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Safeguarding funds to help manage risk in the travel industry

COVID led many tour operators to offer additional flexibility for bookings.

While this won’t continue in all cases (British Airways recently announced the end of their flexible booking policy), consumers affected by COVID cancellations are still likely to remain wary, and are more likely to ask questions about a tour operator’s processes if things do go wrong.  

This means it’s more important than ever to be transparent with customers about the ways you’re protecting them. Funds safeguarding is an important part of that process, giving your customers the confidence that, should the worst happen and your firm goes out of business, their funds are protected. There are also broader benefits to your business and your brand from doing so. 

Legal requirements for funds safeguarding

Legally, tour operators must arrange financial security to protect funds paid for package holidays sold in the UK in the case that they go out of business, as well as legal protection to ensure that customers receive the services they paid for. Arrangers of “linked travel arrangements”, where multiple travel services are purchased separately by the same supplier, must also arrange financial protection in the event they go bust, although passengers booking via this method don’t receive the same level of legal protection as those booking package holidays. 

Outside of those two situations, there are no legal requirements to offer safeguarding of your customers’ funds. However, having a clear policy on how your customers are protected in the case of unexpected problems is likely to remain a strong trust factor, increasing conversion and improving the way customers perceive your brand. 

Methods of safeguarding

Tour operators and other travel providers can arrange financial protection for their customers’ funds in a number of ways. The one customers are most familiar with is through membership of a financial protection scheme such as ABTA or ABTOT. Bookings including a  flight are also covered by the ATOL scheme, administered by the Civil Aviation Authority. 

Travel companies can also take out insurance to cover them in the case of financial failure. Alternatively, they can choose to deposit customer funds into a safeguarding account.

How does a safeguarding account work?

A safeguarding account separates customers’ payments towards non-completed bookings from the rest of a travel company’s finances, holding the funds securely until a customer’s trip has been completed. At this point, they’re released to the travel company and become part of their regular cashflow.

It’s not enough for travel companies to simply set up a separate account for customer funds. A trust account needs to be managed independently to guarantee to consumers that the funds won’t be used by the business before they’ve fully discharged their contractual obligations, preventing pending funds being lost if a firm finds itself in financial difficulties. 

Why choose a safeguarding account over insurance?

When big shifts happen in the travel industry, insurers feel the pinch. Since Thomas Cook’s collapse in 2019 followed by the pandemic, many insurers have left the market, causing an increase in insurance premiums and making it harder for travel companies to access appropriate insurance products. 

Depending on a company’s circumstances, holding customer funds in a safeguarding account could be a more cost-effective method of keeping funds secure, as the cost of maintaining the account could be cheaper than rising insurance premiums.  

A safeguarding account also removes the need to go through the process of claiming against an insurance policy if things go wrong – the money is already there, ready to refund to customers. This gives a strong level of consumer protection as there’s no risk that an insurer chooses not to pay out (or goes bust themselves and is unable to). It also means that travel firms can choose to offer protection for a wider range of circumstances if they wish – insurance typically only refunds customers in the event that the tour operator they’ve booked with goes bust. 

Why use safeguarding over bonding?

Most customers are familiar with the idea of a bonded tour operator – somebody who, as a member of a scheme like ABTA or ABTOT, has financial protection in place in case of their failure. However, claiming funds back via these schemes can be time-consuming and stressful, and again, schemes can come under pressure when there are large-scale issues within the travel industry. 

Safeguarding funds directly can offer an extra benefit that sets a travel company apart from its competition – going the extra mile to protect customers’ funds not only boosts your brand’s trust and increases conversion in the short term, but it can help you to protect your reputation in crisis situations, allowing you to refund customers quickly and efficiently. 

Boost your financial stability by safeguarding funds

While insurance or membership of a scheme like ABTA can fulfil your legal obligations as a tour operator and keep your company safe if things go wrong, safeguarding funds directly can actually help to ensure that your company is more financially stable in the long term. 

By actively segregating pending funds from actual profit, you can maintain a clearer picture of your business’s finances and avoid inadvertently getting into a situation where you’re using customer funds as working capital. This means that if the worst does happen in the form of a future travel crisis, your business is on solid financial footing, and is as well-placed as it can be to weather the storm. 

Secure safeguarding accounts with B4B

As part of the Banking Circle group of companies, B4B Payments’ corporate payment accounts give you everything you need to manage your travel company’s payments effectively. From accepting payments in multiple currencies to making fast, cost-effective cross-border payments to suppliers or tour guides, our accounts help you streamline your payment processes and reduce costs. 

Our safeguarding account functionality also offers a secure method of storing customer funds ahead of their trips, offering them full confidence that their payments are being held securely and independently, and that they’ll receive a refund if anything goes wrong. With full transparency and oversight and support from our team of payments experts, we can support you to ensure that customer funds are held safely and compliantly. 

To find out more about B4B Payments’ safeguarding accounts, get in touch today. 

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How fintech can streamline processes in freight logistics

Freight logistics is an exercise in extreme process optimisation, in search of the most efficient and effective approach to maximise reliability and profit.

Payments and account processes can add a significant amount of time to your processes, but many freight firms still rely on paper invoices and old-fashioned expense management. Streamlining your internal payment processes can help your operations run quickly and seamlessly, saving time for your drivers and your accounts team whilst helping you to present a professional image to your clients.  

Simplify lumper fees with virtual prepaid cards

An unpredictable element of freight logistics is the payment of “lumper fees” – payments made to casual workers for helping to load or unload vehicles. Often, paying lumper fees is left down to truck drivers themselves, who need to carry cash and front the payments themselves before claiming them back as expenses. Not only does this add pressure to your drivers’ finances, it could leave them open to financial loss – carrying cash can be risky. 

Instead of requiring drivers to find their own solutions to pay lumper fees, virtual prepaid cards could offer a fast and secure alternative. Cards can be loaded with funds instantly and delivered to an individual’s email address, giving them the option to spend their funds in millions of locations worldwide. This saves your drivers the stress of making payments themselves, and gives you full transparency and control over lumper fee payments. 

Streamline driver expenses

While most logistics firms use a fuel card scheme to make savings on fuel costs, truck drivers incur a wide range of other expenses as part of their job, and they’re often expected to cover these costs themselves and claim them back as expenses later. From food and accommodation to vehicle repairs and consumables, these costs can add up, and could put pressure on your team’s finances, reducing their engagement and risking increased turnover of hard-to-find professional drivers, as well as causing significant issues and delays if a driver is unable to meet an unexpected expense themselves. 

Broadening your payment card system to incorporate a wider range of expenses than just fuel could make your drivers’ lives significantly easier, and help your day-to-day operations run more smoothly. With prepaid expense cards auto-topped up to a predefined limit, your drivers will never find themselves struggling to pay for essentials when on the road. With the ability to instantly upload photo receipts via a cardholder app, they’ll also save time processing lengthy expense claims, and make your finance team’s reconciliation considerably easier too. 

Make fast, seamless international payments

If you’re in the process of scaling your freight logistics firm, you’ll know just how important trust is in the industry. Your clients need to believe that you’ll do what you say you will, and communicating that trustworthy appearance means being reliable not only in the execution of your contracts but in all the services and interactions that surround it. 

There’s nothing worse than starting out on a contract with a new client only to have the relationship tarnished by payment issues. Even though payment delays can happen and they’re often not your fault, the added stress can make it harder to establish trust and project a professional image, particularly if you’re a new entrant to the market. 

It makes sense, then, to ensure that your payment processes are as robust and reliable as possible, particularly if you’re transferring funds internationally. While high street banks can charge high fees for payments which can take days to go through, a specialist payment provider can give you access to a range of different payment protocols, with faster settlement times and no hidden fees. A specialist provider can also offer easier management of bulk payments, minimising the risk of slip-ups within your payment team, too.

Offer instant bank payment options

If you’re receiving large payments regularly, card fees can start to add up and over time can be a significant drag on your bottom line. It’s tempting to encourage clients to make bank transfer payments instead, but these can be harder to keep track of, not to mention slower. If an urgent job is in the offing, waiting for a bank transfer to be confirmed could cause unacceptable delays, leaving card fees as the only option.

New technology based on Open Banking could help your company to accept bank transfers even when time is of the essence. A new breed of fintech companies, called PISPS (payment initiation service providers), offer direct bank transfer as a payment option alongside card payments. Your clients go through a checkout process similar to making a card payment except that the payment is taken directly from their bank account. You’ll get instant confirmation as soon as the transfer is confirmed, meaning you can get on with the job in the full confidence that your payment has been received. 

Transform your freight logistics payments with B4B

Whatever stage of growth your freight firm is at, B4B Payments’ advanced corporate payment solutions can help you make your payment processes faster and cheaper. From flexible prepaid cards to make expense management a breeze through to advanced corporate payment accounts offering fast, affordable international payments, we can support your business to build a global presence with cutting-edge technology and expert guidance. 

To find out more about how we can help, contact us today.   

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How fintech is transforming the insurance industry

Insurance technology attracted a record $15bn in funding in 2021, cementing itself as a big player in the fintech space.

Insuretech is set to transform almost every aspect of the industry, from quotes through to claims handling, with immense potential to offer customers a more flexible, tailored experience. Better still, insuretech tools can also help to streamline internal processes for insurers, minimising time-consuming admin and maximising profit margins. 

Flexible and on-demand cover

The digitalisation of the insurance industry is most apparent in the increased flexibility available in insurance products. As well as purchasing cover online, customers can quickly make changes to their policies on-demand, reducing strain on call centres as well as providing a better overall customer experience. 

Another fertile path for insuretech is on-demand insurance, allowing learner drivers to purchase coverage on a car owned by themselves or somebody else for just a few hours – perfect for those who only need to drive once or twice a week to practice, and for whom a full annual policy might be prohibitively expensive. 

Artificial intelligence

AI technology is transforming a huge variety of industries, offering the potential to streamline laborious manual processes and complete simple tasks without the need for human intervention.

While in some areas the use of AI is controversial – recruitment, for example, where AI CV screening services are under scrutiny for potentially introducing bias into the process – there are other areas where machine learning technologies can outperform even the most skilled human brains. 

Insurance underwriting is one such area. With the ability to analyse huge datasets to identify trends and uncover new insights, AI is supporting insurers to increase efficiency and assess risk levels more effectively.

AI is also rapidly finding a home in other areas of insurance too, for example AI chatbots to answer simple customer queries and escalate more complex ones to the right team.

Embedded insurance

Embedded finance is the integration of banking systems into non-banking organisations – for example, the addition of “buy now pay later” or instant finance options on purchases, built directly into a retailer’s checkout process. Similarly, embedded insurance is on the rise, and is predicted to be worth over $700bn by 2030

Embedded insurance can be highly visible, for example, offering cancellation coverage during event ticket purchases for an additional fee. However, the greatest potential for embedded insurance lies in more subtle applications. For example, insurance which is automatically bundled with short-term car hire or e-scooter rental means that consumers can simply rent their vehicle without the hassle of arranging separate coverage. 

Instant payouts

The insurance claims process can be a lengthy one, causing stress for customers as well as a drain on insurance companies’ profits through the large amount of manual work involved. It’s no surprise, then, that insuretech companies are targeting this part of the insurance process to make it more streamlined and efficient.

Claims processing is another area where artificial intelligence is coming to the fore. For simple claims, an AI-driven process can scrape data from documentation provided by a customer and, if it meets the required standard, process an instant payout. 

This process not only saves significant resource time, freeing up claims assessors to focus on more complex cases, but can reduce instances of payouts being challenged or rejected. The faster an insurance claim is settled, the lower the likelihood that a customer will challenge the payout, and this can reduce the overall value of claims paid out, significantly increasing profit margins.

Make faster, easier insurance payouts with B4B Payments

With such a wide range of potential benefits, it’s easy to see why insurance firms are turning to technology to fuel their business growth. With B4B Payments’ end-to-end payment offering, we offer everything you need to build your own embedded finance offering, from flexible payment accounts through to instant payments on easy-to-use prepaid cards.

To find out more about B4B Payments’ services for insurers, get in touch today. 

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The new rules of customer loyalty: how to keep your customers engaged

The past couple of years have accelerated digital adoption at breakneck speed, and changed customer behaviour and expectations like never before.

McKinsey described the effect of the COVID-19 pandemic on consumer behaviour as like covering “a decade in days”, with a rapid shift away from cash to contactless, from in-person to online, and from single-channel to seamless digital integration.

While not all the changes brought about by the pandemic are expected to stick, in some areas there’s no going back. In particular, customers have become accustomed to slick digital experiences, flexibility and personalisation as default, and as always, they’re comparing your brand against a benchmark made up of industry leaders. 

This shift in expectations is as true of loyalty programmes as any other area of your business. 70% of customers now say retailers should use technology to make their rewards programmes more effective. 

So how can brands upgrade their loyalty and rewards programmes to keep customers engaged?

Offer flexibility

Click and collect, fast free delivery, a full mobile experience – customers have never expected more from your brand. During the pandemic, many brands chose to offer more generous terms on loyalty points, extending their expiry dates or expanding their utility. 

While this was a short-term response to the pandemic, either to cover a period during which services were unavailable for air miles schemes, or to encourage alternative options like click and collect compared to redeeming points in-store, it’s likely to stick in customers’ minds. Points which expire too quickly or discounts with too many conditions attached could lose their shine, so consider ways to shake up your scheme and offer your customers more flexibility in how they redeem their rewards. 

Respect customer privacy

Third party data collected via cookies is on the out, with a steady stream of legislation making it harder for brands to gather insights without customers’ express consent. 

While many brands are struggling to imagine a future without their Analytics data, others see it as an opportunity to build stronger relationships with their best customers, choosing instead to focus on collecting “zero party data”, provided directly by customers. 

A loyalty or rewards programme can be an amazing way of building relationships with your customers, giving them a reason to share their data with you in the form of a reward or a clear benefit. Being fully transparent about how you use this data and how it benefits your customers is key – if you use previous purchase data to remind customers when they might be about to run out of a product, or ask for information about their interests and background to make sure you’re offering them discounts on things they could actually use, chances are they’ll be happy to participate. 

Move to tech-enabled schemes

While the benefits offered are a key factor in the success of your loyalty or reward programme, it’s also vital to make sure that customers are able to redeem their rewards in a way that works for them. Increasingly, consumers are turning towards digital payment methods over physical cards. 

Although a real-life card can still serve as a great reminder of your brand every time your customer opens their wallet), 54% of consumers expect to be able to make payments with digital wallets, so ensuring your incentive or reward cards which are compatible with Google or Apple Pay could make it easier for your customers to keep them to hand. 

Similarly, apps can be a valuable method of staying front-of-mind with your customers – 61% would download a retailer’s app to receive better loyalty rewards, and 57% would be more likely to shop if the loyalty programme linked automatically with their payment card. 

Focus on emotional engagement

The buzzword for customer experience during the pandemic was empathy – understanding that both customers and brands were going through a once-in-a-lifetime experience, and working together to get through the associated challenges. While the stakes today aren’t quite as high, empathy is likely to remain high on the agenda as customers struggle with a cost of living crisis and have to make hard decisions about their day-to-day spending. 

For brands, presenting a sympathetic ear to customers is the best way of building loyalty and weathering what’s likely to be yet another challenging period for retailers. 81% of consumers want a relationship with the brands they buy from, and loyalty programmes are a perfect way of establishing and strengthening that. By building a picture of your customers with first-party data and offering personalised content and rewards, your brand can connect with them on an individual level and help move their view of you from disposable to indispensable. 

Build personalised loyalty schemes with B4B Payments

Whatever your customers value, our prepaid cards can help you design a loyalty scheme that’ll keep them engaged with your brand.

Our fully-branded prepaid cards can be delivered physically or virtually, for a physical reminder of your brand they can carry in their wallets or an effortless addition to their Google or Apple Pay. 

Set your cards for use in your own stores, a range of partner stores, or leave them fully open to use in millions of locations worldwide. Offer instant loading of rewards so customers get their incentives immediately, and top up funds over and over again to keep them coming back for more. 

To find out more about how our payment cards can help you build the perfect customer loyalty scheme, contact us and book your demo today.

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How to incentivise Gen Z employees

Gen Z is rapidly expanding their presence and influence in the workforce. The proportion of Gen Z – born between 1995 and 2012 – will increase to 27% by 2025, and like millennials, they’ll bring a different perspective to organisations across the globe.

While Gen Z are fundamentally still people, valuing much the same things as their older peers, they represent a continuation of an accelerating trend towards digitalisation, personalisation and flexibility. While all employees and consumers are expecting more, Gen Z have never known anything different, and this means that they’re less willing to make do with processes and approaches they see as outdated. 

Keeping up with Gen Z employees means embracing the best of what digital has to offer. Here are some ways to keep them engaged: 

Use digital as standard

While a lot of millennials are digital natives – they grew up using digital technology and don’t see it as anything new or exciting – Gen Z take this to a whole new level. While older millennials will remember a time before digital was widespread, and most will remember using clunky older systems or brick-shaped mobile phones, Gen Z has never known a time when technology wasn’t ever-present, fast and seamless. 

This means they have a whole new level of expectation when it comes to how your business uses technology, and very little patience for outdated computer systems or physical processes. While millennial employees can adapt, Gen Z are digital by default, and will think less of your company if you’re not able to meet their expectations. 

For firms who are bringing in Gen Z employees for the first time, this presents both a challenge and an opportunity. Your younger team members won’t tolerate inefficient or non-user-friendly processes – and really, why should they, or any of your other employees? While older employees might have been willing to make do, Gen Z could be the push your organisation needs to redesign its processes and move to modern, digital systems across the board, with wide-ranging benefits to your entire business. 

Offer flexible payment options

Raised in the era of fast delivery options, easy subscription services and on-demand access to everything from TV to taxis, Gen Z are hard-wired to prefer flexibility. This extends to their financial behaviour too – 42% of Gen Z members used a buy-now-pay-later payment option in 2021, with 20% of those preferring to use a BNPL option over their existing credit card. 

With a more flexible approach to their finances across the board, Gen Z value getting what they want as soon as possible. This even extends to their salaries – 61% of Gen Z survey respondents said that they’d like their employer to offer a daily wage payment option, giving them the ability to manage their finances in a more agile manner. 

Full disclosure – it’s likely that a big reason for this is that Gen Z are still relatively new to the workforce, with many working casual or gig economy jobs and struggling to build a base of financial stability (daily payments make it easier to pay down overdrafts and loans earlier, saving interest). There’s no guarantee this preference will remain when they’ve moved into more established careers. However, offering on-demand wage payment via a prepaid card could be a great way of incentivising casual workers, allowing them to see the fruits of their labours as quickly as possible.

Offer community and connection

Gen Z’s entrance to the workforce has been anything but routine. With a global pandemic interrupting their early years in work, many have found themselves working remotely or under strict social distancing protocols. While remote working is here to stay, many younger employees are feeling the lack of social interaction with their colleagues, and surveys are showing that increasing numbers of them would prefer at least some in-person interaction at work. 

Even if your company does work fully remotely, building a sense of community and connection at work is vital for all your employees, but likely to have the most profound impact amongst those who are new to the world of work. By giving your younger team members a chance to interact with and learn from more established employees, you’ll not only help to boost their experience and skillset more quickly, but to keep them engaged and focussed on their work. Whether that’s through regular virtual catch-ups, hybrid working models or even enforced in-person working days for some teams, helping Gen Z to establish themselves in their careers is likely to require a careful balance of the benefits of remote working and in-person collaboration. 

Deliver personalised rewards

It’s no secret that Gen Z are champions of diversity and inclusion, with the most inclusive and accepting views of any generation yet. While this obviously means your company will need to be on top of its diversity policies, there’s a more subtle point here – a generation who are more open and accepting of individual expression is likely to be far more diverse in their preferences when it comes to rewards and incentives – and more outspoken when their expectations aren’t met. 

While earlier generations might shrug off a poorly-chosen gift with “it’s the thought that counts”, Gen Z have far higher expectations when it comes to personalisation. Gen Z’s priority is manifesting their individuality, and they value employers who respect this. 

This means that when it comes to incentives or rewards, it’s far better to offer the ability to choose than to take a risk at guessing, or even worse, offering up a one-size-fits-most option. With flexibility high on the agenda for Gen Z, open choice options like prepaid cards give all employees the opportunity to choose a reward that’s right for them, without being limited to a store which might not suit them. 

Offer employee flexibility with B4B Payments

The watchword for Gen Z is flexibility, and with B4B Payments you can make your payment, incentive and rewards processes more flexible than ever, keeping all your employees more engaged and happy. From exciting reward schemes based off our flexible virtual or physical prepaid cards to advanced payment processes that make it possible to pay your team daily if they prefer, our end-to-end payment solutions can help you deliver more for your team members.

To find out more about how we can help you incentivise your team, contact us today. 

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Modernise your scrap metal business with innovative payment processes

The scrap metal industry is worth £4bn in the UK alone, and continues to grow despite a challenging few years, including a drop in demand as a result of COVID and constraints on the price of scrap metal due to regulatory changes surrounding imports in China. 

High demand means that prices of metals are expected to continue to rise in spite of recent volatility, and a continued shift towards greener manufacturing methods such as EAF steel production is driving ongoing demand for recycled materials. 

While the future looks bright for the scrap metal recycling industry, high demand for metals like steel and aluminium is likely to drive increased competition amongst merchants, and wider market forces mean that while the overall trend is likely to be upwards, there could be some bumps along the way. 

To maximise profitability and performance of your scrap metal business, it’s important to make sure that your payment processes are as efficient and streamlined as possible – this not only reduces your manpower costs, but can help you to effectively manage compliance, keeping your business’s risk levels low.

Better still, an efficient, modern approach can help you deliver a better experience to your customers, encouraging loyalty and repeat business, and helping you stand out against the competition. 

So how can modernising your payments help drive the growth of your scrap metal business?

Make KYC compliance a breeze

With metal theft causing widespread issues from areas as diverse as trains to road signs, scrap metal dealers are subject to a range of legislation to ensure that they’re not inadvertently supporting metal theft. 

The 2013 Scrap Metal Dealers Act makes it illegal to buy scrap metal using cash, and requires dealers to verify the identity of all sellers by confirming photographic ID and proof of address. 

B4B Payments’ Bread4Scrap cards eliminate the need for scrap metal dealers to carry out these checks themselves – we handle it all when customers activate their Bread4Scrap card, and provide a full audit trail in our easy-to-use management platform. So, you can be fully confident that you’re meeting compliance requirements without the need to manually verify your customers’ documents. 

Instant payouts

Without the option to pay cash for scrap metal, dealers are often forced to resort to slower payment options like cheque or bank transfer. This can be frustrating for customers, who have to wait for cheques to clear, or anxiously watch for bank transfers hitting their account, days after their transaction has been completed. While it’s necessary to ensure compliance with Home Office legislation, these old-fashioned payment methods don’t deliver the best customer experience.

Prepaid cards like Bread4Scrap can transform the process. Instead of writing a cheque or sending a bank transfer, funds are loaded instantly onto a prepaid contactless MasterCard which your customers can use instantly. With the ability to spend in millions of physical or online locations worldwide or withdraw cash directly from an ATM, your customers get their funds instantly, with no waiting around. 

Alternatively, if customers don’t want to sign up for a card, you can use Bread4Scrap to make direct bank transfers, with lower transaction costs than your local bank. 

Encourage repeat custom

A huge benefit of a prepaid Bread4Scrap card is that they make repeat custom a breeze. Once a customer has activated their card and passed the Know Your Customer checks, cards can continue to be reloaded with more funds over and over again. 

This means that for existing customers, it’s likely to be far easier to return to your business than to go to a competitor, where they’ll need to go through the hassle of verifying their identity all over again. This encourages your customers to stay with you, in the knowledge that they’ll receive their funds instantly.

Better still – if a customer already has a Bread4Scrap card from another merchant, it’s easy to use the same card to add them to your system with minimal admin. 

Access easy reporting

A strong data strategy is vital to growing your business – understanding trends in performance and customer behaviour can give you the insights you need to spot new opportunities and take advantage of them, boosting your profitability. 

Bread4Scrap’s easy to use management platform gives you a comprehensive data reporting system, so you can easily track transaction data. It also integrates fully with FRED5 as well as a range of market leading accounting platforms, so you can automatically keep all your data in sync without the need to enter details multiple times.  

Transform your payment processes with Bread4Scrap from B4B Payments

Thousands of scrap metal recycling agents across the UK trust Bread4Scrap to make simple and secure cashless payments. With the ability to make fully compliant payments in minutes and no hidden fees, our system helps you stay in line with regulation and deliver an excellent customer experience. 

To find out more about how Bread4Scrap could work for you, get in touch today.