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How To Accept Credit Cards for Girl Scout Cookie Sales

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Girl Scout digital cookieThese are exciting times for Girl Scouts and cookie lovers alike. The recent launch of the Girl Scout Digital Cookie program allows participating councils and troops to accept credit and debit payments for online cookie orders, and to ship out orders to buyers. This e-commerce experience will prove useful to scouts, and will undoubtedly increase sales, but it’s only part of the card acceptance equation. There is currently no official service offered by the Girl Scouts to accept credit card payments in person, but there are a number of options to consider.

Twenty years ago the idea of handing your credit card to a Girl Scout in exchange for cookies would have seemed far-fetched. But the payments industry has evolved quite a bit in recent years, and Girl Scouts – innovative, smart entrepreneurs that they are – are adapting with the times. Many shoppers do not carry cash with them anymore, and even fewer carry a checkbook. Most of us have wallets full of plastic, but that doesn’t mean our appetite for Somoas has decreased. So when Girl Scout cookie season is upon us, we want to have the same payment convenience found in our daily retail lives. Lucky for us, and for the Girls Scouts, it’s never been easier to accept credit and debit card payments.

Phone-Based Mobile Payments for Girl Scout Cookie Sales

This is how Girl Scouts are most likely to accept card payments. With nothing more than a smartphone or a tablet, you can accept payments from anywhere that has data service or an internet connection. Most providers (like Square) will require you to use a card reader that attaches to your headphone jack (generally this is free, arriving in a week or so) in order to get the lowest rates.

Most mobile processing services do not charge any monthly fees, so during the off-season you won’t be charged at all for the service, or will you have to cancel the account.

Invoicing for Girl Scouts

Some mobile-based card processors include invoicing capabilities as part of their standard package, including Square (see our review). With this service, you can process orders and send emailed invoices instead of accepting payment in person. This is a great supplement to the official Girl Scout Digital Cookie program, or as an alternative to it in regions where the programs has not yet launched. While most Girl Scout chapters seem to have rules against selling online, invoicing is different. This simply gives customers another payment option. Scouts can receive an order from a buyer, tally the sale, and then send an invoice, automatically delivered via email. After the buyer pays at his or her convenience, the order can be delivered.

To be sure that this practice is accepted by your particular regional rules, it’s best ask the appropriate authorities before utilizing e-invoice for Girl Scout Cookie Sales.

Researching Providers for Girl Scout Credit Card Payment Acceptance

If you follow a few simple guidelines, finding a reliable and cost effective payment processor for your troop’s Girl Scout Cookie sales is simple. Here are some important considerations:

  • Fees: Chances are, you won’t be selling $100K worth of Girl Scout cookies each year, so you need to find a service with no (or low) monthly fees and no monthly minimums.
  • Contracts: You also will not being selling the cookies year-round, so it’s important to sign up for a no-commitment service that does not include an extended contract and termination fee.
  • Fair rates: While you won’t be able to qualify for the interchange-plus rates a larger business would insist on, it doesn’t hurt to do some comparison shopping to make sure the rates you’re getting are fair and in line with the industry average based on your volume.
  • Reliability/Functionality: Don’t get too caught up in rate shopping, though. The reliability and functionality of the service are way more important considerations. Low rates don’t mean much if the service isn’t functioning properly.
  • Mobility: Finally, you will want to find a service that allows you to process card payments on-the-go, without any expensive additional equipment.

Conclusion

Whether or not you are able to take part in the Girl Scout Digital Cookie pilot program launched by the Girl Scouts this year, you should seriously consider accepting credit card payments in person. By helping your troop to select a credit card processor, you can provide young scouts with useful business knowhow that will allow them to approach the payments industry with confidence later in life.

The resources on our site can help you to lead the troop to an informed decision. Take a look at our top-rated mobile credit card processors. It’s a great starting place as you consider which payment processing service will best suit your needs for Girl Scout cookie sales. With just a smartphone and a free app, you can be accepting payments from anywhere in under an hour.

Happy selling!

Tom DeSimone
Based in New York’s Hudson Valley, Tom has written for Merchant Maverick since 2013 and currently serves as the website’s managing editor for payment processing content. His work is cited by publications including TechCrunch, Washington Business Journal, and Bank Advisor. Press seeking expert comments for stories related to credit card processing can reach him via LinkedIn for a prompt reply.
Tom DeSimone
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12 Comments

Responses are not provided or commissioned by the vendor or bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the vendor or bank advertiser. It is not the vendor or bank advertiser's responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.

    Destiny-Rose

    Hi I recently got a card as a token of selling cookies (I am a girl Scout) and I can’t really use the credit cards anywhere but I think it would be pretty useless if the only thing I could buy with it would be cookies can I buy anything else?

      Jessica Dinsmore

      Hi Destiny,

      I think this might be a question for your troop leader, or whoever issued the card to you. Sorry we couldn’t help, but we wish you lot’s of luck with your cookie sales!

        Kristii

        Hi!
        We used Square last year for our Girl Scout cookies sales. This year now, I received a 1099-K form. We as a troop do not file taxes, what does this mean for us? The tax id on the account is for GS of Northern California.
        Thanks for any info you can provide.

          Jessica Dinsmore

          Hi Kristii,

          The 1099-K is required to be sent to the merchant and the IRS when the merchant reaches a certain volume. It is for informational purposes only. If you want to be thorough, you can forward the 1099-K to the headquarters of the agency whose tax ID was used to set up the account.

            Meredith

            Do Girl Scouts take American Express, or is that based on each council?

              Jessica Dinsmore

              Hi Meredith,

              Unfortunately we don’t have the answer to that question. I’d check with your local troop leader to find out what form of payment is acceptable in your area. I suspect it varies from troop to troop. Best of luck and enjoy those cookies!

                Astrid Gambill

                What about passing the payment processing fee onto customers. Is this acceptable as a “convenience fee”?

                  Tom DeSimone

                  Hi Astrid,

                  Check out our post about the regulation of surcharging customers for using credit cards here.

                    Telesha

                    How do you get paid from the square?

                      Chloe Bahal

                      Hi Telesha,

                      Here is more information on how to deposit with Square.

                        Melissa Dolder

                        Our Girl Scout council is advising us against using something like Square to accept credit cards. They are convinced that it will show up as taxable income for the troops. Can you clarify this for me?

                          Tom DeSimone

                          If you set up an account with your personal information, technically the money earned will be taxable (just like the money a teenager makes mowing her neighbor’s lawn is technically taxable). Legally, each individual is required to report ALL earnings. But most processing services will not send documentation to the IRS unless you make over a certain amount in a year, say $10K. Some will, but most don’t (it’s worth confirming with the processor if you’re worried about it). So it’s largely a tax honor system when dealing with amounts as small as cookie sales. If you register with a non-profit ID, this will be different.

                          Hope this helps.

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