Does Your Youth Group Take Credit Cards?

Youth group credit cardsDon’t worry, I’m not suggesting young people should have to pay to be part of your youth work / youth ministry! Do you ever have times though where you wish that you could take credit card payments for some reason relating to your youth work:

  • When organizing trips
  • Taking payment for youth retreats, instead of having to insist they go old school by writing a check
  • At youth fundraiser events, instead of only accepting cash
  • Accepting donations

In the past, you’d need a merchant account with a bank, with a bulky card reader that needed to be plugged in, paying expensive monthly fees and transaction fees. In other words – never gonna happen.

Those days are no more

There’s a company called Square that was founded a couple of years ago by Jack Dorsey (who also created Twitter) and Jim McKelvey. Square offer a free card reader to businesses, sole traders and – most handily for us youth workers – non-profits.

The card reader has a 3.5mm jack connector that fits into your Android phone, iPhone or iPad where you’d normally put your headphones. You then download an app that enables you to start accepting payments straight away. It really is as simple as that.

I’d mentioned earlier that in the past, merchant accounts carried high monthly fees and transaction fees, but Square is far more reasonably priced. There are no monthly fees and you only pay a 2.75% transaction fee when physically swiping a card. You then have the person sign for the transaction on your phone (see the picture to the left). Watch people’s jaws drop when they see this in action!

You can also use the Square app to accept a credit card payment even when the cardholder isn’t with you. This might be because a parent has given their card number on a youth retreat registration form, or somebody has entered their card number on a donation form. The transaction fees when typing in a card number manually are slightly higher though, due to the extra risk incurred by Square in accepting these types of payments. However, the fees are only 3.5% + $0.15, so still not very high.

How much do the fees come out to?

So that you don’t have to do the math (and to give me an excuse to do some as I love math), here are some examples of payments you might want to take, along with how much the fees would be:

1) Payment of $50 for a trip to a theme park

  • Swiping: 2.75% fee = $1.38, so net amount taken is $48.62
  • Manual transaction: 3.5% fee = $1.75 + additional $0.15 fee totals $1.90, so net amount taken is $48.10

2) Payment of $150 for a youth retreat

  • Swiping: 2.75% fee = $4.13, so net amount taken is $145.87
  • Manual transaction: 3.5% fee = $5.25 + additional $0.15 fee totals $5.40, so net amount taken is $144.60

3) Donation of $25

  • Swiping: 2.75% fee = $0.69, so net amount taken is $24.31
  • Manual transaction: 3.5% fee = $0.88 + additional $0.15 fee totals $1.03, so net amount taken is $23.97

If it’s likely that most parents would want to pay by card for something like a youth retreat, you could add the cost of the transaction fees to the total cost per person. This would mean you maintain the same amount to spend in your budget, without having to cut back to compensate for the fees being taken out.

One other small benefit of the Square card reader is that you get a sign to display that you accept credit cards (see image to the right). This could come in handy if you have a garage sale fundraiser, Krispy Kreme fundraiser, car wash or something similar.

You can sign up for a free Square card reader here.

A couple of additional things:

  1. We don’t get anything out of recommending Square – I just think it’s a really cool payment option that could help other youth workers
  2. It’s only available in the US at the moment. However, given that Visa, Richard Branson and many others have invested in Square, it wouldn’t be surprising to see them go international over the next few years

Question: Have you used Square? What did you think? Let us know in the comments below.

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