How to accept credit cards in your pub

Small Business Advice 15 November 2010

Most pubs these days accept credit and debit cards, and this is for a very good reason.  If you don’t accept cards yet, you may well be losing money to other places that do.  This guide is designed to help you understand the enormous benefits of accepting card payments in pubs.

Why accept cards in the pub when cash is the main payment method?

This is a good question, and for years we would have agreed with you wholeheartedly.  The public house has long been a place where cash has been the only recognisable payment method. Well now there is a way to get your booze on credit, but not from the land lord.  Many pub landlords and managers will accept debit and credit cards, so in theory if you are paying for your drinking with your credit card you are indeed getting your drinks on credit.

One of the main reasons you should really consider accepting cards in the pub is that these days people prefer to pay with them. Cash is losing its appeal all over the place, even in the pub.  If you can provide customers with as many payment options as possible then you are sure to make more money in the long run.

But how will I make money on small transaction values?

It is true that payment processing costs you money, and it’s also true that if you accept card payments for low amounts of money that it may not always be cost effective.  However, you have to weigh this up against the amount of extra business you are likely to get as a result of accepting cards.

Your merchant fees are not likely to be among the highest that retailers pay though, simply because your customers is present at the point of sale, meaning that the risk of fraud is minimal and the person who (hopefully) owns the card is the one punching in the number at the point of sale.  Merchant fees are much higher for those businesses that rely on mail or telephone order these days because the cardholder is not present.

Make your money with the bar bill / tap

Bar bills are a way in which you can avoid accepting debit card payments for low value transactions.  When a customer comes into your pub or bar you can take their debit card from them and keep it behind the bar, and then give them a number that corresponds with their card.  Rather than paying for their drinks or food every time they come to the bar, instead they simply give the assistant their number (often via a card) and this goes on the bill; they pay via a card terminal when they come to collect their debit or credit card.

Is it popular to run up a bar bill?

This is extremely popular these days and it allows the customer to do so much more.  A customer is enabled to socialise with colleagues after work, or even take clients out to lunch without worrying about how much cash they have in their pocket anymore.  There is nothing worse than going out for a drink and something to eat without knowing how much things are going to cost.

It is also worth considering that when the customer has their debit card behind the bar they are far less inclined to worry about what they are spending on it, simply because the money is not coming directly out of their pocket, it’s coming from their bank account instead.

Will I be fraud-proof?

When you sign up for your merchant account they should provide you with all the fraud protection you need to accept cards without any difficulty at all.  Fraud is relatively low with Chip and PIN technology these days, and in fact it’s much lower than the chance of receiving counterfeit currency in your cash register!

What about Contactless payments?

Contactless payments have become the norm across bars, pubs, restaurants, newsagents and many other types of small businesses (see full list here). Consumers tend to prefer them over cash as they are faster. If you choose us to accept card payments in your pub, all of our card machines come with Contactless as standard.

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