At the recent AGM for the PBFA, I was asked to look into the various options available for booksellers to take credit card payments at fairs. Well I haven’t forgotten, and have been doing lots of digging and chatting over the last few weeks.
I am assuming here, that this is aimed at the small to medium bookseller, rather than those with a shop and several staff (who probably already have credit card facilities lined up). When I had my shop, I had a card machine that I could take around with me. This worked well, but cost me a rental of £25 per month plus standard transaction fees. Not so good if you only do one fair a month.
The good news is that there are several ways for us to accept credit card payments, and most of them are now far cheaper than this. This obviously isn’t a definitive guide – but it does offer you some options to choose from.
Ultimately, these all work in the same way. There is a small device, or reader, which connects to your mobile phone or tablet. These only work with smart phones with wi-fi or 3/4G access as they need to connect with the provider. Once the payment is taken, you can either print (if you have a portable printer) email, text or hand-write a receipt. A common problem with these devices, is that they are only as good as your phone internet signal. No signal, no transaction! Beyond these features, each differs slightly
Method: A reader attaches via a cable to your headphone socket on your device. This costs £29.99 + VAT if you have a Barclays Business Account – otherwise £60 + VAT.
Transaction cost: 2.6% of each transaction. No monthly cost or fixed contract. One drawback is that you cannot take customer not present payments.
The App allows you to keep an eye on your account and see reports. As this is offered by Barclaycard, it is reassuring to customers.
Method: There is a choice of two readers. The “Card reader lite” attaches to your phone via a cable. This is free to the business. There is also a “Card reader Pro” which cost £79 and operates via Bluetooth. This will also take contactless payments. Now that these are up to £30, this is a real plus. Using an App on your device, you can manage payments and your account.
Transaction cost: These are on a sliding scale. For £0-£1999 per month these are at 2.75% This then falls by small increments with each increase in turnover. So £4,500 would cost 2% After £12,850 per month (oh if only) the rate drops to 1.5% where it remains. There is no monthly cost to this. No fixed contract.
There is also access to izettle where you can see reports and follow up on transactions. I cannot see from their website whether you can take customer not present payments via the website. Perhaps someone who uses this system can comment on this.
Gerry Mosdel recommends this service, and says it has worked well for him. If you use his link to sign up, you will get free transactions when you start: https://www.izettle.com/d/UT47VQ
Method: The reader is a Bluetooth reader. This costs £59.95 (until the end of October). The reader can take chip and pin or contactless payments.
Transaction costs: 2.75% per transaction. However, if the payment is taken via the magnetic strip (not chip and pin) or customer not present then the fee is 3.4% + 20p. If taking money from overseas, then paypal’s exchange rate tends to be quite punitive. No monthly fees or set term.
One important thing to note here, is that the payment goes into your paypal account – not a bank account. On the other hand – the payment is credited to your account immediately.
Method: Payments can be taken via the card reader or online. The card reader is a blue tooth device, which currently costs £39.99 (or £29.99 – see below). The website has reports, but also has a page for taking Customer Not Present payments. This is the system I use, and it is handy for taking payments over the phone from customers.
Transaction costs: There are two tariffs with Zinc. If you expect to be an occasional user, then there is a 2.75% tariff with zero monthly cost. If you expect a busy month then there is a 1.95% tariff – but a monthly cost of £5.99. You can switch between the two tariffs each month – so you can set it to the zero fee setting, but phone up and change if you go over £800 (which is when it is worth changing). The new tariff will apply to the whole month.
This is offered by Streamline – who provide a large number of the credit card facilities in shops – this is their “small business” offering.
The price comparison bit
As book dealers, we are not consistently busy. For a comparison here, I have assumed there are 4 months where we take nothing at all. 4 months where we take £400. 2 months of £800 and two months of £3000 (half of which is overseas dealers). This way, we can compare and individual seller, who does a few fairs, and has a reasonable York and ILEC. I have included transaction fees and any monthly cost.
Barclaycard Anywhere: £218.40
Worldpay Zinc: £194.16
Obviously you will need to do your own calculations, based on your turnover. But in general, if you only use the reader now and again, and expect a very low turnover, Barclaycard Anywhere is cheapest. If you are hoping to take anything over £7000 per year on cards, then the Worldpay Zinc is cheapest. If contactless is important, then Zinc becomes more attractive, particularly for the lower turn over. Whichever you choose, the best of luck, and may your transactions be many and large