7 Essential Tips for Accepting Credit Cards at Craft Shows

The more payment options you can give your craft show customers, the better. Accepting credit cards will increase your in-person show sales and also give your business a more professional feel. Many people don’t carry much cash so you won’t have to turn down potential business if you plan ahead to allow credit cards. Here are my top tips for taking this payment option at your next craft show!

Research the Different Systems

When you’ve decided to accept credit cards, do your homework on the various systems. Gone are the days of the “knuckle-buster” carbon copy machines. Now, most craft show transactions are run through smartphone or tablet systems like Square, PayPal, and the Sell on Etsy app. All have pretty comparable processing fees, so research which is the best option for your business.

Most cards now have a chip – also known as EMV technology. These are meant to be read by tapping or inserting into the reader rather than swiping the stripe. Most processing systems now offer a chip card reader, and for those that don’t make sure they have a policy in place for chip cards. If you are unsure if you have the most current card reader, contact the processing company to check.

Extra tip: Most systems will also accept debit cards with logos and run them as credit.

Register Before the Show

Don’t wait until the day of the show to register with a card processing system. You’ll need at least a few weeks to get your card reader in the mail, as they sometimes have waitlists or are back ordered. Leave time to download and get familiar with the app and to make sure you’ll have an internet connection at the craft show (more on that later). You’ll also most likely have to complete a simple verification process when you register, which can take a few days.

Do a Practice Run

Before the event, it’s smart to do a practice run. Most processing systems have a test feature so you can become more familiar with accepting credit cards. You should also know how to key in a card number in case it’s not reading correctly- just know that this kind of transaction can cost more in fees than swiping or tapping a card. Also, check to make sure you can log in and access your email the day of the show. This may seem silly, but during the craft fair, you don’t want to be struggling to log in, which can turn off customers.

Confirm an Internet Connection at the Venue

Some event spaces offer free or paid Wifi, while others do not. Before the show, be sure to confirm that you will have internet access if you’re using a tablet to accept cards. Wifi will also come in handy if you don’t want to use up your cellular data or if the signal is weak inside the building. I typically just use my data plan from my cell phone carrier, but this can cause extra expense if you exceed the limit.

Extra tip: Another option is to get a portable hotspot device that you can carry from show to show.

Advertise that You Accept Cards

Encourage craft fair customers to purchase your products by advertising that you accept credit cards. Many processing systems will send you a little sign along with your card reader so you can display this in your booth. Another option is to add this information onto a sign or pricelist you already use. This will also save you time having to let customers know that you do accept this form of payment.

Check ID If Needed

If the signature a customer writes doesn’t match that on the back of the card (or if the card isn’t signed) it’s okay to ask to see their ID. Also, if it’s a large sale amount you should also ask for an ID card. Trust your instincts, and if you think there’s something “off” about the card or customer it’s better to be on the safe side and refuse the sale. Some processing systems may hold you liable for chargebacks, so reduce any liability by following each company’s Terms of Use.

Analyze Your Reports

It’s really useful to track your handmade business’ sales trends to see where you can improve. After the show, you can use your card processing program to run “reports.” You can select a time frame for the data to give you an idea of how much was spent, the average transaction amount, quantities sold, etc. Square even has a separate smartphone app (called Square Dashboard) that gives you more detailed reports than the regular processing app.

What other suggestions do you have for accepting plastic at craft fairs?

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