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Everywhere you go, people appreciate the ability to pay for products and services with plastic.
Some countries, like Japan, are basically a cash-first society. But in North America, many of us are used to making payments with debit and credit cards because of their ease of use and convenience.
Even though it doesn’t make much sense, people tend to expect non-retailers and independent sellers to be able to accept plastic payments as well. I say it doesn’t make sense, because, most of us aren’t just carrying a Verifone card reader in our pockets everywhere we go!
But the reality of the situation is that you probably don’t want to miss out on any opportunity to make money as a musician. It’s hard enough earning money from your music without turning people away.
So, if you aren’t accepting credit card payments yet, it’s probably time you started. There are several apps and devices that make it easy for you to do, so there’s no excuse.
Here are five of the best credit card readers for musicians and gigs.
PayPal Mobile Credit Card Reader
Compatible with iOS and Android, this PayPal swiper works a lot like the popular Square one. They will charge you a 2.7% fee per transaction, which is minimal all things considered, and you won’t find a single card reader that doesn’t charge a fee, so you must expect it.
Now, as for reasons why you might use PayPal over other alternatives: One is that you may be a PayPal power user yourself. If so, you’ll probably like the fact that payments processed with this reader will go directly to your PayPal account. As you probably know, transferring money from PayPal to another account is easy to do, though it may take a few days to process.
Another is that most people are familiar with the PayPal name. This could be potential credibility builder with your fans who also use PayPal.
PayAnywhere Mobile Card Reader
The PayAnywhere credit card reader accepts all major payments in addition to PayPal transactions, all for a relatively standard 2.69% fee per swipe.
Reportedly, PayAnywhere hold funds for longer than other card swiper providers. This is to ensure security and minimal issues with transactions, but it’s still a little annoying if you’re used to seeing funds appear in your account faster.
Square is by far one of the most popular card reader solutions available, for musicians or otherwise.
Their mobile card reader can be plugged directly into your phone or tablet, for both iOS and Android devices.
After a payment is processed, it only takes 24 to 48 hours to appear in your bank account. Square will take 2.75% per transaction, however. Using their trusted card reader, you can process Visa, MasterCard, Discover, and American Express cards.
If you can’t be bothered to bring a card reader dongle with you everywhere you go, then you might give Flint a try.
With Flint, credit cards can be scanned with your phone. If your fans are worried about you holding onto sensitive information, tell them not to worry – Flint does not save images of people’s credit cards to your phone.
Flint’s transaction fee is a low 1.95%.
Intuit Mobile Card Reader
Intuit charges 2.4% per swipe, as well as 25 cents per transaction. You can also get on a monthly payment plan at $20 per month, to reduce the per-swipe rate to 1.6%, though you will still be charged the same 25 cents per transaction.
I would say the only reason to even consider using this solution is if you’re doing your accounting with QuickBooks. The reason I say that is because the hardware just isn’t up to par with other products that are available. There are numerous customer complaints on Amazon, citing issues with the hardware as well as poor technical support.
It’s still a decent option, to be fair, just not the best one.
Do I Need A Credit Card Reader?
There are a few questions you can ask yourself that should help you figure out, relatively quickly, whether you need a credit card reader.
First, do you have merch? Second, are you selling that merch? Third, are people coming to your merch table asking to pay with their plastic?
If you answered “yes” to all three questions, then you probably need a credit card reader.
After all, people don’t always carry cash these days, especially in North America. You could be missing out on some good revenue if you aren’t able to accept many types of payments.
With convenient options like the Flint app, you can get started simply and without much hassle.
What Should I Look For In A Credit Card Reader?
Are credit card readers all the same? In a word, “no”.
As more competitors enter the field and drive up the need for better quality devices, there may come a time when it doesn’t make much difference who you buy from. That’s simply not the case right now.
So, here are a few factors you can look at when deciding which solution to use.
Naturally, you don’t want too much of your money being syphoned off by third-party companies. Since you’re using their software/hardware, you should expect there to be a fee, but there’s no reason to allow yourself to be gouged.
Lower isn’t always better, because you could end up sacrificing functionality or quality elsewhere. You need to maintain a balanced perspective when searching for the right solution. It's a balancing act.
How many times do you expect to be swiping cards every night? Half a dozen times? 20 times? 50 times?
Sadly, a device that isn’t properly developed could fall apart under such pressure.
If you don’t want to waste your time or money, you should get a card reader that’s going to last you a while.
In most cases, I can’t imagine this would be much of a deciding factor.
“Do you accept credit card payments?”
You pull out your Square device, and your fan says, “No, no, I’m not going to let you swipe my card with THAT!”
Most people know what Square is, and even if they don’t, it’s relatively unlikely they’re going to look at you weird when you swipe their card using it.
You could say that about any of the above solutions, really. Intuit and PayPal are well-known companies that have been around a long time.
But if you want to take extra steps to ensure your customers feel safe, take a moment to explain to them how your device works, and let them know they won’t be overcharged or have their information stolen.
Ease Of Use
In my experience, no device is perfect, not even Square.
But if it’s too difficult to use or takes too long to process transactions, it probably isn’t worth your time.
Unfortunately, this is only something you can know through trial and error. I would suggest doing your research and watching some reviews before picking your poison.
Best Credit Card Readers For Musicians, Final Thoughts
Credit card readers are still new technology. There is a lot of discussion out there on whether they can be trusted.
But rest assured this technology will only become more popular and commonplace with time, and be used by more independent sellers.
There’s always a little bit of a tradeoff where people value convenience over other factors. There are only three elements a business can compete on: Quality, convenience, and price.
Think of McDonald’s. Many people think their value proposition is price. That is incorrect. You can buy groceries and eat considerably cheaper. Their value proposition is convenience. Since they’re not trying to compete on quality or price, there isn’t much need for them to think about that side of things. That’s one of the secrets to their business.
A mobile credit card reader is convenient. It allows you to take mobile payments wherever you go, and not have to carry additional technology. Is it surprising then that you pay a fee for each use?
If you notice your merch table getting busy, it’s probably time to get a credit card reader. You’ll be turning fewer people away and making more money overall.