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Keep It Simple Stupid! Easy Credit Card Acceptance for Food Trucks
The debate rages daily over credit card processing fees. Beginners want information on which processor is the “best”, when what they really mean is “the cheapest”. Someone with something to sell always replies “check my page” or “DM me and I’ll help you”. So my favorite answer always shows: “charge them a tax that’s what I do”. The comments will also be flooded with “Square” and “Clover” followed by complaints of disdain with each company.
EVERY, and I mean every, company has complaints against how it operates. Customer service, late/slow deposits, hidden fees, frozen accounts, intermediaries, different fees, equipment fees, ongoing expenses, etc. Asking my opinion or anyone else’s in a public forum like Facebook groups will only get a limited response based on extremely limited experience. I have been in this business since 1977 and have been taking credit cards since 1990. I started with Square in 2010 and with all that time in food service I have only used a total of 5 different processors. Each with its own problems and benefits.
You should also understand that there are two types of processing companies. Square (PayPal Here, Intuit ToGo, etc.) are flat fee aggregators. The meaning that the rate is exactly the same, no matter which card is used and no merchant account it is necessary. This makes getting started much simpler for the average food retailer. Clover (and a ton of other services) are merchant account processors. Meaning they require a merchant account (which some people don’t qualify for) and possibly variable fees based on card type and brand. Comparing the two types of accounts is unfair since they have completely different features and application requirements.
To get a complete understanding of each type of processor and unbiased reviews go to the Merchant Maverick website and check out their reviews. Choose the processor that meets your financial needs and has rates and fees that your business can afford. Also understand what you need from the hardware they offer. Do you need a simple POS or with a lot of inventory control, payroll functions, loyalty programs, etc. or do you just need to process credit cards?
Here’s what you need to know to accept credit and debit cards. Keep it simple for street vending.
Accepting cards is a MUST DO for street vending. Over 80% of ALL wages are direct deposited. Mobile food vendors must be convenient not only in the location, but the payment options.
80% of consumers prefer to use debit/credit cards when making purchases. On the other hand, only 14% prefer cash. Not accepting cards drives business away.
- Processing fees are a part of doing business such as buying inventory, paying staff, buying gasoline, obtaining permits and licenses and any other expenses in your business.
As a business owner you have 4 choices:
Do not take cards. (Risk of running out of business)
Pass the fees on to your guests as a “convenience fee”. (Seems short and long)
It offers a “cash discount program”. (Looks like a gas station)
Do the math when setting the menu price. (Looks like a professional business man)
Let’s look at each of the choices in detail.
Do not take cards. I hope you understand from the statistics in numbers 1 and 2 above that taking cards is a necessary evil in street and event sales. In my 40 years of experience (through observation and real-time studies) credit card transactions are significantly faster than counting change. Yes, there may be internet issues, connection issues, etc. which pop up from time to time. Cash has its own set of problems such as breaking a hundred dollar bill earlier in the day, using a fake pen to check bills, opening new rolls of coins, having to get more or five, a lot of money in hand makes the your easy business. the purpose of the robbery. Convinced to take cards? Since taking cards is a MUST DO for a food vendor, let’s look at the best way to handle those pesky fees.
Pass the fees on to your guests as a “convenience fee”. Sounds smart, right? Not really. Charging a fee comes across as small and cheap from a guest perception point and is illegal in 10 states. Where the fees are legal, they have a cap of 4% since the merchant cannot profit from a fee. “Convenience fees” become too complicated when a debit card is presented rather than a credit card. Convenience fees are also frowned upon by credit card issuers and each has a specific policy AGAINST these fees in most circumstances. Setting a minimum purchase complicates things further. Debit cards have different rules than credit cards. It is also against the rules of the credit card issuer to set a minimum fee for debit cards. OK, OK, no additional taxes, what should a seller consider?
It offers a cash discount program (CDP). This type of program is allowed and actually explained in card issuers policies. A cash discount policy means that a seller must list TWO different prices for each product. Like a gas station, which offers a cash discount. The pump will list a price marked “Credit” and a price marked “Cash”. Of course, the credit price is higher accounting for processing fees. There are a number of companies that offer CDP processing, all using some promise of “free” processing (to you). The bottom line for a legal CDP is to have a menu that clearly explains both a cash price and a credit price, as well as other notifications that explain and/or alert your guests to the two-tier pricing system. The problem with this system is host confusion and overly complicated pricing structures. Street or event sales are time-consuming. The faster you take and fill orders, the more money you will earn. But with CDP, the order-taking process is slowed down by lengthy explanations for a two-tier pricing system. Regarding complaints about having to pay more because the host has no money available. In food service, any obstacle you put up for a smooth order-taking process is magnified into a negative review, bad word of mouth or no repeat guests when another service or food-related problem presents itself. .
The simplest thing is:
Do the math when setting menu prices. Wow what a concept! Just like pricing your menu to account for the price of food and propane, just price your menu assuming EVERYONE is going to use a card. Which one ?! Can it really be that easy? Yes, you can.
Let’s look at a product that everyone freaked out about when Square raised fees to 10¢ + 2.6%. Soda.
Canned soda is available from Sam’s Club for 32.05¢ each. Most people sell it for a dollar. When Square raised its price, people panicked, complaining about the increase in a percentage basis for the least expensive product they sell, a soda. That makes selling a soda by itself costs a retailer 44.65¢ when a card is used. I can’t tell you how many places they complained 13% charge, blah, blah, blah. However, if the soda company raised the price to 45¢, the seller would either absorb the increase or raise their prices.
When I price a menu, I assume all use a card. When Square added that 10¢ transaction fee, I just added 25¢ to some of my higher cost food items to compensate. So that one dollar soda became a $1.25 soda. Always cheaper than a convenience store and well cheaper than a vending machine.
The gross profit (which is the sale less cost of goods) looks like this:
First: $1.00 – $0.3205 – $0.0275 = $0.6520 gross profit
Then: $1.25 – $0.3205 – $0.10 – $0.0260 = $0.8035 profit
Watch what happens when someone pays with cash.
Cash: $1.25 – $0.3205 = $0.9295
Does it make sense to use a cash discount program? Does it make sense to add a surcharge (which is legally limited to 4% and you can’t show a profit from that charge)? Does it make financial sense to simply refuse to accept cards?
If you are stumped the answers are “NO”, “NO” and “NO”.
I can hear someone say, “I don’t deal with change slows me down.” Food service is a nickel and dime business. The charge even the dollars went with the turn of the century. The only people who charge on the dollar pair are hobbyists or mathematically challenged. Maybe it’s time to get the addition and subtraction flash cards out of elementary school and learn how to deal with our nickel and dime business. Practice makes perfect and the more you practice, the faster you get.
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