Do you take cards? If I had a pound for every time I’d been asked that question, I could retire now! If you are a stallholder and you answer “no”, then you need to seriously reconsider your payment options. Whereas it used to be standard practice to accept cash or cheques at gift fairs, customers now want more convenient methods of payment – and that means accepting cards.
But I’m only a small business and I can’t afford a card machine
When I first started Seres Gifts, it was possible to expect customers to make their purchases using either cash or a cheque. There were so many hidden costs involved in running the business that having a card machine seemed just another expense. But cheque books are used less and less and don’t actually provide a guarantee of payment in some cases. There are many stallholders, Seres Gifts included, who can tell tales of bounced payments. And with fewer people carrying cash with them, the question you should be asking is, “can you afford NOT to have a card machine?”. In the case of Seres Gifts, I answer without any hesitation. A card machine is a must-have.
A representative of the Federation of Small Business had assured me that sales would increase with the acceptance of credit card payments. They were right. Within a month of having our first machine, sales were up. Furthermore, the average spend had increased. This trend continued. Customers were no longer limited to spending only the cash they had on them. It no longer mattered that they hadn’t expected to find so many lovely things at a gift fair – even if they didn’t have the cash on them, they could still make the purchase.
But I have to pay a transaction charge on each payment
Yes, you do. But think about it. First of all, if you are going to accept cash or cheques only, many banks will charge you for paying in. Even if you are lucky enough to have a bank that doesn’t charge you for paying in, work out how long you spend counting up, filling in forms, getting to the bank and paying in the money. Your time is worth something. And what about the petrol costs and car-parking charges you may incur too? It all adds up. All of a sudden, that free banking deal you have doesn’t seem quite so free, does it?
The Price for Peace of Mind
There are many, many stallholders who will incredulously recall times when they have been given a cheque that bounces. Sadly, Seres Gifts is one of these. A payment which is taken on a card machine is approved on payment. If there is an issue with payment, you and the customer are aware of it immediately and can sort out a solution. It is always good to have confidence in the payment, and on higher priced sales, this peace of mind is invaluable.
And there is another “upside” to card payments. You are not physically holding a lot of cash. Some events can last for several days, with no opportunity to bank payments each day. This could result in a lot of cash being held and I certainly don’t like the vulnerability this can make me feel. Card payments ensure that I’m not holding a large amount of cash and, in turn, this helps me feel safer. Indeed, it is not unusual for me to attend an event where all transactions are done by card, with no cash sales at all!
What payment provider should I use?
There are so many payment providers, but which one to choose? I can only comment on those which I have used through Seres Gifts, but here’s what I’ve learnt along the way.
For many years I worked on a fixed-term contract. It was only when looking into the possibility of having a second terminal for the same period that I discovered that you can hire a terminal for as little as a day if you want to! Yes, it may be a bit more expensive, but the fact that no long-term commitment is required could be great if you only need to take card payments for a certain period.
Before you commit, be clear about what sort of term you want. Take your time to consider the options you are given. And always check what the situation would be should you need to terminate ahead of the contract expiring.
And don’t just think about the tradition style Chip and Pin machines. There are other options that may suit you better – just carry on reading!
Fees. All bank card payment systems have them. But not all fees are equal. With the increase in card payment systems available, fees have become more competitive. If you are a member of an organisation such as The Federation of Small Businesses it is worth talking to them about their provider as you may be eligible for preferential rates. However, don’t necessarily assume that they will be the best you can get. Shop around. Negotiate. Make sure you get the best deal for you and your business.
Do I need a merchant account?
Payment systems may require the user to have a merchant account. Don’t panic! This is a straight-forward account that they will easily help set up and which is used in conjunction with payments made by card. This is not the same as a bank account. The money from the merchant account is transferred into your bank account. Think of it more like a holding account for the transactions that you have processed.
Can’t I use my phone instead of a chip and pin machine?
Yes you can! Many payment providers now no longer require you to use a traditional Chip and Pin machine. I-pads, tablets and mobile phone are all capable of allowing you to take payments.
Seres Gifts has recently transferred to a new payment system. After much consideration, investigation and deliberation, it has adopted the SumUp Air payment system to allow it to take payments at gift fairs and events.
To find out what Sophie from Seres Gifts thinks about this system, visit our blog: Sum Up Air – An Honest Review.