What I have been up to…

by DanB

It’s time consuming. Trying to integrate new things with old things.

The past few weeks I have been doing a lot of hands on client work and ran into some programming snags. The specific issue was a need to collect credit cards where we had only used PayPal in the past. One of the clients was out of the country which complicated some things.

Stick with me even if you don’t see a need to collect credit cards. I’ll share some useful tools I found that may help you down the line. All free.

If you run a business on line or off you have doubtless looked at this. But even if you don’t have a business there are solutions that may be useful to you. Example. This weekend our homeschool group is having their annual registration ice cream social. In the past people paid with checks or cash. This year I suggested one of the solutions below as an additional measure. We have already collected the registration of 1/3 of the membership via an online form.

I’ll discuss what I recommend to people beginning a business and how you can use the tools for non-business use as well.

So what services would I recommend? First out of the gate is PayPal. Most everyone has an account and it is easy to get started accepting money. This works great if your customers are buying on line. You can use PayPal to directly accept Credit Cards but it involves a monthly fee and some setup. For an event like I mentioned above that is a bit much to get up and going.

Next is Square. Square is interesting and fast to setup. They mail you a little card swiper that you plug in to your smart phone or tablet. You swipe the card and the card owner signs for the charge on your screen. Square then emails the receipt immediately. The money shows up a short while later in your bank. Very convenient. Fees are reasonable. No monthly charge or commitment.

Square recently began allowing you to accept phone orders or card not present. You type in the numbers and the receipt is still emailed out. I believe the fees are slightly higher but still reasonable. Last I checked you are limited to $2,000/week of card not present transactions.

One downside to Square is you cannot tie it to on line forms or shopping carts. It is strictly card present and phone in. But it works fantastic for occasional use. Club sign-ups, rummage sales, sporting league sign-ups, summer camp deposits, etc. With no monthly obligation you can have it ready to go when you need it. I first used Square at the swap meet for my hobby. A friend and I split a table and we had some higher end items. Having Square with us let us seal the deal on some of the pricier items without worrying about hitting the bank with checks and all that.

The specific service I began using last week and setting up for my out of country client was Stripe. Stripe is a credit card processor with reasonable fees and no monthly minimum. Stripe deposits the money in your bank account seven days after the sale.

Unlike Square you integrate Stripe with on line services. It does assume you have some programming know how. Luckily I do. But I sunk a full day into trying to make it work for me. A full frustrating day.

That is when I stumbled on JotForm. JotForm lets you build contact forms, surveys, order forms, and just about any type of form you need. It also knows how to connect to Stripe, PayPal, and a few other payment systems. I had a functioning form accepting credit card payments through Stripe up and running in about ten minutes. The volume of form submissions we do required me upgrading to a paid account. A whopping $9.99/month. Versus the day of time spent putting something together it was a bargain.

So far I am very happy with the JotForm/Stripe combination. We still accept PayPal directly through our shopping cart. A full 10% of our sales have gone through Stripe and that represents a 10% increase so it was worth the time. Just wish I had stumbled on JotForm earlier.

So to summarize. If you run a business and want to accept credit cards but don’t currently you can start easily with little obligation by using either Square or Stripe or both. Use Square if you do sales face to face or over the phone. Use PayPal and Stripe if you do business on line. If you use Stripe use JotForm to get up and running quickly.

If you don’t run a business but want to accept credit/debit cards for convenience with club sign-ups, swap meets, etc. use the same logic. Use Square for face to face or phone transactions. For a club you could easily setup a JotForm tied to Stripe and get a head start on collecting the money.

Here are links to the services I mentioned. All are free to get started and only PayPal and JotForm have paid options.





Hope something is useful to you here.

~ Dan

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