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How To Survive Cookie Season & Stay Organized: Accepting Credit Cards For Girl Scout Cookie Sales

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Girl Scout digital cookie

Girl Scouts are smart, innovative entrepreneurs that 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?

The good news is that the demand for Girl Scout cookies is still here. 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 all, it’s never been easier to sell Girl Scout cookies with credit cards.

Girl Scout credit card sales can be easy with a mobile app, 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.

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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Best credit card processor for Girl Scout cookie sales if you're looking for an incredibly easy-to-use and zero-commitment option with lots of freebies included.
Best credit card processor for Girl Scout cookie sales if you're looking for an incredibly easy-to-use and zero-commitment option with lots of freebies included.

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Sage Mobile Payments

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Best for troops expecting a high volume of Girl Scout cookie sales and merchant account stability.
Best for troops expecting a high volume of Girl Scout cookie sales and merchant account stability.

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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. 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 a Digital Cookie website of their own, from which friends and family can order cookies and pay using their credit card. The Girl Scout has only to send the website link to potential cookie buyers. Girl Scouts are only supposed to send their link to people they 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 the digital Girl Scout cookie card payment processing. And if they do, only some use the Girl Scout cookie app for in-person credit card payments.

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

One positive thing about the Digital Cookie platform 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. However, if you use an outside service, such as Square, your troop will be responsible for paying the credit card fees.

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

Digital Cookie provides 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.

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!

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.

Processing Girl Scout Cookie Credit Card Sales On Mobile Devices

girl scout cookie sales

Square Contactless And Chip Reader for Mobile 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; 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 take a credit card sale without exchanging germs.
  • Payment Link: For even fewer touchpoints, a payment link allows you to send a payment button via email, SMS, or social post and let your customer pay online.

What You Need To Know Before You Get Started

As mentioned, troops are responsible for paying their 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.

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 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.

The Best Mobile Payments Apps For Girl Scout Cookie Sales

The best mobile payment apps to sell Girl Scout cookies should be easy to set up and have a low learning curve. Besides transparent processing rates, having more than one way to accept payment helps Girl Scouts increase their cookie sales. Square and Sage Mobile make this list for different reasons, and here’s why.

1. Square

Square



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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.

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

Square has a blog post about Girl Scout cookie sales using Square. In the post, a troop leader discusses what they like most about using Square for cookie sales:

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 about Square? It’s completely free, apart from the credit card processing fees, and there is no commitment. That means you can use it just for Girl Scout cookie sales season and then 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.

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.

Pros

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

Cons

  • Not a traditional merchant account
  • Rates may be higher

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2. Sage Mobile Payments

Sage Mobile Payments



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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.

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. This is because Paya requires a standard three-year contract with an automatic renewal clause and liquidated damages for 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 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 Here 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.

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 credit card sales, feel free us know about your experience in the comments!

Girl Scout Cookies Credit Card Sales Mobile App

Sage Mobile Screen Capture

Pros

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

Cons

  • May have a monthly minimum
  • Additional monthly fees possible

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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 for your digital Girl Scout cookie sales? We believe this isn’t the best option for a few reasons. Square and PayPal admittedly both have spotty customer service, but Square seems to be making strides in this department. They are both easy to set up, but we think Square is much easier to navigate and make your own.

The Square dashboard was created with ease of use in mind and comes with 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. Additionally, PayPal has a higher transaction charge that would hit the smaller ticket sales the hardest with the virtual terminal. Check out our full PayPal review to decide if this option is best for Girl Scout cookie app sales.

Intuit VS Sage Mobile For Girl Scout Cookie Credit Card Sales

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 Intuit 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. Check out our full Intuit GoPayment review for more on features and pricing.

Key Takeaway: Girl Scout Cookie Sales Have Gone Digital

Even though this year has brought its 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 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: Best credit card processor for Girl Scout cookie sales if you're looking for an incredibly easy-to-use and zero-commitment option with lots of freebies included.
  2. Sage Mobile Payments: Best for troops expecting a high volume of Girl Scout cookie sales and merchant account stability.
Shannon Vissers

Shannon Vissers

Shannon is a writer and editor based in San Diego, CA. Shannon attended San Diego State University, graduating in 2005 with a BA in English. She is the former editor-in-chief of SteelOrbis, an online trade publication. Shannon has also published articles for LIVESTRONG.COM, eHow, Life'd, and other websites. She has been with Merchant Maverick since 2015, writing about POS software, small business loans, and financing for women entrepreneurs.
Shannon Vissers

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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?

      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.

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