A Garage Sale Story (Because We All Have One)
My neighbors and I hosted a multi-family garage sale last week. I know what you’re thinking—I bet she made bank. (Insert hysterical laughing emoji here.) As a matter of fact, I did get some bragging rights because I moved the most stuff. Yeah, I had gone into the day thinking, “I will take none of this junk back into my house.” Well, I delivered on my own promise, but at the cost of profits. Namely, since we were only accepting cash as our payment method, when someone asked if they could pay by check, I found myself saying, “Just take it. It’s yours.” The neighbors joked that I could have made the most money of anyone. Instead, I made $34.50. Not bad for the average sale being 25 cents!
If you are operating a small business, you’ve likely found yourself in a similar situation before. Maybe you didn’t give things away for free, but perhaps you had to turn away business because your payment methods were limited. Well, let’s change that. To be sure, we’ll identify the vast array of payment methods for small businesses so that you can have more ways to maximize profits.
A Myriad of Payment Methods
If I had written this post at the turn of the century, my list of payment methods would be drastically reduced. Technology has allowed us immense flexibility in so many ways, one of them being in payment methods. So, let’s have a look at the longstanding ways we pay, as well as some as the nouveau methods we are seeing.
Cash is king, right? Well, while that saying has spanned the decades as far as we can remember, cash was a novelty not long before that. Furthermore, there’s no telling how much time cash might have left before it is dethroned and replaced by something more technologically advanced.
Nevertheless, most businesses accept cash payments. Having cash in hand makes certain the funds are verifiably available.
On the other hand, cash can be seen as a liability. If it were to disappear—be stolen, be misplaced, be destroyed—small business owners would be out the money.
Additionally, exchanging cash has been associated with increased risk during the COVID-19 pandemic. This perception has taken a toll on the confidence in cash, as studies show a decreased rate of cash payments.
Payment by check may be the payment method we are seeing decrease at the fastest rate these days. In fact, many current 20-somethings have never written a check in their life. Crazy to think about, huh? Nevertheless, millions of checks are still written each year, not surprisingly by older generations. After all, old habits die hard, and sometimes technology can be a little intimidating.
Similar to paying by check, debit cards offer a way for people to pay with a direct transaction to their bank account. The difference is that the debit card makes it easy to swipe, enter a pin, and go. The point-of-sale (POS) device does all the hard work (as opposed to your hand, which has to fill out all the necessary information on a check).
One of the reasons many people use credit cards is because it gives them an element of protection. In other words, the credit card company is actually the party paying for the goods or service, and then the customer repays the credit card company. If there is an issue with the transaction, the customer can turn to the credit card company to dispute it.
Now, digital payments are all the rage, but they do come with a level of distrust. Namely, some people are hesitant to use digital payment methods because they fear things like identity theft, hacking, and fraud. Additionally, they don’t want to pay fees that might be associated with a digital payment platform.
On the other hand, many people enjoy the flexibility that digital payments offer. They like leaving the house without a wallet full of cash and/or cards. Instead, they can do anything they want financially with just a few taps on a screen.
Here are some of the most common digital payment methods:
- Online Banking – Processing one-time or recurring payments through your bank.
- PayPal – Sending money to both large and small businesses.
- Venmo – Sending money through the app from one “friend” to another. This platform is owned by PayPal, and also offers the capability to send invoices.
- Cash App – Sending money from the customer to the retailer. This platform is owned by Square, which offers credit card processing and POS solutions.
- Apple Pay – Payment via iMessages to fellow Apple users.
- Google Pay – Payment via Google to both Apple and Android users.
- Facebook Pay – Payment via Facebook’s social media site to pay other Messenger users.
- Zelle – The platform through which many banks make their digital transfers.
- Mobile Wallet – A way to keep your payment methods housed in one place on your mobile device.
Without a doubt, you’ve probably heard of at least a couple of these platforms. Even so, perhaps you are a little surprised at the length of this list. Many of us tend to stick to a couple of payment methods we are most comfortable with.
Despite how anyone feels about the elusive cryptocurrency (perhaps you’ve heard of Bitcoin?), I’d be amiss not to mention it here. Currently, approximately 17% of the U.S. adult population owns stock in Bitcoin. And while interest is certainly piqued, people want to better understand cryptocurrency before fully adopting this as a regular payment method.
The Downside of Numerous Payment Methods
Now, of course, when there are so many positives about accepting numerous payment methods in your small business, there must also be a downside. Well, the biggest hurdle is getting people to see the value in the associated fees. The POS device may have fees, and you’ve probably heard clerks ask “credit or debit,” because, for them, credit fees may vary, depending on which you choose.
Platforms like PayPal and Venmo may also have fees, which may increase if you choose to expedite payment. Nevertheless, these fees seem nominal to people who value convenience, even if it comes with a cost.
Cashing in on Payment Methods
Similar to my philosophy at the garage sale, many small business owners are quite keen to move inventory. The thing that makes them different from me, however, is that they are also interested in maximizing profits. Therefore, it’s key that small business owners offer a variety of payment methods to their customers.
So, now you don’t have an excuse for turning away business because you don’t have the capability of taking their payment. Or, at least now you are aware of the variety of payment methods you could potentially accept. So, why not have fun creating the menu of payment methods you will accept at your place of business?