Why Accepting Credit Cards For Girl Scout Cookies Will Help Keep You Organized & Increase Your Sales: Everything You Need To Know To Survive Cookie Season
These are exciting times for Girl Scouts and cookie lovers alike. 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—the 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 Samoas 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 Girl Scouts), it’s never been easier to accept credit and debit card payments.
Many Girl Scout troops take in-person orders using a mobile app that allows them to accept payments using credit cards. There is currently no one official service offered by the Girl Scouts to accept credit card payments in person, but there are several options to consider.
The point is that Girl Scouts can now accept credit cards instead of just cash and check. Here’s how — and why it’s going to make life easier.
Table of Contents
- Selling Girl Scout Cookies Online: Enter The Digital Cookie
- Accepting In-Person Credit Card Payments for Girl Scout Cookie Sales
- Using Square For Girl Scout Cookie Sales
- Using Sage Mobile Payments For Girl Scout Cookie Sales
- Alternatives For Girl Scout Cookie Credit Card Payments
- Key Takeaway: Girl Scout Cookie Sales Have Gone Digital
Selling Girl Scout Cookies Online: Enter The Digital Cookie
The Girl Scout Digital Cookie program, launched in 2015, allows participating councils and troops to accept credit and debit payments for online cookie orders and ship out orders directly to buyers. This eCommerce experience has proven useful to scouts and cookie buyers, but it’s only part of the card acceptance equation.
Digital Cookie is both a website and a mobile app. Each Girl Scout has their own Digital Cookie website, from which friends and family can order cookies and pay using their credit card. The Girl Scout simply has to send her website link to potential cookie buyers. Girl Scouts are only supposed to send their link to people they personally know, however.
Mobile Sales With The Digital Cookie App
Girl Scouts can also use the Digital Cookie mobile app to accept in-person credit card payments for cookie orders on their smartphones or tablets. For example, a Girl Scout troop with a booth set up outside a grocery store might use the app. Girl Scouts can only use the app to take orders and payments if their council allows it—many, but not all councils participate in Digital Cookie and of those, some but not all use the mobile app for in-person credit card payments.
Are there any downsides to using the Digital Cookie app to accept credit cards for Girl Scout cookie sales? Well, the app isn’t so much a mobile terminal as it is a web portal. Credit cards cannot be swiped or scanned, so all information needs to be entered manually, which can be inconvenient for both Scouts and their customers.
One positive thing about Digital Cookie is that your council may pay the payment processing fees. For example, the Girl Scouts of Colorado state on their website that the council will pay the credit card fees for sales made on the Digital Cookie App, but that if you use an outside service such as Square, your individual troop will be responsible for paying the credit card fees.
Accepting In-Person Credit Card Payments for Girl Scout Cookie Sales
Although Digital Cookie does provide one way for Girl Scouts to accept in-person credit card payments for cookie orders, many troops use a more convenient mobile credit card reader to take in-person card payments on mobile phones. Yes, troops have to pay the card processing fees themselves, but troops that accept credit cards sell a lot more cookies, and the processing fees are typically not significant. Troops should be able to find out from their council which mobile credit card app(s) they are allowed to use for in-person cookie sales.
Ways To Take Payments On Mobile Devices
There are a few different ways to take payments on a mobile device:
- Phone/tablet + app: Credit card information is entered manually by typing it into the app
- Phone/tablet + app + mobile reader: Swipe/dip customer’s credit card the traditional way
- Mobile invoicing: Customer pays later; useful for large orders or group buys
The first method, just using a phone or tablet with an app, is how you would process in-person credit card sales using Digital Cookie, any online payment portal such as PayPal.Me, or even mobile wallet apps like Venmo or Square Cash—though mobile wallet payments aren’t ideal for cookie sales since the customer must be a user of that product as well (and most of them have restrictions on how you can accept payments for goods and services).
The second method, which adds a mobile reader to swipe or dip cards, or accept contactless payments (Apple Pay, Google Pay, contactless credit cards, etc.), is how you take payments with Square, PayPal Here, or any other number of smartphone payment apps that include a card reader component. You can also manually key in credit card information with a mobile POS app like Square, but this is not recommended, as you’ll incur a much higher card processing fee—3.50% plus $0.15 in the case of Square and PayPal Here.
As for the mobile invoicing method, some mobile-based card processors include invoicing capabilities as part of their standard package, including Square. With this service, you can process orders and send emailed invoices instead of accepting payment in-person. This could potentially be a great supplement to the official Girl Scout Digital Cookie program. While most Girl Scout chapters seem to have rules against selling online (outside of Digital Cookie), 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 invoicing is accepted by your particular regional rules, it’s best to ask the appropriate authorities before utilizing e-invoice for Girl Scout Cookie Sales. Invoicing rates are higher than swipe/dip fees but less than keyed-in rates. For example, Square and PayPal Here both charge 2.9% + $0.30 for invoice payments.
Why You Should Accept Credit Card Payments For Cookies
The number of people who carry cash with them is dropping all the time, especially among younger generations. A 2017 U.S. Bank survey found that 50 percent of survey respondents reported carrying cash less than half of the time, and of those who do carry cash, less than half of those respondents carry more than $20. And that was in 2017, so the numbers are surely gone even further in the cashless direction since then. People also spend more when they pay with credit versus cash. Simply put, accepting credit cards equals more sales, and potentially larger sales.
In addition to boosting your cookie sales, point of sale apps also make it easier to stay organized, allowing you to record cash and check payments in addition to cards, as well as automatically calculate sales tax, track sales totals, and much more. These apps also have inventory management features. You can generate reports to reconcile cookies sold against remaining inventory, and also see which items are your bestsellers. Apart from making it easier for adults to manage the business, these are things girls can start learning to do and help with as well!
Note: It definitely helps to get the stickers that advertise credit card acceptance! Usually, one set is provided for free, but you can always order more. If your girl scouts are carrying signs that advertise cookies for sale, it wouldn’t hurt to add a sticker advertising your credit card acceptance.
Which App Should My Troop Use?
Apart from Digital Cookie, it doesn’t appear that there’s any sort of standardization or preferred app for accepting credit cards across the entire Girl Scouts organization. However, some particular councils and troops have chosen specific mobile app for use within their council or troop, and have set it up to provide card readers and logins to their Scouts.
A couple of mobile payment apps that seem to be popular with the Girl Scout councils are Square and Sage Mobile Payments.
Sage, in particular, is very proud of its Girl Scout association; in 2016, Sage announced that 30 different Girl Scout councils representing more than 40,000 Girl Scouts across the US were selling Girl Scout cookies using Sage Mobile Payments.
But many Girl Scout Councils, such as the Girl Scouts of Greater Chicago and Northwest Indiana, prefer to use the most popular mobile payment solution on the market, which is Square. Other councils have a list of preferred/approved mobile apps. For example, the Girl Scouts of San Gorgonio Council has a list of approved mobile payment apps for cookie sales which includes Square, Sage, PayAnywhere, Intuit GoPayment, and EMS+. That council also specifies that PayPal Here is not an approved mobile service provider within that council—though I’m not sure why; some other councils mention PayPal readers as being fine to use for cookie sales. Girl Scouts Heart of Central California uses Converge Mobile, which is powered by Elavon. Some troops even use Venmo.
The takeaway here is that troop leaders/cookie managers need to find out from their council which mobile service payment apps are approved, and then go from there. If you have a choice, Square is your best bet. But I’ll also touch on Sage below because it is another popular choice among Girl Scouts.
What You Need To Know Before You Get Started
As mentioned, troops are responsible for paying their own credit card processing fees, and you can only use the app or apps approved by your council governing the troops in your region. Some councils give you a choice of apps you can use, while others do not.
If organizing for a troop or council, you’ll need to have an idea of how many people you’ll have using the app. Organizers will also need to be able to provide support and information regarding sales tax, user logins, getting backup readers, and other questions Scouts (and their parents) will likely have.
So here are the basic things you need to know about accepting mobile payments as a Girl Scout troop leader or Troop Cookie Manager:
- Your Girl Scout council will provide names of any approved app(s) for mobile credit card sales
- The council should also provide guidelines for use and tax ID info for mobile payments
- Mobile payment funds should be directed to troop bank accounts, not personal bank accounts
- Troops are responsible for paying their own credit card processing fees from mobile sales*
- You are not allowed to pass any credit card fees to your customers
*In some cases, the council will pay some of the card processing fees. For example, the Girl Scouts of Southwest Texas will pay a troop’s Square processing fees up to the first $1,000, after which troops are responsible for their own fees.
Again, you’ll be able to find more specific information and guidelines from your local Girl Scout council.
Using Square For Girl Scout Cookie Sales
Square does not have an official partnership with the Girl Scouts, but it is a very popular choice for in-person cookie sales, likely because the app is super easy to sign up for and free to use. There are no official numbers on how many Girl Scout troops use Square, but anecdotally, it seems to be the most popular way Girl Scouts take credit card payments for cookie sales.
Many (but not all) GS councils specify on their website that Square is the app, or one of the apps, that their troops can use for taking credit card payments. If your council has approved Square for troop use with cookie sales, you will likely have a signup link that looks something like this: http://squ.re/gsswtx with your council name at the end. Creating an account through that link connects the account to the council’s EIN for tax reporting purposes. After signup, the free Square readers will be shipped to the Troop Cookie Manager and will typically arrive within 7-10 days after the order is placed.
There are a lot of good reasons why so many Girl Scout troops use Square to process credit card payments for cookie sales:
- Signup takes just a few minutes
- Free swipe reader
- Flat-rate 2.6% + $0.10 processing
- No monthly fees or monthly minimum
- Can accept any payment (chip card, Apple Pay, NFC, etc.) with optional $49 contactless and chip reader
- Works on nearly any mobile device
- Multiple logins allow unlimited users on a single account
- Reporting dashboard to track sales, including credit and cash payments
- Digital signature capture and email receipts
Square has a blog post about Girl Scout cookie sales using Square. In the post, they ask a troop leader what they like most about using Square for cookie sales. She says:
What I like most is that I can look at all our sales activity in Square Dashboard. Then I show it to the girls. They’re constantly asking me, “How much did we sell today on credit cards versus cash?” It really motivates them to think about how they can beat last weekend’s numbers. Or what they did differently on a certain weekend to get more sales.
And what do we like most about Square? It’s completely free, apart from the credit card processing fees, and there is no commitment. This means that you can use it only at Girl Scout cookie sales season, and not have to pay for it the rest of the year. It also means that if for some reason using Square doesn’t work out or you decide not to use it at all, you’re not out any money, not even for the card readers, which are free.
Having unlimited users on the same account simplifies account management since you only need one account per troop, or possibly just one account for the entire council. Square’s multi-user accounts also allow multiple Scouts to use an account at the same time, which can be very handy, especially for door-to-door sales when troops usually split up into smaller groups.
Using Sage Mobile Payments For Girl Scout Cookie Sales
Sage Mobile Payments is a preferred mobile payment app to accept credit card payments for Girl Scout cookie sales. Parent company Paya states on their support website:
Paya has partnered with numerous Girl Scout Councils to add mobile payment as an option for cookie sales. To date, 32 Girl Scout Councils in 23 states, representing more than 40,000 troops, can now use Sage Mobile Payments, Paya’s Payment Card Industry (PCI) compliant mobile payments product.
Why have so many Girl Scout councils partnered with Paya/Sage Mobile Payments? I really don’t know. We haven’t reviewed this service and haven’t heard too much about it apart from the Girl Scout connection. We do know that Sage’s parent company and merchant account provider Paya doesn’t have the best reputation, as they require a standard three-year contract with an automatic renewal clause, with liquidated damages on merchants who close their accounts early. But again, we have not reviewed Sage Mobile Payments specifically and it’s not clear what the exact terms for Sage Mobile merchant accounts are.
Here are some important things we do know about Sage Mobile Payments:
- Sage Mobile Payments comes bundled with a Paya merchant account
- Mobile app and card reader works on most mobile devices
- NFC terminal option for contactless payments
- Includes digital signature capture and email receipts
- Probable monthly fee and/or monthly minimum (call for terms and rates)
Sage Mobile Payment’s pricing and fee information is not posted online and seems to be offered on a quote basis. But from what I can glean, the transaction fees may be less than Square’s, though you may have a monthly fee and/or be subject to a monthly minimum. A monthly minimum would seem to make Sage unsuitable for sales that only take place for a few months out of the year, so I’m not sure how this works out with GS cookie sales; Troop Cookie Managers will have to ask their councils how the fee schedule works.
The main thing to know about Sage Mobile Payments vs. Square or PayPal Here is that with Sage, you get your own dedicated merchant account. Square and PayPal, by contrast, are both third-party payment processors. Having your own merchant account gives you better account stability, especially for higher-volume sales, and you will generally have lower transaction fees. However, merchant accounts also typically come with more commitment and higher fees. If your council or troop, does decide to go with Sage, make sure you understand the commitment and fees involved.
For what it’s worth, the CFO of Girl Scouts of North East Ohio, John Graves, had positive things to say about the company in a 2016 press release:
“Troop leaders love that sales receipts go straight into their troops’ bank accounts, and they receive detailed daily reports from Sage, documenting those deposits. In addition, Sage Mobile Payments is the only way our troops can successfully operate cookie booths at large convention center events attended by tens of thousands of participants. The troops couldn’t keep up in busy venues without it.”
If you’ve used Sage for Girl Scout cookie sales, feel free us know about your experience in the comments!
Alternatives For Girl Scout Cookie Credit Card Payments
Apart from Square and Sage, if your council allows PayPal Here, this is probably the next best bet after Square, as there is also no monthly fee and the swipe/dip fee is only 2.7%— which comes out to less than Square’s fee if the total cookie sale amounts to less than $67. PPH even offers free PayPal chip-and-tap readers from time to time. Intuit GoPayment could be another good alternative, as it also has no monthly fee and flat-rate, pay-as-you-go pricing.
There are a lot of mobile apps out there. If your troop is allowed a choice of apps, do your research and be wary of anything that sounds too good to be true. You don’t want to sign a long-term contract, but depending on your needs, using software with a small monthly fee, ala Sage, might not be the worst thing ever. Or, you may prefer to keep things simple and use a pay-as-you-go system like Square or PayPal Here.
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 be 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. For example, mobile payment provider EMS+ mentioned above has low processing rates, but very poor service and no reliability to speak of.
- Mobility: Finally, you will want to find a service that allows you to process card payments on-the-go, without any expensive additional equipment.
Key Takeaway: Girl Scout Cookie Sales Have Gone Digital
New technology makes it super easy for Girl Scouts to manage sales, track inventory, and accept whatever type of payment their customers have on-hand. With just a smartphone and a free app, you can be accepting payments from anywhere in under an hour. There is very little risk to adopting credit card payments for Girl Scout cookie sales; you just need to be thorough in researching your options and making sure that whatever platform you choose really works for your troop.
Whether or not you take part in the Girl Scout Digital Cookie program, 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 know-how that will allow them to approach the payments industry with confidence later in life.
I hope this post proves helpful in leading your troop to make an informed decision about credit card processing. You might also want to take a look at our top-rated mobile credit card processors to find more detailed information about the processors mentioned in this post. It’s a great starting place as you consider which payment processing service will best suit your needs for Girl Scout cookie sales.