On Credit Cards and Your CSA

Jan 27, 2010
Posted by: Small Farm Central

So you've created a Member Assembler account (free for your first 25 member sign-ups) and you are working through getting your sign-up form created. Now you get to end of the process, and you are thinking about how customers reserve their space in your CSA. You have the option to accept credit cards, or not.

Just because you can accept payment does not mean you should.

The main thing -- it's going to cost you to accept payments online. With the Member Assembler, you can accept payments with Google Checkout or Paypal. Each charges 2.5%+ of your sale. Click the links below for more detail on the fee schedule of each:
Paypal Fee Schedule
Google Checkout Fee Schedule

So, to process a $500 CSA share with Paypal, it is going to cost you $14.80. That will add up quickly in a 100 or 500 member CSA.

It is convenient because the payment is added to the Member Assembler, the member's balance is automatically adjusted, and the money flows into your bank account without a single mouse click.

The alternative here is our "invoice-only" option which means that no money is transacted online and you will need to accept a check later for share payment. A confirmation is simply sent to the farmer and the member after they click "Check out".

From having worked with many farmers that use this "invoice-only" option, it seems that almost all members make good on their sign-up pledge when using the invoice-only option.

I am not discouraging the use of payment processors for your CSA shares because it certainly is convenient and you are assured that the money will come in after a membership purchase has been made. You will certainly need to weigh the convenience factor of less paperwork for you and the customer versus the cost of taking payment online.

Many of our farmers give their customers the choice to process the payment online for customer's convenience or use "invoice-only".

A good balance between convenience and cost is to require a small down-payment of perhaps $50 at the time the member signs up for your CSA and then take the rest of the membership payment by check later.

Credit card payments are required for online sales that are split-second decisions like buying the Slap Chop, but your CSA customers have made a conscious decision to join your CSA, so you shouldn't feel like using a payment processor is a requirement for your Member Assembler.

I would love to hear your thoughts on this issue, so please post in comments.

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