Each summer, I spend the final long weekend indulging in a love of BBQ and music at a local festival. In the last few years, I’ve spent more of the festival working behind the bar at a charity fundraiser. It’s a perfect way to soak in the ambience and listen to the bands, while contributing to the community in my own small way. Years ago, all the transactions at the event were cash only. Now, the balance is shifting towards a more equal balance of cash and credit/debit. Both cash and credit/debit transactions are rung in using iPads. Similar to buying online, cashiers simply select the desired beverages then check out from the shopping cart. The credit/debit iPads connect to a point-of-sale (POS) terminal that sends the transaction to a service provider that connects to the customers’ bank accounts. We rarely pause to think how easily the money has moved without touching any human hands. We just enjoy the convenience of walking away with a cool drink to enjoy the tunes on a summer day.
According to a 2018 study, 79% of Canadians prefer paying with a credit or debit card rather than cash. Most consumers said they carry less cash now than they did in the past, typically having an average of $46.50 in their wallets. This contrasts with earlier Bank of Canada research that found that Canadians used cash for over half of their transactions. Cash is often used for small-value purchases, debit for moderate-value purchases, and credit cards for higher-value transactions. Payments Canada reports that 90% of Canadians own credit cards and use of tap has grown 55% between 2016-2018. Attitudes towards payments have shifted and businesses need to be aware of these trends.
On a recent visit to my hair stylist, I was surprised that I couldn’t pay by credit card. I almost never have enough cash on hand for the typical cost of a cut and colour. I paid with a cheque instead (a method of payment that I rarely use and is no longer widely accepted by retailers). It turns out that the salon had been having increasing problems with their credit/debit terminals. They had spent hours troubleshooting with their service provider, but to no avail. Finally, they gave up and switched their service provider and the credit/debit problems went away! Their old service provider tried to hold them to the full length of their contract, then tried to penalize them for switching but ultimately they agreed to let the salon go without penalty. When I came back for my last hair appointment, the credit transaction went through seamlessly, as I’ve come to expect.
As entrepreneur or business owner, you need to be aware of the evolving trends in payments and the types of tools and services that are available to assist you. Some of the payment service providers in Canada include: Elavon, First Data, Global Payments, Moneris, Payfirma, PayPal, Square, Stripe and TD Merchant Services. Each of these services has pros and cons, and each targets different types of customers. When selecting a service provider, keep in mind the following considerations:
- What types of products and services do they provide? Will they accommodate seasonal businesses? What size of business does this company typically serve?
- Are the products easy to use? Can you easily create the reports you want?
- How is their customer service? Do they provide a service level agreement? Are they accessible 24/7?
- Are the prices reasonable? Is the price structure transparent? Are there additional fees? How long is the contract term? What type of seller protection do they provide?
How to you prefer to pay for products and services? Has this changed over time? How do your customers prefer to pay? Do trends in how people use money impact yourself and your business? It’s worth thinking about since it can affect your bottom line.