Choices for taking credit cards at arts and crafts shows.

When we first started selling at arts and crafts shows, many moons ago, it was rare to find a vendor who took payments in the form or credit cards.  I suppose in those days many shoppers carried cash and checks which was fine with us.

Part of the reason for the low number of participating vendors was the complex task of setting up a merchant account and for part time sellers it was simply too much trouble and lets face it, the credit card companies had very strict rules and sometime high rates.

As an arts and crafts business, we started taking cards in the 90’s for a number of reasons.
1. We wanted to do business online and the most trusted way to sell from a website is via a secure cart.  Online shoppers were leery of “off hand” methods such as Paypal and Google checkout.  While shoppers do use the “off hand” methods, the straight forward approach is still the preferred method for internet sales.
2. We wanted to make sure we got the most for our time and money when we were at an event.  Our experience shows that people spend more money when it goes on a card.

Fast forward to present day and the tables have turned 180 degrees.  For example most people do not carry a lot of cash.  Why bother when a debit or credit card keeps track of all our purchases and when it is rare that businesses do not take plastic.

Television advertisements for square and Paypal triangle have helped to alleviate the fears that shoppers had concerning safety and security and these methods are fast overtaking the conventional service providers.  The move to phone swipes has come in no small part to the proliferation of smart phones and cellphone coverage in general.  No longer must we go to a remote area on the grounds to get coverage!
The other reason for the explosion of phone swipes is the ease of setting up an account and the speed of which the money is deposited into the users account.  That is, depending on the service.  We have researched both and this is what we discovered.

Paypal allows you to sign up with or with out a Paypal account.  When you sign up you are given the choice of being a personal or business account.  The difference being a personal account would be for total charges under 500 dollars and the business account for amounts over.  My question was, why would anyone need a personal account?  Rummage sale? Who knows but our experience with Paypal had us a little nervous and for good reason.

Sometime ago we were checking around to see if we could save money on our website accounts and we contacted Paypal.  We were told we needed to submit various personal information to get the schedule of fees.  The next thing we knew our personal account had been converted to a business account and 40% of the funds were being held for 90 days for what?  We have been taking credit card payments for well over 10 years with no charge backs or other troubles.  It took us many weeks to straighten the problem out and several attempts after they claimed everything had been returned to “normal”.  Lets just say it was a giant pain in the you know what!

The bottom line is the card reader is linked to the Paypal account and the money can be used in the normal Paypal fashion where they will cut you a check, or deposit your money into a bank account of your choice, or as we do, a Paypal debit card.  Our experience shows that it takes many days, at least 3 for the money to hit our account.

The charges for Paypal “pay it here” are 2.7% for swiped cards or 3.5 and .15 cents for numbers entered manually, usually for cards that don’t read or over the phone transactions.
Our biggest concern is how they can attach the money at any time.

The square reader seems to be a little more friendly but for one issue.  They do not seem to offer telephone support.  Users are offered the opportunity to ask a question via a form reply.  I looked high and low but could not find telephone support.

What they do have is next day deposit into your bank account.  This is a big deal if you want to withdraw cash or use the money right away.

The reader it’s self is compact and we found that it was necessary to push it firmly into the headphone jack until we hear a click.  You can’t break it easily by pushing down but if it is not fully connected I will not work.

The charges are very similar to Paypal, 2.75 for swiped cards and 3.5 plus .15 cents for manually entered info.

One drawback with both Paypal and Square is the absence of any receipt printer.  We have a “knuckle buster” that can be used or you could manually write a receipt or have it sent to the users email but entering an email address into a smart phone when you have several customers in line is a hassle.  An option would be to have the customer jot their email down and then you could log in into the account later and send an email to them.  Personally I feel like the hand receipt is the way to go but for good customer service we offer all three.  Email entered into the phone, hand receipt or email later.

Both of these providers offer extended services including printers and cash drawers for the square to selling online for both.
Since it costs nothing to sign up why not get both and check them out to compare.

One last note.  We use a separate bank account for our Paypal transactions as they have access and there have been cases where peoples accounts were, for lack of a better word, compromised.  We feel better having the separate account and with online banking it’s easy to transfer money back and forth as we wish.

But in the end, and from the lips of an account, “you guys need to be taking more cash”.

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