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Accepting Credit Cards For Girl Scout Cookie Sales: What You Need To Know

It has never been easier to accept credit cards or contactless payments for Girl Scout Cookie sales through options like Square, Clover, Venmo, and more!

    Shannon Vissers
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Girl Scout digital cookie

Girl Scouts are smart, innovative entrepreneurs who know how to adapt and thrive despite challenges that may come their way. The current pandemic is one such challenge. How can Girl Scouts reach their goals to sell cookies despite social distancing and the fact that many shoppers do not carry cash?

Feeling the pressure yet?

Lucky for us all, it’s never been easier to sell Girl Scout cookies with credit cards, or even contactless payments. However, it can be difficult to find this information. Regional councils usually provide some guidance on ways to accept electronic payments for Girl Scout cookie sales, but not all troops are well supported—that’s where we step in.

Girl Scout credit card app sales are easy to process with just a smartphone or tablet and a mobile reader, but there are a few things to consider. There is currently no official service offered by the Girl Scouts to accept credit card payments in-person, but we’ll look at Square mobile processing and Sage Mobile Payments as potential options. We’ll also take a look at Clover Go and Venmo for Girl Scout troop cookie sales.

In this post, we’ll also show you that there are more than just a couple of ways to sell Girl Scout cookies. Keep reading for the best options if you want a supplement or alternative to the Girl Scout Digital Cookie app.

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Square

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  • 2.6% + $0.10 processing
  • No monthly fee
  • Free magstripe swiper or $49 contactless & chip reader
  • 2.6% + $0.10 processing
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  • Free magstripe swiper or $49 contactless & chip reader

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Venmo

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  • 1.9% + $0.10 processing on business accounts
  • No monthly fee
  • No card reader required
  • 1.9% + $0.10 processing on business accounts
  • No monthly fee
  • No card reader required

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Clover Go

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  • Processing fees vary
  • No monthly fee (usually)
  • Affordable swipe, chip, & contactless reader
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  • No monthly fee (usually)
  • Affordable swipe, chip, & contactless reader

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Sage Mobile Payments

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  • Magstripe swipers or terminals for chip & contactless
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  • Magstripe swipers or terminals for chip & contactless

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Read more below to learn why we chose these options.

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 orders directly to buyers. Each Girl Scout has a Digital Cookie website of their own, from which friends and family can order cookies and pay using their credit card. Additionally, Girl Scouts can use a mobile app to accept in-person credit card payments for cookie orders on their smartphones or tablets.

Complicating the situation a bit, Girl Scouts now has two different Digital Cookie apps. One is Digital Cookie Mobile, described above, and the second is Smart Cookies Mobile. The apps are available on both Google Play and the Apple App Store. The two apps are similar in their functionality, but Smart Cookies, for Councils participating in ABC Bakers, seems more geared toward in-person booth sales, rather than selling online or selling to friends and family. You will have to check with your council to find out which, if any, Digital Cookie platform your troop is allowed to use.

Mobile Sales With The Digital Cookie Or Smart Cookies App

Both the Digital Cookie and Smart Cookies apps are designed to accept mobile sales. For example, a Girl Scout troop with a booth set up outside a grocery store might use one of these apps. However, Girl Scouts can only use one of these apps to take orders and payments if their council allows it — many, but not all, councils participate in Digital Cookie. And of those participating councils, only some participate in the Smart Cookies mobile selling program. Check the Girl Scouts website to see the list of councils participating in Digital Cookie and the list of councils participating in Smart Cookies Mobile.  

Digital Cookie Girl Scout

Screen capture of Google Play Store: Digital Cookie App

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 card information needs to be entered manually, which can be inconvenient for both Scouts and their customers.

This also involves physically handing over a credit card (and whatever germs are on it). Also, the app has rather poor reviews, with many users complaining that the app is glitchy and not user-friendly.

Looking at the Smart Cookies app, there are more features for mobile selling, allowing Girls to use their device’s camera to scan card numbers and thus enter them faster. However, Smart Cookies has no mobile card reader allowing you to swipe or tap cards or accept NFC payments such as Apple Pay. This app also has pretty bad ratings for its lack of user-friendliness.

Smart Cookies Mobile App

Screen capture of Apple App Store: Smart Cookies Mobile App

One positive thing about using either of these official Girl Scouts cookie-selling apps is that troops do not have to pay any payment processing fees. If you use an outside mobile credit card processing service, your processing fees may or not be covered, depending on your council’s policy.

Accepting In-Person Credit Card Payments For Girl Scout Cookie Sales

Digital Cookie provides a couple ways for Girl Scouts to accept in-person credit card payments for cookie orders, but neither are super convenient. For this reason, many troops use a more convenient mobile credit card reader and POS app such as Square to take in-person card payments on mobile phones. Some troops might also use a peer-to-peer payments app such Venmo to accept QR code payments for Girl Scout cookies. Troops should be able to find out from their council which mobile app(s) they are allowed to use for in-person cookie sales.

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. According to Pew Research, only about half of all Americans say that they try to carry cash all the time. Add to this that people also spend more when they pay with credit versus cash. Simply put, accepting credit cards equals more 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, check, and card payments as well as automatically calculate sales tax, track sales totals, and much more.

Many mobile payment apps to sell Girl Scout cookies also have inventory management features. You can generate reports to reconcile cookies sold against any remaining inventory and see which items are your bestsellers. Apart from making it easier for adults to manage the business, these reporting and tracking tools are things that your Girl Scouts can start learning to do and help with as well!

Finally, electronic payments are quicker and cleaner than accepting cash or check, since there is no money to count or exchange. Many mobile credit card readers are now capable of accepting contactless payments, and P2P apps like Venmo let you accept touchless payments with QR codes.

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.

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; this feature is useful for large orders or group buys.
  • Contactless Reader: With tap-to-pay readers that are typically around the $50 price point, you can accept tapped payments from contactless credit cards, smartphones, smartwatches.
  • Payment Link: A payment link allows you to send a payment button via email, SMS, or social post and let your customer pay online.
  • QR Code: With many mobile payment apps, customers can scan your QR code and pay using their own device.

What You Need To Know Before You Get Started

You should only use the mobile payment 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. Another important thing to know is that your council may or may not pay troops’ credit card processing fees. If your council does pay for troops’ card processing fees, they will likely only pay fees on sales made through a specific app, such as Clover or Square.

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
  • You may be able to use a mobile payments app like Venmo in addition to Digital Cookie to give customers additional ways to pay
  • 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 may be responsible for paying credit card processing fees from mobile sales
  • You are not allowed to pass any credit card fees to your customers

Again, you’ll be able to find more specific information and guidelines from your local Girl Scout council.

Having more than one way to accept payments helps Girl Scouts increase their cookie sales. The best Girl Scout credit card app choices are Square, Clover Go, Venmo, and Sage. These mobile apps offer convenience, ease of use, and transparent fees, as well as official partnerships with Girl Scout Councils.

1. Square

Square



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Get a free card swiper from Square at no cost when you create a free account. Claim your card reader.

Pros

  • Instant setup
  • Easy to use
  • Multiple tools included for free

Cons

  • Not a traditional merchant account
  • Troops may have to pay their own processing fees

Square 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 troops use Square for Girl Scout cookies, but anecdotally, it seems to be the most popular way Girl Scouts take credit card payments for cookie sales.

Square girl scout cookie credit card reader

Screen Capture of a blog post on Square.com

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

In some cases, Girl Scout councils may have a partnership with Square and the council will pay some or all of troops’ Square 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. Girl Scouts of Greater Chicago and Northwest Indiana also have a partnership with Square, though there is no mention of whether the Council will pay the associated processing fees.

In addition to being free (except for credit card processing fees), another reason Square is our favorite choice for Girl Scout cookie sales is that it has quite a few features that come with it at no additional charge. With Square Online Checkout, for example, you can send a payment link through a text, email, or social post and collect payment securely. This is a fantastic option for delivery and curbside pickup customers.

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2. Venmo

Venmo



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Pros

  • Contactless QR code payments
  • No monthly fees
  • No card reader needed

Cons

  • Requires cookie buyer to have Venmo account
  • Not approved by all Girl Scout councils

Venmo offers yet another way that Girl Scouts can accept payment for cookies, and it is completely contactless. Various Girl Scout Councils including Girl Scouts River Valley and the Girl Scouts of Utah, for example, have approved Venmo as an acceptable option for troops to accept mobile and online credit card payments for cookie sales.

Using Venmo is easy. First, both parties need to have a Venmo app that’s linked to their bank account or credit card to send and receive money—fortunately, most people already have Venmo on their phone. In the case of the Girl Scout, she might use her family’s personal Venmo account to collect Venmo payments for cookie sales from friends and family, and later transfer the funds she collects to the troop account. Or, the troop might use the Venmo account linked to their troop’s bank account to take cookie sales from customers at a booth.

To complete a sale on Venmo, the person sending money can simply type in the name of the account to transfer funds to, or for an even quicker sale, they can scan the seller’s Venmo QR code on their phone. Either way, the sale can be completed at a distance and without the buyer handing over their credit card or touching a screen on any device but their own.

One thing to know about Venmo is that payment processing fees depend on how the Venmo account is structured. Venmo Business accounts have to pay a seller transaction fee at a flat rate of 1.9% + $0.10. There are no fees to accept payments using an individual (non-business) Venmo account; however, the buyer must pay a 3% transaction fee if they use Venmo to pay with a credit card instead of their bank account. If your council has approved Venmo for Girl Scout troop cookie sales, be sure to verify how the Scouts’ individual Venmo accounts as well as the troop’s Venmo account should be structured.

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3. Clover Go

Clover Go



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Pros

  • Comes with stability of your own merchant account
  • Councils may pay processing fees
  • Bluetooth readers accept swiped, dipped, and tapped payments

Cons

  • Pricing varies
  • Not all Clover vendors are reputable

Clover Go by First Data is a mobile payment platform that has become increasingly popular with Girl Scout councils in recent years as a way to accept credit cards for cookie sales. Clover Go an easy-to-use mobile POS app that can be paired a Bluetooth-connected reader (similar to Square’s contactless and chip reader) to accept credit card payments and other digital payments. The Clover app can also be used to scan credit cards or key-in credit card numbers without a reader.

Additionally, Clover Go app is pretty solid as far as mobile POS apps go, and can be used to do things like send paperless receipts, track sales transactions, and even perform basic inventory management.

Even better, Clover Go comes with your own First Data (now Fiserv) merchant account, which means better account stability than Square. However, depending on your council’s partnership with Clover and where you buy your Clover Go from, troops may have to pay processing fees or even a monthly fee. Note that you should only buy Clover from a reputable Clover seller.

clover go for girl scout cookie sales

Image courtesy of Girl Scouts of Western Ohio.

In some cases, troops using Clover Go to sell Girl Scout cookies will not have to pay any Clover fees whatsoever. But this depends on your council’s Clover partnership and fees policy. Here are a few examples of how different Girl Scout councils structured Clover fees for Girl Scout cookie sales in years past:

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4. Sage Mobile Payments

Sage Mobile Payments



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Pros

  • Dedicated merchant account
  • Trusted with Girl Scouts
  • Best for high-volume sales

Cons

  • May have a monthly minimum
  • Additional monthly fees possible

Sage Mobile Payments is a preferred mobile payment app to accept credit card payments for Girl Scout cookie sales. Parent company Paya states on its 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.

Here are some important things to 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 payments credit card swiper

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 is that you get your own dedicated merchant account with Sage. 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.

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Alternatives For Girl Scout Cookie Credit Card Payments

On your quest to find the right app to take payments for Girl Scout cookies with credit cards and improve sales, you may be considering the names below. Here’s why we think you should pause and reconsider.

PayPal VS Square For Girl Scout Cookie Sales

Are you thinking about PayPal Zettle (formerly PayPal Here) for your digital Girl Scout cookie sales? PayPal Zettle is very similar to Square–a free mobile POS app with no monthly fee, where you only pay for processing. Standard processing fees are 2.29% + $0.09 and the NFC-capable PayPal Zettle readers are currently only $29.

As an online platform, PayPal is a secure way to transfer funds over the internet, and some troops allow Scouts to accept payment for cookies from friends and family using PayPal, and then send that money to their troop’s PayPal account (similar to Venmo, Square Cash, or Zelle). But when it comes to PayPal’s mobile processing platform, Zettle does not have any official partnerships with any Girl Scouts councils–unlike the other options on our list.

Another thing to note about Square vs. PayPal for Girl Scout cookie sales is that Square offers more free features. For instance, you can make a sale over the phone with the Square virtual terminal by entering in credit card details, but you’d have to pay an additional $30/month for PayPal’s virtual terminal.

QuickBooks For Girl Scout Cookie Credit Card Sales

Quickbooks GoPayment (formerly Intuit GoPayment) could be another alternative for Girl Scout cookie apps, as it also has no monthly fee and flat-rate, pay-as-you-go pricing. However, it’s not one of our top-rated mobile processing options. While QuickBooks GoPayment is good about disclosing pricing, it really is best thought of as a part of the QuickBooks integration and less of a standalone option. It has a very limited feature set on its own, and you’ll have limited reporting unless you’re already a QuickBooks user.

Overall, we think that compared to our other options above, the feature-set may be lacking. Girl Scouts of North East Ohio did partner with GoPayment to sell cookies in 2011, but I could not find any recent Quickbooks partnerships with the Girl Scouts.

Key Takeaway: Girl Scout Cookie Sales Have Gone Digital

Even though the past two years have brought their own set of challenges, 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 in 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 works for your troop.

Whether or not you take part in the Girl Scout Digital Cookie or Smart Cookies program, you should seriously consider accepting credit card payments in-person. By helping your troop 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 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.

Happy selling!

In Summary: The Best Mobile Payments Apps For Girl Scout Cookie Sales

  1. Square:
    • 2.6% + $0.10 processing
    • No monthly fee
    • Free magstripe swiper or $49 contactless & chip reader
  2. Venmo:
    • 1.9% + $0.10 processing on business accounts
    • No monthly fee
    • No card reader required
  3. Clover Go:
    • Processing fees vary
    • No monthly fee (usually)
    • Affordable swipe, chip, & contactless reader
  4. Sage Mobile Payments:
    • Processing fees not disclosed
    • Monthly fee not disclosed
    • Magstripe swipers or terminals for chip & contactless
Shannon Vissers

Shannon Vissers

Expert Analyst & Reviewer at Merchant Maverick
The former editor-in-chief of SteelOrbis, Shannon has been researching and writing about small business software and financing since 2015. Her shopping and retail expertise has been cited in numerous publications, including Reader's Digest, MSN, Yahoo Finance, and GOBankingRates . She has also published articles for LIVESTRONG.COM, eHow, Life'd, and other websites. Shannon attended San Diego State University, graduating in 2005 with a BA in English.
Shannon Vissers
View Shannon Vissers's professional experience on LinkedIn.

Sources

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?

      This comment refers to an earlier version of this post and may be outdated.

      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!

        This comment refers to an earlier version of this post and may be outdated.

        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.

          This comment refers to an earlier version of this post and may be outdated.

          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.

            This comment refers to an earlier version of this post and may be outdated.

            Meredith

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

              This comment refers to an earlier version of this post and may be outdated.

              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!

                This comment refers to an earlier version of this post and may be outdated.

                Astrid Gambill

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

                  This comment refers to an earlier version of this post and may be outdated.

                  Tom DeSimone

                  Hi Astrid,

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

                    This comment refers to an earlier version of this post and may be outdated.

                    Telesha

                    How do you get paid from the square?

                      This comment refers to an earlier version of this post and may be outdated.

                      Chloe Bahal

                      Hi Telesha,

                      Here is more information on how to deposit with Square.

                        This comment refers to an earlier version of this post and may be outdated.

                        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?

                          This comment refers to an earlier version of this post and may be outdated.

                          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.

                            This comment refers to an earlier version of this post and may be outdated.

                          Comments are closed.

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