Should You Accept Credit Cards at Craft Shows?
Sometimes it feels like Arts & Crafts shows and festivals are the only places that should offer layaway plans for hotdogs, sodas and beer! All kidding aside, many people that attend these events carry a limited amount of cash, and the truth is that for many, those dollars are going into the hands of food vendors. Even if you have the best soap or candles on the planet, it's tough to compete for those limited greenbacks when the little ones are dying for that frozen lemonade and cinnamon churro.
The thing is, plenty of these attendees may be very motivated to do business with you, but we have to make it practical, and easy. Unless your booth sits adjacent to an ATM machine, you are likely losing sales because you don't accept credit cards. This means getting a merchant account and some method of being able to process charges from your booth.
The Merchant Account
The merchant account is really the easy part of all this. This is the company that facilitates the charges, and forwards the funds to your bank account. Expect to pay about $10 per month in addition to the usual transaction fees (more later). Just be aware that there are a good many sharks in the Merchant Account ocean, so educate yourself a bit regarding some of the industry practices.
To gain a quick and practical knowledge of how to save both money and frustration, visit Credit
Card Processing Practices . Also consider talking to
your booth mates regarding their recommendations.
Perhaps the most important thing to remember here is that rates generally fall into three categories, i.e. qualified, mid-qualified, and non-qualified. Expect Visa and Mastercard (charge cards and debit cards), Discover, etc. to fall into the qualified category. Gift cards, etc. often fall into the mid-qualified or non-qualified category.
What many companies do is to advertise an extremely low qualified rate, but what they don't tell you is that they've manipulated it so that maybe debit card purchases fall into a different category with higher fees. Make sure that the qualified rate covers all major credit cards.
What does it take to get a Merchant Account?
Accepting credit cards is easier today that it ever has been. In general, the following is all you'll need to get going with a Merchant Account:
- 18 years of age or older
- Have a US checking account
- Good credit sure helps when you need low rates, but there are programs available to those with less than stellar credit.
Generally, this process takes anywhere from one to three days. It's quick, easy, and frankly, qualifying should be the least worrisome detail. Be more concerned with picking the right company, payment solution, and account structure.
Almost all of us run a seasonal business so we have to make sure that the ability to accept credit cards makes good business sense. $10 bucks a month for a merchant account is likely no big deal, but when you start adding on equipment, it can get expensive.
For example, a wireless solution that process charges in real time, a receipt printer, with the lowest processing rates available can cost around $500. But these devices also require a wireless plan (much like your cell phone) that have their own monthly costs and/or contracts associated.
Other examples include:
Portable Store & Forward devices - These devices let
you swipe the card, print a receipt, etc. The information
is processed once it's plugged into a phone line at which
point the transactions are "forwarded" to the processing company.
The transaction fees are a little higher, but still, it's
a pretty standard solution for many.
Manual Imprinters - We call these "knuckle busters"
in the trade. They are cheap, and a good fall-back in most
cases, but sometimes the processing rates are higher.
Mobile Phone Processing - Increasingly becoming a
terrific entry-level solution, these devices let you accept
credit cards on many different smart phones. Often, they interface
with Gateways such as Authorize.Net so you can process cards
on your phone, via your computer, or website shopping cart.
For more information regarding mobile solutions visit Mobile
This should be something that you look at as value added offering for your business. By offering this convenience to your customers, they'll be happy, and no longer will you find yourself competing for the limited amount of cash carried by attendees. In fact, this might very well provide a bit of a competitive advantage. Just do a little homework to make sure you find an appropriate merchant account provider and solution. After that, just hang that "We accept Credit Cards" sign high, and with pride.
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