Why Music Booster Groups Should Consider Credit Card Processing

Credit Card Processing Word WallBy John Gardner

For years, we’ve paid by credit card at department and grocery stores, at restaurants and gas stations. Now that we are using credit cards in fast food drive through lanes and making our church contributions online via credit card– is there anyone NOT accepting credit card payments?

Well yes, most music booster groups.
But there are some good reasons to consider
implementing credit card processing.

At my “other” business, QDP Corporation, we’ve sold software and fundraising services to other fundraising distributors around the country. With long-distance customers, transactions were via phone with input into a computer program, which would give instant approval.

With our traditional “Merchant Account”, however, we had to periodically sign multi-page agreements, update software and sign off on tons of regulations – not a realistic approach for booster groups.

and this better way can really benefit

Uses and benefits of credit card processing

PARTICIPATION FEES. Most competitive music groups (marching bands, show choirs, winter guard, indoor percussion) require participants pay to play. Even with fundraising opportunities, the obligation can sometimes be an uncomfortable amount.

The universal struggle is collecting payments. By offering credit card payments:

  • Parents who have a temporary cash shortfall can take care of YOUR obligation via credit card. Most would rather do that than have an embarrassing (for some) outstanding balance.
  • You can set up an automatic payment schedule. With a signed agreement, you can set up your credit card processing to auto-process an amount monthly. Alternately, you could send notices for the patron to approve.

During our son’s college years, we had an auto payment plan with his university, monthly over 10 months vs paying at the beginning of each semester.

  • Parents are automatically emailed a receipt after any transaction.

CONCERTS / EVENTS. In a band concert where I was at the ticket table for a while, I observed:

Patron searching through purse to find cash…pulling out individually folded bills from multiple pockets.

Patron calling a friend (already in the auditorium) to bring cash to the door so she could get in.

Parent panic, at the thought of possibly not having enough cash to cover the entire family.

We might have avoided some patron stress as most people are very comfortable using a credit card. And what if….they had the opportunity to “add to” the ticket amount; a tip or extra donation.

FUNDRAISING. Parents can pay for their entire order in one credit card transaction and then collect from their customers.

With credit card capabilities, you can accept long distance payments from those who want to support your group, such as cross-country grandma.

DONATIONS. Many churches allow online giving. Congregants can make one time contributions, or can set up regular payments and amounts. Why can’t booster groups do that? If you are a non-profit corporation, patrons can take tax advantage of their charitable donation. And what about a “donation” on top of the concert ticket price – like a tip at the restaurant?

Smaller ongoing donations/payments are easier on the bank account than larger occasional donations/obligations.

How it works

Auto Payment. Setup is done in advance. At the scheduled time, the patron’s credit card is processed with an instant emailed receipt and funds transferred to the bank next day.

Credit card readercard-signaturePayment at a Concert / Event. Patron provides a card. You swipe the card with the card reader inserted into a phone or iPad, and the customer “signs” with finger. The transaction is complete and a receipt emailed instantly.

Phone transaction. This requires keying the card information. Because of the lower security of not having the actual card, you would pay a slightly higher processing fee.

As a customer, I’ve processed my card and signed a cell phone or iPad at a museum, a restaurant, a local bakery, for a towing service, and more. Each time I get an instant email receipt, without providing that email address. Since the credit card company has my email address, when that card is processed, that is where the email comes from.

The booster group does NOT have to have a dedicated phone or iPad. The card reader has all the account information and can be inserted into any device…..such as whoever is running the ticket table for the concert, dinner or other event.

Readers can be requested online and account setup is quick and easy, requiring only band account and routing numbers and the email address of the account holder.

Payment Gateway via Mobile Credit Card Processors

TopTenReviews.com ranks several card reader options, with Square.com #1.

square up readerSquare.com

Fee: 2.75% flat rate. Fee page here. Keyed transactions 3.5% + $.15.


  • Free smartphone reader
  • Free cell phone app
  • Easy free account setup
  • Funds go to your bank account next day
  • Accept payments with actual credit card swipe, or over the phone.


  • Not the lowest price for processing. Others are 2.5 – 2.7%.
  • No live phone support – email and twitter help
  • You don’t get 100% of your money. Example: a $50 Fee Payment will cost you $1.375. A $5 concert ticket payment nets you $4.86.

Note: Now that “chip readers” are becoming the thing in retail settings, Square and other vendors are encouraging “upgrading” the magnetic strip reader for a chip reader, but those cost extra — and for our purposes, I don’t think are necessary.


Use my experience as a small business owner, a public school teacher, web designer and social media manager to help you increase your money collection capabilities and successes.

Thanks for reading, John

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15 yrs experience as a high school band director. 14 yrs as college adjunct faculty. 30+ yrs in the fundraising industry and 24 yrs as a small business owner. (Don't add all those up.). Experience in both the fundraising sales and education worlds give me a unique combination of perspectives in both. I love working with the youthful enthusiasm of today's teenage achievers and with those who work with them.Also 4yrs as proprietor of VirtualMusicOffice.com, which offers a wide variety of virtual services including web/blog design/hosting/managing, social media management (scheduling posts/tweets for maximum impact and brand enhancement) and small business consulting - specializing in school product fundraising.

Posted in Band as a Business, How May I Serve YOU?, Income Opportunity, Music Department, Pay to Play, Personal experience, Teaching, Teaching Music, Virtual/Local Services, Winter Guard, Winter Percussion Tagged with: , , , ,