Cash-only businesses might be missing out on opportunities for increased success.
Some might say that a cash-only business is no longer an option. There are 364 million open credit card accounts in the U.S., according to a 2018 American Banking Association report, up 4.1 percent since 2016. Small businesses can’t afford to ignore a cornerstone of commerce, and accepting credit cards can actually increase their chances of success for a few reasons.
A larger market
An estimated 33 percent of consumers prefer credit as their primary payment form, according to a 2017 survey by TSYS, a payment processor. Small businesses that accept credit open their doors to a significant market segment. Indeed, customers who prefer credit cards possess a strong bias, enough to influence where they shop. A finder.com survey found that 45 percent of millennials won’t do business with a merchant that doesn’t accept credit cards; 37 percent of Generation Xers and 33 percent of baby boomers feel the same way. While not every shopper will use credit, providing the option means welcoming — and potentially retaining — more customers.
Greater earning potential
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Small business owners sometimes hesitate to accept credit cards due to merchant transaction fees, but consider the revenue left on the table by comparison. Finder.com’s survey estimated that small businesses alone lose 11.8 million customers a year by not integrating credit into their retail models. For a business earning $2 million in annual revenue, the survey purported that the shortfall works out to $73,000 a year, or 3.6 percent in revenue.
For some, the risk of loss is too high. “We opened our credit card account before we even opened our doors,” says Tracey Warren, owner of InSpark, a co-working community space in Lynnwood. “We knew it was key. Taking credit cards makes things so much easier for our clients.”
Balancing transaction fees with the risk of income loss can be challenging, but merchants have options. American Express, for instance, has long been billed as a premium credit card provider that attracts high-income customers. The perception has existed that their merchant transaction fees are always higher than other credit providers. However, that is a misconception. What many small business owners may not know is that American Express has transformed the way it works with many small businesses by introducing the OptBlue program. OptBlue gives merchants the opportunity to find the best rate for their business by signing up for American Express Card acceptance through an OptBlue-certified third party processor.
According to Ramon Ray, small business expert and best-selling author, “by accepting American Express Cards, you’re doing a lot more for your business than just making customers happy. American Express is an advocate of small businesses, and the OptBlue program and free marketing resources, such as exposure on the Shop Small Map and Small Business Saturday, are just some of the ways in which they do it.”
As a business owner, it’s wise to do the math before dismissing credit as an unaffordable payment method.
Bigger one-time sales
Impulse buying and credit card usage are closely aligned, according to a landmark 2001 M.I.T. study, which found that people are willing to pay more with credit than cash. TSYS’s survey also noted that spending habits increase with income level. In fact, 56 percent of consumers who earn more than $150,000 a year prefer credit exclusively, and those earning between $100,000 and $150,000 trail only slightly, at 49 percent. Appealing to customers with more disposable income can lead to bigger one-time sales, and it’s important to consider how these high-earners prefer to spend their money.
Improved cash flow
Electronic payments provide a seamless way to keep business cash flow running smoothly, especially compared to the tediousness of depositing customer checks that may take days to clear. Cash, for all its tangible value, is more subject to human error and theft by employees than payments by credit cards.
Credit card usage isn’t slowing down, and it’s imperative for small business owners to adapt to the market, a challenge that Warren takes in stride. “It’s 2018,” she says. “I cannot imagine a business not taking credit cards.”
To find out how you can start accepting American Express Cards through OptBlue, and how you can start promoting your business for free, visit Optblue.com or contact your merchant service provider directly.