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Do you accept credit cards as payment for services rendered at your museum/historical society? If so, how did you set up the system? What company are you using? Anything else we should know before embarking on this path? – Mary Warner, Museum Manager, Morrison County Historical Society.

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6 Responses to Accepting Credit Cards

  1. Claudia Nicholson says:

    Mary: I wrote a very detailed post describing what we do here, and then accidentally erased it before I could post it. QOS Merchant Systems, an AAM affiliate business (they offer discounts to AAM members). If anyone else wants to hear about our exciting credit card adventures (I’m so glad that we did it), let me know and I will recreate my long post and try not to blow it away before it gets posted.

    But feel free to call me too (651-748-2880) if you want the lowdown.



  2. Claudia Nicholson says:

    Well, David would not let me get away with tantalizing you all.

    As members of AAM, we have the opportunity to work with business partners, among them QOS Merchant Systems out of Atlanta. This is a small business–indeed, all of my contact with them was with the company president, Marion Dunn, who is very nice and very interested in ensuring that you get what will work best for you. He sent me a number of e-mails outlining their services and the ways in which they are giving us a deal. For instance, I asked specifically for a rundown of all typical credit card processing expenses, and he sent one along, listing all the charges that they DON’T charge AAM members (I wanted something for my board). I did some research, and their fees are very competitive.

    We got the plain vanilla system. Bought a refurbished credit card terminal, on which we do what are called "card not present" transactions. These transactions are keyed in, rather than swiping a card. Apparently, you have to have some critical mass of business in order for them to allow you to do the swipe transactions–which are cheaper. We also don’t have credit card capability on this account at our website (we have PayPal for people who want to do things via the web). That would be additional software and costs, which I cannot do right now.

    Even so, the fees that we pay each month are very reasonable. There is a monthly service fee ($15 for us) plus we owe them a percentage of our gross sales. They transfer the money into our bank account within about 3 days of entering the transaction. Then, at the end of the month, they debit our account for their fees. No muss, no fuss.

    One thing to pay attention to is that if you have a very slow month, you could end up losing money on your credit transactions. For example, one month, we had only one charge for $15. With our monthly fee and the percentage, we ended up losing 90 cents (you are on the hook for the monthly fee whether or not you do any business). However, I look at the convenience to our members of using credit cards, and while I have no real evidence, I do believe that people spend more when they are using credit. I do know that I’ve done several phone transactions, and this is great for such transactions.

    All in all, it is a net plus for us, and not hard to manage at all. If you’ve been holding off, but do a decent shop business plus memberships and contributions, do it.

    There are other processors out there that link to bookkeeping programs (like QuickBooks), but I didn’t find them as competitive. But to get the best deal from QOS, of course, you have to be a member of AAM.

    That’s about the sum of what I accidentally erased. If you have any other questions, just post them!



  3. David Grabitske says:

    What is your transaction fee? From the numbers you cite I suppose it is 6 percent. I see for a number of other credit card processing companies that their transaction rates are lower, anywhere from 2.19 to 2.4 percent. I wonder how total fees compare between lower transaction rate companies and QOS Merchant Systems.


  4. Mary Warner says:

    Surprise! I go away for a couple of days of vacation, and there are posts when I get back. Cool! Plus, Ben Leonard gave me a holler via email. He uses Elan. He also said that TechSoup offers a deal on the credit card machines.

    Claudia, thanks for the low down on QOS. I had just received a mailing (snail mail) from them and noticed their affiliation with AAM. (We’re members.) I wondered how QOS stacked up to other credit card companies. I’m a fish out of water on this and simply didn’t know where to start.

    Thus far, we’ve had a very small gift shop with inexpensive doodads for kids. I’d like to rethink the gift shop and what we offer, hoping to ramp things up a bit, but have been letting the older stuff sell out before we make a move. Since the publication of our book, which sells for over $50, we’ve had a lot of customers asking if we accept credit cards, hence our interest in the topic.

    Thanks, everyone, for your input.


  5. Claudia Nicholson says:

    Our deal with QOS is that all of our transactions are "Card Not Present". We are on the hook for $15 each month, whether we do any business or not. Then, on our Visa/MC transactions (those are the only ones we take), we are supposed to be paying 2.2% of the transaction amount + .20 cents. (Once we are able to do "swipe" transactions, this percentage drops to 1.7% (or somesuch).)

    I did the math on my $15 month and came up with a .53 cent charge, rather than the .90 I cited. Undoubtedly, I did something wrong, or I read our statement incorrectly (both are incredibly possible). But that is the deal that we signed on for.

    The amount-per-transaction was actually similar to a number of other credit card processors, including PayPal and QuickBooks. However, the difference was in the additional fees, and the set-up charges (we pay none to QOS). This is what tipped the balance in favor of QOS for us. (that, and the fact that I cannot use PayPal for a museum shop sale)

    Hope this answers your questions.

    And on the matter of what kind of merchandise to sell–I’ve got a $40 book (of which I have sold exactly none since I got it in a couple of months ago) and I’ve got pencils which sell for 50 cents each. Our best sellers (by far) are our Grand Opening patch, which sells for $3, and our Lord Baden-Powell bobblehead for $19.95. (B-P was the founder of Boy Scouts). So, there is a big spread. I am cautious, not adding too much to the shop until I have a better sense of what sells. And the fact that kids don’t particularly break down my shop doors to buy things could just as easily be attributable to the fact that the surface upon which all our lucious offerings sits stands at 40", which is a little bit too high for the wee people!



  6. Claudia Nicholson says:

    One more thing on moving shop stock. I featured 3 new books in our most recent newsletter, and had a member come in the other specifically to buy those three books (including the $40 one I was moaning about in my last post). It’s sort of like that scene in Star Wars when Obi Wan says to the Imperial Storm Troopers "This is not the man you want . . ." and they repeat it and then go away. Sometimes, you CAN get members to do what you want–if you have the Force with you!


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