(This post was last published on August 29, 2019. It has been updated for accuracy and completeness.)
Disclaimer: Payability does not claim to have any insider information on the processes Amazon uses to decide when to release or not to release a payment. This is proprietary information unique to Amazon. The following is based on publicly available information and trends we have observed.
As an Amazon seller, getting access to your money can be a frustrating experience. It’s normal for sellers to wait at least 14 days to get paid. If Amazon decides to hold back your money for even longer, it puts you in a tight spot with cash flow. It’s frustrating not knowing when your hard-earned payouts are going to hit your bank account.
Have you ever wondered why there’s a 14 day delay in the first place? Why do you sometimes have to wait even longer than two weeks for payment?
To help you answer these questions (and more), we put together the definitive guide on understanding how Amazon pays its sellers. We cover Amazon’s payment terms, when and how you’ll actually get paid, how you can initiate early payments, what your cash flow options are, and more.
When you have a better understanding of Amazon payouts and unavailable balances, you can take better control over your income — and your business’ growth. Let’s get started!
What are Amazon’s Seller Payment Terms?
In most situations, Amazon pays you every two weeks. Each payment includes 14 days of your orders (less Amazon’s fees) that were delivered at least 7 days ago.
The actual dates of each payout will depend on when you signed up as a seller. This means that Amazon doesn’t necessarily initiate payments on the 1st and 15th of each month like some marketplaces do.
Amazon pays proceeds out 7 days after the latest estimated delivery date because they value customer satisfaction. Holding your payouts for some time allows your buyers to assess their orders for any issues.
If a customer is dissatisfied and asks for a return within that 7-day window, it will be processed from the funds that Amazon has on hold.
Amazon’s Seller Payment Cycle
Here’s a sample timeline from Amazon about the payout schedule:
It’s common to wait more than 14 days for your payment.
Here are a few reasons why:
- If orders are delivered within 7 days of your payout date, the balance will roll over into the next payment period.
- Actual money transfers can take 3-5 business days to post to your account. So every 14 days when Amazon typically pays you.
- Amazon might hold back all or part of your payment for more than 14 days as an “unavailable balance” or “account level reserve” (more on this below).
How do Amazon Payment Transfers Work — and When Will You Get Your Funds?
When all is said and done, you might not get your payouts for 17-19 business days after making a sale. Let’s break it down:
Amazon uses only one method of payment: ACH transfers to your bank account. Because these are not Same Day ACH transfers, you can expect to see your funds in your bank account within 5 business days. Whether it’s the next day or the fifth day depends on the bank you use and the type of account you have.
According to Amazon, “Transfers can take 3-5 business days to complete. The current amount displayed is an estimate and may vary from the amount transferred based on new activity in your seller account, including: product sales, fees, refunds, chargebacks, and A-to-z Guarantee Claims.”
This 3-5 business days is in addition to the 14 day payout cycle, hence why you could end up waiting nearly 20 days for payment.
Regardless of how long payment takes to post, you’ll see a deposit labeled in one of two ways (or you might see two individual deposits):
1. “Amazon Payments, Inc.” covers transactions where buyers agree to pay on or before the shipment of goods.
2. “Amazon Services LLC” includes transactions where buyers agree to pay after shipment.
What is the Request Transfer Button?
Eligible Amazon sellers will have a Request Transfer button in their Amazon dashboard.
The Request Transfer button initiates a payment transfer before your regularly scheduled payout date.
However, this doesn’t necessarily mean you’re getting paid early.
Instead, you’re initiating a transfer of the current available payout (i.e. of orders delivered 7-10 days ago that are available on the day you hit the button). The whole amount you see in your account essentially shows you what you WILL have available — in other words, it includes the funds for all orders, not just those marked delivered.
Once you initiate a Request Transfer, the normal payment period closes and a new two-week cycle begins. So, you are effectively pushing out the date of full payment to get a portion of it early.
Let’s consider this example:
- You have a pending balance of $5,000, which is scheduled to be transferred on the 30th.
- It’s the 20th and you need a boost in cash flow, so you hit Request Transfer.
- On the 20th, $1,000 of the balance that has been marked delivered for 7+ days is available for transfer.
- This transfer of $1,000 is expected to show in your bank account in 3-5 business days.
- The remaining $4,000 will be deposited 14 days from the 20th (not on the 30th as originally scheduled).
Here are a few other key considerations about the Request Transfer button:
- You can choose to “Request Transfer” every 24 hours. Each new request will initiate a transfer of the remaining balance that is available that day (again, not the full balance).
- Some fees (like shipping) might be deducted from the amount of your requested transfer.
- Similar to a regular Amazon ACH transfer, a requested transfer may not hit your account for 3-5 additional business days.
Always keep in mind that every time you hit the Request Transfer button it resets your payment date for another 14 days.
Some sellers use the Request Transfer button to increase their payment frequency — i.e. to get daily payouts or weekly payouts. While you may initiate Amazon payments each day that you click the button, it does not necessarily mean that you’ll get daily payouts — or any payout for that matter. This is because Amazon might choose to not release funds on the day you request or to only release a portion of it.
If you’re unsure about whether or not to click the button, you may want to try out Request Transfer during a time when your cash flow is already flush. That way, if Amazon decides to NOT release funds and also resets your 14 day payout cycle, you won’t be too strapped for cash.
Amazon Daily Payouts vs. Next-Day Payouts: What’s the Difference?
You may hear about other Amazon sellers having daily or next-day payouts — or maybe you’re even one of them. But what does this actually mean? Such payouts could happen in a variety of ways. Let’s take a look.
Daily payouts from Amazon can be a reality if you have access to the Request Transfer button and click it every day. In this case, you are getting paid every day. But, these Amazon payments are not real-time or next-day. This is because there’s still a 14+ day delay from the date your sales closed and inventory was scanned, shipped and delivered. So, if you have a big sales day, you’ll still need to wait 14+ days to access those funds.
Next-day payouts can only happen in one of two ways:
Grandfathered Accounts: If you’ve been selling on Amazon for 10+ years, you may get paid for your sales the next day or shortly after. Amazon used to offer this to all sellers, but as the platform grew, issues with fraudulent products also increased. So in an effort to cut back on fraud, Amazon moved to longer payment terms for most sellers. If you were grandfathered in, consider yourself lucky.
Instant Access from Payability: For everyone else, the other way to get daily real-time payouts is with a financing solution like Payability’s Instant Access, which pays sellers one business day after shipping a sale. Instant Access levels the playing field for sellers that need faster access to their payouts in order to keep up with demand.
So how exactly does Payability Instant Access work? Every morning after Amazon’s sales day closes, Payability purchases the receivable that is owed to you by Amazon, and makes up to 80% of those funds available the next day, everyday (even weekends and holidays). With Instant Access, if you have $1,000 in your account on Monday, you’ll get $800 of it on Tuesday (the remaining $200 is kept on hold to cover any necessary returns or chargebacks and is then paid out according to your regular payout schedule).
You can spend your advanced funds on the Payability Seller Card immediately, or transfer to your bank the same business day with Same Day ACH transfer. You can also transfer funds to your bank account in seconds (24/7/365) for an additional fee.
With next-day access to your sales, you can improve your cash flow, turn inventory more quickly, stay ahead of the competition, and grow your business faster.
To qualify for Instant Access, you must have a minimum of 3 months of Amazon selling history and average monthly sales of $2,000 or more. Apply here to see if you qualify. There are no credit checks or obligations associated with applying.
What Is an Amazon Unavailable Balance (Account Level Reserve)?
Many Amazon sellers deal with an unavailable balance on their Payments report. But what exactly is it?
Please note that Amazon recently changed the name of “Unavailable Balance” to “Account Level Reserve” in your account.
The unavailable balance (account level reserve) is the amount of money Amazon sets aside to cover any claims or chargebacks. It occurs when Amazon holds back all or part of your payment for more than 14 days.
Why does Amazon reserve any of your balance? It’s a way for them to combat fraud. In the past, scam sellers took advantage of Amazon before there was any holding period.
Scam sellers would sell a large amount of inventory for low prices and long delivery times. They could collect their sales money and then disappear before Amazon knew what was going on. Amazon then had to deal with angry customers and issue refunds themselves.
Today, Amazon issues normal payouts seven days after the expected delivery date, which gives the customer enough time to make a necessary return or complaint.
But, with an unavailable balance (now called account level reserve), you have to wait twice as long or more. The payout of an unavailable balance could roll over into your next payout or continue to be held for several payouts.
Why Unavailable Balances Happen on Your Amazon Account
To see if you have an unavailable balance, look in the Closing Balance section of the Statement View on your Payments report.
There could be a variety of reasons for your unavailable balance. Typically, it will fall into one of these categories (or could be a combination of them):
Order delivery issue or delay: If Amazon is awaiting order delivery confirmation, they’ll post an unavailable balance to your account in case the buyer in question makes a return or files a claim/chargeback. Amazon wants to make sure there are funds available to process such claims.
A-to-z Guarantee claim or chargeback: If a buyer files an A-to-z Guarantee claim or if you have any chargebacks from transactions in the last 30 days, you might see an unavailable balance. For A-to-z claims, the reserve will be released as soon as there’s a resolution, but could take up to 14 days or longer. For chargebacks, the funds will be released after they’re processed.
Seller performance: If your performance metrics fall below Amazon’s benchmarks, you should expect an unavailable balance. After all, a drop in metrics is typically accompanied by an increase in claims, chargebacks, and returns.
Account review: If there’s a sudden change in your sales or account activity, or if you’re new to selling and have an estimated delivery time that’s longer than your settlement period, Amazon will launch an account review and post an unavailable balance. This can ever occur as a result of positive changes to your account like a sudden increase in sales. In this case, Amazon may want to hold back some of your funds to make sure you can fulfill an increased amount of orders accurately and on time.
You can go to your Account Health page in Seller Central to learn more about your specific reason.
How to Avoid Amazon Unavailable Balances
To avoid an unavailable balance in the future, run an audit of your account, including your overall seller performance, customer feedback, fulfillment updates, etc.
If any areas are concerning you, try to find the root of the problem so you can fix it before Amazon holds your payments even longer. But, keep in mind that you can do everything “right” and still end up with an unavailable balance (now known as account level reserve).
If you sell in verticals such as shoes or clothing where returns and exchanges are more frequent due to sizing issues, unavailable balances can be difficult to avoid even if your other metrics are outstanding.
And if you do have an unavailable balance, keep reading for tips to help you through it.
What to Do If You Have an Amazon Unavailable Balance
An unavailable balance can be a huge setback for any seller trying to grow on Amazon. For one thing, you’re not getting paid at the time you expected. And, you likely won’t have a sense for how long Amazon will take to resolve your unavailable balance (or Account Level Reserve) issue and disperse your funds.
Marketplace sellers that receive a significant portion of their revenue from Amazon sales may need that unavailable balance to order inventory, make payroll, pay credit cards or invest in marketing.
While this all sounds overwhelming, you do have options. Here are six ways to overcome an unavailable balance and the pros and cons of each:
1. Ask for an increased credit card limit
Pros: Fast way to get increased access to cash/spending power; you may need a larger limit in the future anyway
Cons: If you use your credit card irresponsibly, you might find yourself unable to pay down your balance; you might end up relying on that unavailable balance to pay off your credit card bill (and it might not be released by your payment due date — or it won’t be enough to cover your full credit card balance)
2. Get a bank term loan
Pros: Low interest rates, long/favorable payment terms
Cons: Small businesses may not qualify (in fact, approval rates for small online businesses are very low); the application process is long and tedious, often taking longer than you have to wait for funds
3. Get an online business loan
Pros: Quick and easy application process; higher approval rates for small and online businesses
Cons: High interest rates and short payment terms
4. Tap into your savings
Pros: Immediate access to cash, without the need for an application or interest payments
Cons: Your savings may not be enough (or you may not have any to begin with); savings can take years to, well, save for and tapping into the funds should be your absolute last resort.
5. Ask suppliers for longer payment terms
Pros: You could get the inventory you need right away
Cons: This is not a long term solution and may end up being more expensive; you still might not have your payout when payment is due to your supplier; your supplier might not even agree to longer payment terms
6. Sign up for Payability’s Instant Access
Pros: As mentioned above, Instant Access is a fast, easy, and long-term solution to seller cash flow issues. You’ll receive your own money faster,
Cons: Additional fees on rollover balances
Payability Instant Access can solve your unavailable balance issue in 24 hours and acts somewhat like insurance against future unavailable balances or cash constraints that can hinder your growth. The application process is fast, simple and requires no credit checks, tax documents or waiting time. Approval is based on account health and sales performance. Once approved, you’ll receive up to 80% of whatever is currently in your Amazon payout the same day or the next day depending on the time of day your application is approved. You will continue to receive 80% of yesterday’s scanned and shipped sales each day. You can transfer all or some of your balance to your bank account with a same-day ACH transfer or spend it on the Seller Card and earn up to 2% cash back. The remaining 20% stays in a reserve to cover returns and chargebacks and is released to you when Amazon releases a payment (usually every 14 days).
Businesses that use Instant Access always know exactly when they are going to get paid and that’s the next day, every day. Instant Access is both a long term and short term solution to an unavailable balance or gap in cash flow. Since you’re just getting your own money faster, Instant Access is a great way to fund your growth without taking on the risk of debt or the risk of another unavailable balance when you were counting on a payout to cover your next round of inventory, credit card bill or operating expenses. As long as you continue to sell, Payability will continue to advance your funds the next day, every day.
Do keep in mind that Instant Access does come at a fee of 1-2% of sales depending on sales volume, your length of time as a Payability customer, and more. In the event of an unavailable balance, Payability will charge fees again on the money that Amazon rolls over into the next pay period. This is done because Payability must take a risk on the money again. Like you, we have no idea when Amazon will actually release your unavailable balance (or any payment for that matter) so we do need to charge fees on unavailable balances again in order to cover the additional risk and our cost of capital. While additional fees are never ideal, the ability to get consistent payouts even if Amazon decides to hold them back for more than 14 days, absolutely outweighs the additional fees as it gives you more control over your business and eliminates the financing roadblocks that often hold small businesses back. Platforms such as Amazon have created seemingly unlimited consumer demand. So faster access to sales revenue is essential to businesses looking to keep up – unavailable balance or not.
If you need to buy more inventory or need to cover more expenses than what is waiting in your Amazon payout, a Payability Instant Advance is also an option if you’re faced with an unavailable balance or just need to buy a large amount of inventory before your busy season. With Instant Advance, Payability buys a certain amount of your future receivables up front and at a discount, giving you a large lump sum of cash.. The actual amount is typically 75 – 150% of one month of your marketplace sales revenue (up to $250,000). Rates start at 0.75% per week with no origination fees and there are early payment rebates for every week your advance is paid off early. Minimum qualifications for Instant Advance include: at least 9 months of selling history and average monthly sales of $10,000. As with Instant Access, there are no credit checks and you can get approved for an advance in 24 hours.
Taking Control of Your Payouts & Cash Flow with Payability
When all is said and done, if payment delays and rollover balances are a problem for your business, Payability could be the right solution for you and applying is easy. Whether you want to overcome an unavailable balance or another cash flow issue that’s cramping your growth you could get approved for Instant Access or an Instant Advance and have cash in hand in as fast as 24 hours without a single credit check or tax document.
Simply submit an application, connect your marketplaces/eCommerce selling channels and Payability will evaluate your business based on your overall account health and sales performance — not your credit. In fact, your credit won’t be pulled at all. Once approved, you could see your funds that same day.