Scouting magazine

Play your cards right with credit card processing for your pack

Doug Lindstrom has seen the future, and it’s stamped with a Visa logo. For the past few years, Pack 367 in Little Elm, Texas, has been accepting credit cards. That includes families buying pack T-shirts and paying campout fees, and even people who want to make donations. In doing so, the pack has caught up with the rest of society, where checks — and even cash — are going the way of the telegraph and the typewriter.

Scouting spoke with Lindstrom to learn how his pack operates in the cashless economy. Here are his top suggestions.

Choose a Partner

To accept credit cards, your pack must first sign up with a payment processing service. Popular options are PayPal Here, Square and QuickBooks. By linking the account you create with your pack’s bank account, you can easily access the money you’ve received.

Which service you choose depends on how you plan to use it.

Keep in mind that you may be asked for your unit’s Tax Identification Number or Employer Identification Number, as well as its tax-exempt status. Your unit should know the appropriate tax number and have the permission of the chartering organization if the number belongs to the chartering organization. Your unit should never use the local council or BSA National Council Employer Identification Number.

Pick a Product

Next, Lindstrom says, you have to acquire one or more card readers; these are the devices that plug into a smartphone or tablet (or work wirelessly via Bluetooth) and capture credit card data. For example, PayPal offers four different readers, which range in price from $14.99 to $79.99. Not surprisingly, the more money you spend, the more features you get. With the cheapest version, you can only swipe cards, meaning you’ll be on the hook for any fraudulent charges. With the most expensive version, customers can insert their chip cards — a more secure option — or make contactless payments through services like Apple Pay.

Count the Cost …

Beyond the cost of card readers and any fraudulent charges you might have to absorb, you’ll pay a fee for every transaction. With PayPal, the fee is 2.7 percent per transaction or 3.5 percent plus $0.15 if you have to key in the digits manually. (Key in too many transactions, and PayPal will put an automatic 30-day hold on your money. This is a fraud-prevention move.)

Some people might think that’s a lot of money to pay for convenience, but Lindstrom disagrees. “Would you rather make 97 percent of a dollar or zero percent of a dollar?” he asks. “That guy walking into Lowe’s has a credit card, and he will buy that bag of popcorn from you if you take his credit card. If you insist on cash, you’re going to keep that bag of popcorn.”

You might be tempted to recoup the cost by charging extra, but that’s actually illegal in 10 states. Lindstrom says a better option is to offer a cash discount — something many gas stations do — or, better yet, simply consider the swipe fees to be a cost of doing business.

Remember, most fundraising requires submitting a unit money-earning application approved by your chartering organization and local council. Find other fundraising policies and regulations at scouting.org

Focus on the Features

Lindstrom points out that these
services offer a range of features that make their fees seem more palatable.

For example, you can create an inventory of all your fundraiser products and their prices. At the point of sale, the person using the card reader simply has to select the product and quantity. The software does the rest, even emailing or texting the customer a receipt.

Lindstrom’s final piece of advice about accepting credit cards? “Don’t be afraid; it’s not that difficult,” he says. “I think it’s really helped out our pack, and I think it’ll help out other packs.”