The Square(88124)

Arts and crafts vendors are often asked if they accept credit cards. Every retail store and service business accepts credit cards, so customers expect that vendors at the local art fair should too. But is it beneficial to your arts and crafts business to take on processing credit cards? A few years ago I would have said, “Probably not… the costs are just too high to justify the increase in sales at your booth or table unless you sell merchandise that is very expensive”. But times have changed and the cost of accepting credit cards has come down – way down. Additionally, credit and debit card use has gone way up. Many people no longer carry cash at all.


It is exciting to consider the potential increase in sales because you accept credit cards, but don’t run out to buy the first credit card processing deal you come across. Do not get sucked into whatever plan your bank has to offer without doing some research. Many of them are still really bad for small home based business owners. Programs that are good for a retail store are probably not good for your business. Many credit card machine salesmen don’t know they are selling you a product that doesn’t work for you.


Reasons vendors need different processing than retail stores:

● Vendors change location every almost every time they use the machine.

● Vendors do not always have access to the internet, phone lines, or even electricity at the booth or table.

● Vendors process smaller sales amounts per transaction than most retail stores.

● Vendors process credit cards intermittently, when they have a show.

● Vendors need immediate access to their money because cash flow is usually tight.

● Vendors do not have enough profit margin to pay monthly fees for machine rental or bank deposit fees.


Any one of these points makes most credit card machines a bad deal for vendors – all of them together make using a traditional machine almost impossible. Some vendors get around it by using the old school knuckle busters at shows. These machines swipe cards by hand and do not actually process the credit card until you hand key in all the information at your hard wired machine when you have access to it. DO NOT, DO NOT, DO NOT do this – even if your banker tells you to do it. (I was told that typing in all caps is like shouting…so I’m hoping you get the idea that I am pretty adamant about this.) These machines do not approve credit or debit cards until you hand key the information in, by then the customer is long gone and you are probably in another city or state. So, you are giving out your merchandise in the hope that their card will be approved. In the past most people handled their credit and debit cards wisely, and they were approved. The few that were declined were worth the risk because of the increase in sales. Today, however, many people just pull out another card when the first one is declined. The percentage of declined transactions has gone way up, especially among younger users. The risk of declined transactions is high, that means you may never get paid… sometimes you will be paying transaction fees to find out that you are not getting paid. I generally love old school but this is definitely not good.


The solution is credit card readers that work with your smart phone…

this newfangled technology is really smart!


Arts and crafts vendors can process credit cards almost anywhere, anytime, inexpensively! If your phone has a signal you are good to go. The money is deposited directly into your business bank account usually in one business day.


The two brands that are coming out on top are:

the  Square Credit Card Reader - Black


and the Intuit 431154 GoPayment Card Reader.

They are very similar, the big difference being that Intuit is compatible with the QuickBooks accounting system. Both card readers are free (a big bonus as the old school processors cost hundreds). Both card readers have very low rates per transaction. Check out this table for comparison:




Intuit Go Payment

Sign Up Fee



Credit Check



Cards Swiped Cost

2.75% plus 15¢ per transaction

2.7% plus 15¢ per transaction

Cards Keyed In Cost

3.5% plus 15¢ per transaction

3.7% plus 15¢ per transaction

Cards Accepted

Mastercard, Visa, American Express, Discover

Mastercard, Visa, American Express, Discover, Diners Club, JCB

Transaction Cap



Compatible Phones

Any Android or iOS device

iPhone 3G or later, Droid, DroidX, Droid Incredible, Droid Pro, HTC EVO 4G, Blackberry Bold, Curve, and Tour

Smartphone App

iOS and Android

Blackberry, Android, or iOS

Monthly Fee


None with an optional $12.95 per month with reduced transaction fees



My husbands’ band tried The Square at their merchandise table and sales went up significantly. Here’s an example of how the fees work out: A customer purchases merchandise for $15 and uses a credit card. The 2.75% for The Square fee is 41¢, plus 15¢ for the transaction fee. The total fee for selling the merchandise is 56¢. Sure, it would be better if the customer paid with cash so the vendor could keep the 56¢. But the customer may not have purchased the merchandise without using a credit card. My experience has been that more customers will buy your merchandise and each customer will purchase more items if you accept credit and debit cards.


Another benefit to accepting credit and debit cards is that you will be asked to take fewer checks. The card reader approves the card immediately, so the vendor is pretty much guaranteed to get the funds. A check is just a promise on paper; usually people make good on their promises but not always. Depositing checks can require a trip to your bank and several days for the funds to be available in your bank account. Depending on the type of bank account you have, you may be paying fees for depositing checks. So, taking fewer checks is very desirable.


Now if you ask me, "Do you think art and crafts vendors should have credit card readers?", I say, “Yes, as long as you are using a card reader that works with your smartphone!”