What Is the Average Collection Period?

average a/r collections period meeting

Last Updated May 17, 2024

Every business owner should work to ensure customers are paying invoices in a timely manner. Slow-paying customers can cause serious cash flow problems for any business, so it’s crucial to analyze how customer payment habits are affecting your company’s growth. To do this, you can calculate your average collection period ratio.

A company’s average collection period is an important metric that can help determine the average speed of customer payment and the overall efficiency of your accounts receivable process. Monitoring this metric can help a business determine if they have a collection problem than needs to be addressed.

Here’s everything you need to know about the average collection period, including the formula to measure your ratio and what it means for your company.

What Is the Average Collection Period?

The average collection period is the average amount of time it takes for a business to collect its receivables. In other words, it tells you the average number of days it takes for clients to pay their invoices or, more importantly, how long it takes to get cash for your outstanding accounts receivables.

Who Uses the Average Collection Period?

If your company relies heavily on receivables for cash flow, the average collection period ratio is an especially important metric. It can help determine whether enough cash is on hand to meet financial obligations. It is also an indicator of the effectiveness of the accounts receivable policy and whether it needs to be updated.

Average Collection Period Formula

To calculate the Average Collection Period ratio, you will need a few data points:

  • Days in Period: This can be any number of days, but most beneficial based on the number of days in the company’s credit policy that clients have to pay invoices.
  • Average Accounts Receivable: Use income statements to determine the total accounts receivables at the beginning and end of the collection period, add the two figures together, and divide that number in half.
  • Net Credit Sales: Refer to the balance sheet to get a total of all credit receivables and total returns for the period and then subtract the two figures.

Once you have gathered the necessary data, input the relative figures into the following average collection period formula:

(Days in Period X Average Accounts Receivable) ÷ Net Credit Sales = Average Collection Period

How Do Businesses Use the Average Collection Period Calculation?

There are three ways to use the average collection period to monitor the efficiency of accounts receivables collections. You can compare the ratio to previous years’ ratios, compare it to your current collection terms, or compare it to competitors’ terms.

Compared to Current Credit Terms

By comparing the average collection period to the number of days in your current credit terms, you can easily see, on average, if you are collecting receivables sooner than your credit period allows or longer.

For example, if your company allows clients 30-day credit, and the average collection period is 40 days, that is a problem. However, an average collection period of 25 days means you are collecting most accounts receivables before the end of the 30 days.

Compared to Previous Years’ Ratios

Comparing the current average collection period ratio to previous years’ ratios shows whether collections improve or worsen over time.

If your current ratio is lower now than it was previously, it means, on average, that your company is collecting receivables in fewer days than before. Conversely, a higher ratio means it now takes longer to collect receivables and could indicate a problem.

Compared to Competitors’ Ratios

The average collection period ratio can also be compared to competitors’ ratios, either individually or grouped. It can be used as a benchmark to determine if you might need to tighten or loosen your credit policy relative to what the competition might be offering in terms of credit.

What Are the Limitations of the Average Collection Period?

The average collection period is limited in that it does not have much meaning on its own. However, comparing it to previous years’ ratios or the credit terms of your company will provide you with meaningful data that can indicate whether you have an accounts receivable problem or not.

In Summary: Why The Average Collection Period Is Important

The average collection period ratio is an essential metric for businesses that rely on receivables for cash flow. The most recent data shows that 49% of B2B invoices produced in the U.S. become overdue. Regularly calculating your average collection period ratio can prevent each invoice you send from becoming a part of that statistic. Otherwise, if you allow clients to regularly take too long to pay invoices, your business may not have the cash on hand to operate how you’d like and meet financial obligations.

A ratio higher than your current credit terms period might require changing your credit policy, including shortening the payment period or outlining the payment terms more clearly to clients. A very low ratio may indicate that your company’s credit terms are too strict. You could be losing business to competitors with more lenient payment terms.