Upload)
  • bAPT247584.b01 (Ready-to-Process)

Forte’s Secure FTP Web Interface enables you to quickly upload both full or partial bill definition files to create or update bills in the BillPay Portal. For best results, access the FTP Interface on a Google Chrome browser. Additionally, when uploading bill definition files, be aware of the size of your upload files. Files larger than 1GB (e.g., containing millions of bill entries) can slow down or lock up the FTP Interface. Forte recommends sending bill definition files that contain no more than 500,000 items at a time.

You should have received login credentials to the FTP Interface when we onboarded your account to the Forte platform.

BillPay enables you to easily suspend your Portal site for any reason, such as end-of-year reconciliation, backend server updates, or UI updates. Not only can you schedule the suspension within a specified date range, you can also include a special Suspension Announcement message that will prominently display as a red banner at the top of your site. When you suspend your BillPay Portal, your customers can only perform the following tasks:

  • Register for a BillPay account
  • Sign into his/her BillPay account
  • View his/her bill and/or payment history
  • Update his/her BillPay account profile (e.g., update an email address) and payment method information (e.g., add a new echeck or credit card payment method)

 

When suspended, customers cannot perform the following tasks on your BillPay Portal:

  • Search or view his/her current bill(s)
  • Pay his/her current bill(s)
  • Create a schedule of recurring payments for his/her bill(s)
  • Set up automatic payments for his/her bill(s)

 

When you’re ready to suspend your Portal, contact Forte’s Customer Service and provide them with a date or date range for the suspension and the text of a Suspend Message, which should include a Title and Body. The Suspension Date and Message are required for Portal suspensions.

Keep suspension messaging short while explaining what customers can and cannot do in the Portal while it is suspended. You might also include suggestions for alternative methods your customers can use to pay their bills.

After Customer Service updates your BillPay settings, your Portal’s homepage will display your Suspension Message and disable the Pay Now button on the date(s) you’ve specified. The following figure shows a suspended Portal.

After the suspension date passes, your BillPay Portal returns to normal operations.