These days, in most cases all it takes is a quick swipe of plastic to pay for something. With people increasingly expecting to pay by card, it can be extremely worthwhile for a leisure-time music group to take card payments.
Whether payments are being made for member subscriptions, on the door ticket sales, donations or for merchandise such as CDs, a card reader and Point of Sale (POS) system can be very handy.
Most of the services work by issuing you with a card reader that you link to your smartphone or tablet. So all you need is a smartphone/tablet and an internet connection, and you can take card payments on the go and offer a convenient and easy way for members and supporters to pay you.
Under the Gift Aid Small Donations Scheme (GASDS), charities also have the added bonus of being able to claim Gift Aid on donations made by contactless card payments – read our full guidance ‘How to claim gift aid for your group’ to see if your organisation is eligible to claim gift aid under the GASDS.
This guidance covers just some of the different POS systems which are currently available; although not an extensive list we have picked a selection of devices and providers to get you started. If there are other systems which are available and not currently listed then please do contact us and we will add them to this guidance.
For ease of reading, this guidance has been split into a few sections; the things that you may need to consider when signing up to use a card payment service and a list of some POS system providers.
There are a few areas to consider before making a decision about the best provider and system for your organisation.
What do you want to use the system for?
The providers are subject to financial regulations and have different operating licenses. This means they have rules about what sort of transactions you can take using their service. For example:
- Some are designed to take only one-off payments where the goods/services are provided immediately. This would be okay for at the door ticket sales or to sell merchandise. But they do not allow you to take payments for future services, so this would not be okay for things like member subscriptions or selling tickets in advance of performances
- Others allow payments for future services - but not if it is part of an installment plan (so paying for a full year of membership in one go would be fine - but monthly installments would not)
- Others only operate for donations
- Some take all types of payment
This does seem to change overtime as their licences change, so it is best to check with them. The information is available but often in the Terms and conditions and it can be hard to find or understand. It is best to contact their customer service team and ask.
The first and most obvious area to cover is cost. Most providers charge a one-off fee for the card reader, whereas others charge a monthly fee which is dependent on the number of people who will be using the point of sale application. If your organisation holds multiple events where payment for event tickets are usually asked for or members tend to pay their subscription fees per session then it might be worth paying a monthly fee. If, however, you will only require the device for the odd occasion then paying a monthly fee might not be worthwhile. This is of course completely up to the you to decide what is best for your group but the ongoing cost of using a service is definitely well worth thinking about.
As well as the cost of the device/point of sale application, additional costs are added per transaction. All of the companies mentioned in this guidance charge a percentage on top of each transaction which is how they make their money. However, the amount charged does vary. Some companies charge a set fee on top of any transaction taken, whereas others, charge different amounts depending on the type of payment taken. For example, they may charge 1.75% for each payment where the card is present or 2.5% for a transaction where a card is not present (e.g. if payment is taken over the phone). It is worth knowing how much will be taken off the full amount paid to your group. For example, if the charge is 1.75% and somebody pays £10 then the total amount that would go into the organisations account would actually be £9.83.
Some providers also offer discounts if your group is a registered charity. The providers may ask you to provide particular information about your charity - for example details about your trustees - but you may decide that this is worth doing in order to take advantage of discounted rates.
Transaction settlement time
Another key thing to think about is how long it will take for the payment made to reach your group's account. Once again this varies across companies – some transfer funds immediately, whereas others, take more than a few days. This might not be an issue if the organisation can afford to wait for the payment, but for smaller organisations the wait could cause some unnecessary stress, especially if fees are due and the funds gained are not readily available. This issue can be managed of course, ensuring that payments are given plenty of time to settle before any outgoing payments are due.
Although most of our member groups won't be taking single card payments over thousands of pounds it is still good to take note of any minimum or maximum transaction fees applied and question how these could affect your organisation. Some devices have a minimum transaction fee of £1 for instance and other devices can take a maximum of £5500 per card transaction. It could potentially put off willing donors if they are expected to pay over a certain amount and similarly, if the organisation is lucky enough to have donors willing to pay thousands of pounds then it is useful to know the transaction limit of each device just in case.
Imagine this: you're running an event, taking multiple donations by credit card, and then suddenly, the device runs out of battery. Not an ideal situation to be in and one that can easily be avoided by picking a device which has a suitable battery level for your groups activities. If the organisation tends to host day-long events where donations are taken regularly throughout the day, it would be wise to pick a device that can handle such demand. If however, your organisation will not be using the device on a regular basis or for long periods of time, then the battery life would not be a massive issue and you could choose to go for a cheaper option which has a shorter battery life than some other providers.
Checking the compatibility with your device
All of the providers listed below require you to link a smartphone or tablet to their payment system. This means your smart phone/tablet needs to be compatible with the provider’s app. All the below are compatible with Apple and Android devices. If you are not using an Apple or Android device you can find out if the selected provider works with your smartphone/tablet by looking at the provider’s websites or contacting them directly.
Some card payment systems
We have listed some card payment and POS systems that we know some of our members use below. This is by no means an exhaustive list, if your group is using a different system then please let Making Music know and we can add it. You can find out more about each of the systems on the companies website which is also linked below.
Please note that all of the information provided in this guidance is correct as of March 2022, please do make sure that you check the provider’s websites for up-to-date information on each of the systems and devices before making a decision.
We hope you find this Making Music resource useful. If you have any comments or suggestions about the guidance please contact us. Whilst every effort is made to ensure that the content of this guidance is accurate and up to date, Making Music do not warrant, nor accept any liability or responsibility for the completeness or accuracy of the content, or for any loss which may arise from reliance on the information contained in it.