New App Turns iPhone Into A Mobile Payment System For Tri-State Meals

Total Food Service sat down with Tina Bennett, Vice President of Online Payment Systems to talk about the new App MyPaymentsPlus. The free MyPaymentsPlus app by Horizon Software International – developers of the popular online prepayment system for school meal, service and activity fees gives districts another convenient, secure way to facilitate meal payments for parents.

The MyPaymentsPlus app is a natural extension of, which serves more than 500 school districts and 1.8 million users across the country. Simplicity and security are at the core of the MyPaymentsPlus app. MyPaymentsPlus provides an easy-to-use, efficient way to make payments quickly and securely anytime using a simple Internet connection. You can say goodbye to the hassles of sending in multiple checks to multiple locations for multiple students. It can all be done with one payment on MyPaymentsPlus. MyPaymentsPlus also allows the ability to receive free low balance emails and in most cases view the purchases made in the cafeteria online. Horizon Software International, LLC is a global leader in software, services and technologies for food service operations. With more than 15,000 installations worldwide, Horizon has a solution for any food service entity including healthcare, colleges, retirement communities and K–12 schools. Total Food recently spoke with Horizon Software’s Vice President of online payment systems, Tina Bennett, to explain MyPaymentsPlus and its benefits.

Where did the idea for “MPP” come from?
Horizon Software launched the first generation of MyPaymentsPlus in 2003 as an online meal-payment solution. While its branded name has changed and functionality evolved over the years, its purpose has remained the same: To remove administrative hassles that help school districts maximize participation in their programs and activities. Today, MyPaymentsPlus is a robust platform that is used by hundreds of school districts across the country, including some of the nation’s largest to accept and process:
General Payments 
Accept payment for yearbooks, field trips, athletics, before school and after-school care, and more.
Student Billing:
Easily bill a specific student for fees that are owed such as library fines, lost or damaged text books, and more.
Open House/Orientation: 
Post important back-to-school information online: media release forms, Internet terms-of-use forms, and even handbooks. Also post back-to-school contributions, parking permits, locker fees, PTA signups, and more.

Advanced Placement Exams:
 Handle Advanced Placement Exam registration and payments for the entire district or school. MyPaymentsPlus follows the guidelines set forth by the College Board, making it easy to submit all required information.

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Summer School:
 Post summer school classes for easy online registration and payment. This module can also be used for online schools.

Meal Payments
 Used in conjunction with Horizon’s Cafeteria Point of Sale (POS) System. 
Allow parents to see meal account balances, make payments, create low-balance reminders, and set up automatic payments. Parents can also view what their children purchased in the cafeteria.

In July, Horizon software released the MyPaymentsPlus app for iPhone and iPad – the nation’s first mobile application that allows parents to make their children’s meal payments from a smart phone or tablet. The app also allows parents to see what food their children choose in the cafeteria. Horizon is also developing the MyPaymentsPlus app for Android phones and tablets.

How has this function been handled by schools prior to the rollout of MPP?
Schools that do not have an automated system like MyPaymentsPlus in place typically accept meal payments via cash or check in the cafeteria. Those payments must then be totaled, balanced, and submitted to the bank for processing which requires extensive time, drains resources, slows cash flow, and slows cafeteria lines.
MyPaymentsPlus alleviates administrative burdens and does the work for the school system. It collects prepayments from parents; processes those payments at the time of purchase; and applies them to the district’s account. The addition of new technology, like the MyPaymentsPlus app, is another tool districts can use to increase participation in their meal programs. It makes it quick and easy for parents to keep their children’s account balances current.

Do you have any projections in terms of spike in sales at schools using MPP?
Hundreds of the school districts across the country, including some of the nation’s largest, use MyPaymentsPlus to process financial transactions for meals, activities, textbooks, and more. While every school district is unique, most districts using the MyPaymentsPlus platform have increased participation in their school-meal programs – meaning more revenue for the district.

Based on that projection, what is a reasonable time for payback on the system?
MyPaymentsPlus helps districts reduce cash handling, increase participation and reduce the amount of time spent processing prepayments through:

  • Reduced cash handling and shrinkage
  • Increased participation—thus increasing revenue;
  • Improved line speed due to pre-paid accounts;
  • Minimized student balance calls to the district;
  • Reduced number of payments for the staff to process;
  • Positive publicity because of this cutting-edge solution being offered;
  • Enhanced wellness programs through the MyPaymentsPlus parental monitoring features;
  • Eliminated up-front costs – districts don’t have to worry about: banking and credit card processing costs, technical support, integration with the POS, application hosting and wire transfers; and
  • Comprehensive marketing program assists districts with communication to the community.

The payback certainly depends on the usage of the system and marketing efforts, but generally payback is within the first month of usage.

How can the school use the system to market its menus to parents?
Each district’s MyPaymentsPlus includes an area where special information can be featured. Many districts choose to feature their menus in this area. In addition, Horizon Software’s SourceBoard – a high-resolution flat screen – helps schools promote their menus in an engaging manner through graphics, photos, colorful fonts, and creative layouts that excite students and parents about the food choices that are available.

If the parent pays at home with their iphone how does that funnel down to the student and lunchroom personnel?
Prepaid funds are instantly transferred to the district point of sale where they remain until the student needs to access the funds. Expended funds are batched nightly and transferred to the district’s designated bank account. Horizon Software’s Point of Sale systems fully integrate with MyPaymentsPlus to offer districts a comprehensive, seamless solution.

What sort of training and support are available for a local school district?
All school districts undergo extensive training to utilize back-end functions to their fullest potential. Continuous technical support is available to districts through our in-house call center, as well as dedicated resources that help districts market the MyPaymentsPlus solution to parents.

Any schools and districts in the New York area?
Currently, there are a total of 218 schools and 124,000 students in the New York area using Horizon’s MyPaymentsPlus.