A total of 10 payments were made.
A total of 10 payments was made.
Which is correct? Or can both be correct?
Since "payment" is countable, I would go with "were" to reinforce the notion that there was more than one payment.
This thread contains more examples:
That being said, this is not a strict rule, and if the focus is specifically on the fact of something being a total, you would use "was".
The subject of the sentence were the payments, and not the total number of payments, therefore were is correct.
You could re-phrase the sentence to make the total the subject:
VonC offers a useful rule-of-thumb - 'A total...' = plural, 'The total...' = singular - but it all boils down to the subject of the sentence.
"A total of ten payments were made". VonC has provided the reasoning, so I'm posting because I was taught not to use a number in the kind of sentence you've used. i.e: use 'ten' instead of '10'.