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Accepting cc's at shows

Hi all,

Thanks so much for the responses I have received so far about
breaking into shows - my brain is working overtime on all of the
great suggestions! I now have another question - how
important/standard is it to accept credit card payments at the
art/craft shows/fairs? Is it now pretty much expected or is it not
all that common?

If you do accept cc’s at shows, have you noticed a difference in
sales? I currently don’t take cc payments directly but am toying
with the idea of a merchant account and would like to consider the
impact of an account on doing shows. Oh, and if you don’t take cc’s
I am curious as to how often you have problems with returned checks
from buyers, etc. at shows.

Thanks once again for any suggestions!

Carrie Otterson

I started accepting credit cards about two years ago, after eighteen
years of not doing so, and I noticed an immediate increase in my
sales. I would not be without this capacity. People are far more
willing to pull out the credit card than either part with cash or
write a check.

Janet Kofoed


Credit Cards (CC’s) account for 95% of my show and on-line sales.
CC’s account for near 100% of sales over $1,000.

Gerry Galarneau

Carrie -

The importance may vary from show to show, and the average price of

your work. In my case it meant an almost immediate 30 to 35% increase
in sales. Others have told me as much as 50% of their business (100%
increase) is paid for with plastic.

Jim Small
Small Wonders

I haven’t done any shows in a long time (a REALLY long time) but it
is my belief that accepting credit cards will almost always boost the
average sales ticket. People today depend on them too much.

Daniel R. Spirer, G.G.
Spirer Somes Jewelers
1794 Massachusetts Ave
Cambridge, MA 02140

Accepting ccs at shows is an absolute must! I find that over 80% of
our sales is by ccs and by not having the ability to accept it removes
you from the conclusion of an impulse buy - which most buying is at a
craft show. I have also found that accepting a cc is MUCH safer than
accepting a personal check. And the small percentage that you pay is
nothing compared to an out of area toll call when you are trying to
collect on a bad check.

Judy Shaw
Jasco Minerals

Hi Carrie,

I have had exactly 1 bad check which was made good on later at shows
in the past 8 yrs. Although if I sold gold jewelry I would be a bit
more nervous about that.

I have found that having a C.C. is nescesary. At some shows credit
cards account for 90% of my sales. When people try to bargain with me
the only bargain I will make is to knock off 5% if they use cash or
check instead of C.C. because of the processing costs. They rarely take
it. I have some higher end work and if someone falls in love with it
they often say “thank goodness I am getting that bonus next month” “my
car payments end next month and I can pay for this”. I really believe
they strongly help my sales, and besides pretty much every artist has
one at the shows I do in the Midwest.

Try your smaller local banks…I found the service and rates to be a
little better than the big guys in my area.


Carrie, accepting credit cards at a show will allow you to make the
big sales that you might otherwise loose. I feel much safer taking a
credit card than a check.

Now the bad part. Setting up a Merchant Account with your bank of
choice can be a problem. Most banks require a store front before
they will even talk to you. This leaves you with some of the other
card processing operations. All will be expensive. Monthly fees can
run from about $15 to upward of $30. Some processors require long
term contracts. Watch our for them. The Equipment required for
portable use is also expensive. A friend bought a cellular machine
last year. I think it cost him over $1500. for the machine and he
pays the $30.00 a month to have it whether he uses it or not. I am a
bit more fortunate. I had a store front and so was able to get a
major bank to process for me. I purchased my card reader and printer
on the second hand market for a fraction of what it would normally
cost. For shows, I purchased an adaptor for my cell phone that allows
me to process anywhere. By being able to process the cards as the
customer is standing in front of you serves two purposes. First it is
less expensive and time consuming. You don’t have to call for
approval and then later process the card. Second, you know
immediately if the card is good or not. Your only exposure at this
point is to make sure the ID matches the card. I love to hear the
sound of the printer printing the receipt. I know it’s money in the

If I am having a good show, I expect to take in about 1/2 to 2/3 of
my take in credit cards so this is an opportunity to close more
sales. You just need to do a lot of research on what it is going to
cost you and weigh that against the potential for lost sales.

On the subject of checks, some if not most of the merchant accounts
will set you up with a check guarantee service. This allows you to
"Process " a check through your credit card terminal and receive an
OK on accepting it. The transaction cost is about the same as a
credit card sales, and it is well worth the piece of mind.

On bad checks, a dealer friend of mine told about taking in a check a
month ago for over $1000. that bounced. It seems that the check
writer had gone to one of the office stores and bought a package of
blank checks for use with a check writing program. They added a name
and address and then preceded to write checks. They didn’t have an
account. My friend was stuck. Moral of the story is that you need
to check out checks very closely. If the check has a bank logo on it
and words to the extent of “valued customer since 1985” and the
check number isn’t low, you most likely have a good check but this is
still no guarantee. Always Always Always ask for ID and write the
drivers license number, date of birth, and state of the drivers
license on the check.

Do your homework on these two subjects, check with the local chamber
of commerce to see if they have any classes on accepting checks and
credit cards, Information is your friend in this area


Hi Carrie

My personial experance is limited but I think it is working well for
me. I realy looked hard for the best deal. Becouse I mostly sale at a
local art and craft show I am small time and and don’t realy have a
cash flow I prity much make just enough to buy more metal and
supplies. I would say that CC are about 10 to 20% of my sales, but I
realy hurts when you lose a sale becouse you don’t take them!! I have
not had a returned check yet, but a friend of mine has. A good habit
to get in, is to get a driver lic ## when you take one. Thats the
first thing the cops well ask if you need to go to them. The CC co. I
use is dicover. I have no monthly fee’s just for processing the sale.
I get a dicount rate ranging around 2.5 to 3%. visa and m/c are a
little bit more. There is a setup fee and you need a CC terminal,I
found one for $100.00 plus it was $80.00 for set up and reprogramming.
A then I had to get a cell phone to be able to verify. It seems like a
hassel but every little bit helps. There Phone # is 800-347-2000

Keith Hale

Don Campbell,

What sort of accessory allows you access to credit card approval by
cell phone? I already have cc capability, but was not aware of the
chance to use a cell phone with it. Please explain! Susan Ronan

credit cards are used for about 80% of my sales at shows. one plus
about accepting them is that you don’t have to worry about being
out-of-town with a large sum of cash . . . and . . . by the time
you get back home, the transactions are usually through and you have
the money in your account.

merry radtke

Thanks so much to everyone who has replied to my original message.
Since the response was an overwhelming “yes” I have turned my energies
to searching out the best deal I can find. Those of you who mentioned
getting your equipment used, or great deals, where did you find it?

You guys are truly wonderful!



Definitely, yes! People carry less cash today. Everyone carries

credit cards.

People will walk through your booth looking for the Visa/Mastercard

symbol. If they don’t see it, they walk out.

I do small local shows in a small town and rely heavily on tourists.

As my product gets more expensive, credit card sales go up. I have
never had a bad check, but have lost sales because people didn’t have
a checkbook with them. In the small town I try to survive in most
places don’t take cc’s, so tourists need their cash to eat in a
restaurant. Guess who won’t get the cash. Me!!!

I can refer you to the company I work with if you want to contact me

offline. I really shopped around before signing.

This year I am adding more 14K yellow and rose gold items and rings.

So the ability to take credit cards is real important.

Yvonne @Yvonne_Pankowski

You will find that accepting credit cards will be a necessity at
shows. For some people, Credit cards have replaced cash and checks
and your acceptance of cc’s may make the difference between making
a sale or not. Regarding bad checks. I’ve never had any problems
with bad checks, but at a recent show several artists were ripped
off by a person using a phony credit card. As the artists did not
verify the sale at the show, but waited until they got home to run
them through for authorization, they learned to their dismay that the
credit card was invalid. All the sales were made to the same sleezy
person. He was very pleasant, seemed sincere, and no one
suspected that he was a crook. However, such events are the
exception and not the rule. But, If you are making high end sales,
get a cell phone and get authorization for the sale at the time of making it.

Hopes this helps–Alma

As someone who is more hobbiest than jewelry pro, let me give you the
consumer view on credit cards at shows.

I am more willing to make a $us100+ purchase from a highly mobile
show vendor because:

  1. I have a time span after the purchase to contest the charge should
    my goods turn out to be substandard or critically flawed, usually 30
    to 60 days.

  2. It protects me from having to carry large amounts of cash in a
    crowded environment.

  3. It gives me better records of the purchase

  4. I have the option of spreading the cost of a pricy item over a
    couple of months, or longer (dumb idea that it may be).

  5. Many of the better cards provide insurance that covers loss or
    theft of the purchase (you would be amazed at how many people get
    stuff ripped off in the parking areas around shows).

my tuppence
Ron Charlotte – Gainesville, FL OR @Ron_Charlotte1

Don mentioned some good points about setting up the ability to accept
credit cards.

Now, as far as ‘storefront’, this is what we’ve suggested to a friend
who does craft shows.

Theoretically, you can do this via Internet by using a web-storefront
and going through an e-commerce provider. At this point, what you
would do is dial in to the 'net somehow (either by having a landline
at the show, or using a cellular connection) and process the charge as
you would an online sale.

Many e-commerce providers also allow for telecheck (processing a check
like a credit card.)

As far as bad checks, if you feel that a customer will not be unduly
offended, you can check for fund availability through their bank’s
telephone system. It takes some time, but for large amounts, it can
be worth it. (But it’s still no guarantee.)

If you need help with setting up an e-commerce provider, please let me
know offlist.



I recommend checking with Costco Merchant Services (877.807.6239).
I’m pleased with the service. When I signed up about one year ago,
they did not offer refurbished equipment, though. I purchased my
terminal for about $600-650. To rent the machine over I believe one
year would have cost over $1,000. Check it out!



How would you get an approval if you have to enter billing
for the card and all the other stuff while the customer
waits? I have an e-commerce account and it won’t even process
manually unless I have the correct credit card billing address.
Wouldn’t it be easyer to have a cordless processing unit such as
Nurit? I have another brand and all I have to do is run the card
through the machine, just like a store does. Ahh, I love the sound
of that receipt printing…

Vera Battemarco

I run the charges through when I get home from a show, and I always
ask the customer to write their telephone number on the charge slip,
in case there is any problem. I have, upon occasion, put the slip in
the imprinter wrong and cut off the first digit of the charge card
number (don’t get the compact imprinter- you sacrifice quality for
portability) and had to call the customer to get it.

I also usually give people the benefit of the doubt, and don’t call
them if the charge is rejected until I’ve waited a week or two and
tried again. Some people live pretty close to their credit limits, and
I’ll catch them after they’ve made a payment.

Janet Kofoed

I believe that when one Orchidian mentioned the use of a cell phone
she was describing how she uses it to verify an account and address
from a show before accepting a credit card or check payment which she
actually processes at a later time.

Banks are not known for being the first to avail themselves of new
technologies. I don’t believe it is possible to process directly
from a cell phone yet. There are digital remote swipe machines that
you can get. These are fairly pricey when you only need one.

There’s some good on options for processing and costs at Then if you still
have questions I recommend you contact me off-line.

Elizabeth Paulsen