Surviving and Profiting With Cashless Payments
Are you prepared to say goodbye to paper money?
You’ve probably noticed that your clients don’t pay with cash or check as much as they used to. When it’s time to pay for that 10-session package, some of them no doubt pull out a phone and ask, “Do you take Venmo, PayPal or Zelle®?” It may be time to take a cue from Norway, where cash is used in only 3%–4% of all transactions, “the lowest level of cash usage in the world” (Ummelas & Treloar 2021). Reaching that point could take us a while, but cold, hard cash appears to be well on its way to becoming passé with cashless payments.
Credit and debit card payments are already the norm, but when you factor in all the up-and-coming apps, it makes sense for fitness entrepreneurs, personal trainers, and club or studio owners to educate themselves and plan for this shift. Fitness professionals who ignore developments like EMV smart card technology, Apple’s mobile Wallet and other mobile payment vehicles risk seeing a decline in revenue.
Is your fitness business prepared for cashless payments?
See also: How Payment Systems Affect Gym Growth
Options for Cashless Payments
There was a time when a credit card was the only noncash alternative for most people. Today, consumers are distancing from paper money and becoming more comfortable using cashless payment methods for small, day-to-day purchases, including personal training sessions and point-of-sale (POS) membership packages. Consider the following cashless payment options:
Use of person-to-person or peer-to-peer (P2P) payment apps has surged dramatically for giving money to loved ones in need, paying back neighbors for groceries or sending rent to landlords. These P2P payment options have become so popular that at least one P2P service provider, Venmo, increased its sending limits for person-to-person payments by 40% last year (Morris 2020).
The Cash App, developed by the mobile payments company Square, allows users to send P2P payments, make donations and even tip professionals. All that’s required is a phone number or email address (to create an account) and a link to a debit or credit card before users can send and request money—with anonymity, if desired.
For a fitness professional or business, Cash App is a free POS solution that allows the operation to manage multiple types of transactions without waiting for a bank to process or withdraw them. Naturally, the Cash App isn’t the only POS option. Smartphones are facilitating transactions and removing the need for cash or a physical card to interact with a POS terminal. Online payments are completely remote, while proximity payments are used in both attended and unattended businesses. Most proximity payment methods are still backed by credit and debit cards, which are often stored in an e-wallet.
Digital wallets are smartphone apps that store credit and debit card information and allow “contactless” transactions. Apple Pay is one of the most popular mobile wallets, particularly for Apple users. While debit card payments are free for merchants, credit card transactions incur a 3% fee.
Google Pay allows Android users to pay for purchases using their phones anywhere that supports Near Field Communications (NFC). Users can also perform P2P transactions and pay for in-app and online purchases. Debit card payments are free, but credit payments currently incur a 2.9% fee.
Samsung Pay is the third major mobile wallet option. It works similarly to both Google and Apple Pay but is for Samsung Galaxy users.
Not too surprisingly, the success of mobile wallets has encouraged others to enter the online payment market. PayPal, for example, has its own contactless payment app. PayPal is particularly useful for person-to-person transfers. Since the money is coming from one individual’s PayPal account or a linked bank account, there is no charge. If a linked debit card is used, however, there’s a fee. PayPal’s merchant fee is 2.9% plus 30 cents per transaction.
The Most Popular Payment Apps
Venmo is one of the three most popular P2P payment platforms, and it has recently opened up for selective business use. Venmo is accepted almost everywhere that accepts PayPal, its parent company. Unfortunately, fitness professionals and businesses must route business-related Venmo payments through a third party. As with all payment processors, there is a fee for merchants—2.9% and 30 cents per transaction.
Zelle has tranformed from a consumer-only service to a B2B and P2P mobile payment application. Fitness professionals and other small businesses with checking or savings accounts can begin using Zelle immediately, since many major banks have incorporated Zelle into their mobile banking apps.
Square’s Cash App, mentioned earlier, is just one of the many products and services offered by Square. A fitness entrepreneur, personal trainer, or club or studio can use Square to accept mobile credit card payments from customers and create a seamless selling process. Square’s standard processing fee is 2.6% + 10 cents for contactless payments, swiped cards or inserted chip cards. Manually keyed-in payments cost 3.5% + 15 cents. Square’s other services include Square Register and Square Point-of-Sale.
Cryptocurrencies are an increasingly popular tool. Bitcoin and Ethereum are used for money transfers, despite the risks and regulatory hurdles that make these currencies impractical for everday transactions.
Electronic Business Payments
Taxpayers, as well as many fitness professionals and business owners, are familiar with the Electronic Federal Tax Payment System® (EFTPS) for making payments to the IRS. And anyone with federal benefits, like Social Security payments or veterans’ benefits, receives those payments electronically. However, electronic transactions go beyond these government exchanges. The movement toward a cashless system has created a number of alternative forms of payment.
Electronic check conversions give businesses faster access to customer check payments, and electronic payments permit the exchange of funds through paperless methods. While direct deposits are most often used for recurring payments, wire transfers are typically used just occasionally, and the latter are not free. An electronic funds transfer can route payment from a customer’s bank account into a fitness professional’s or business’s checking account—a good way to capture ongoing revenue that you can factor as cash flow.
What About the Unbanked?
Although going cashless may be inevitable for fitness businesses and appears to be a “win-win” situation, that’s true only if the operation—or consumer—is financially secure. There are definitely downsides, particularly for small businesses, startups and certain segments of the population.
Labeled as the “unbanked,” many individuals and businesses don’t have access to affordable banking services and rely instead on check-cashing services and payday loans. In other words, while there may be a cashless society in the future, making digital payments is out of reach for many today because they lack a bank account, credit or debit card, or smartphone. Some municipalities, such as Philadelphia, ban cashless businesses, and in 2019 Planet Fitness violated this ban by requiring members to have a credit card, debit card or bank account on file for membership (Winberg 2019). While enforcement is a different issue, it may be worth considering whether or not your business will offer flexible options for unbanked individuals.
See also: How Much Should You Set Aside for Taxes?
Pros and Cons of Cashless Payments
Like most things, cashless payments have an upside and a downside. Below are some pros and cons to consider.
- There’s a potential for lower crime rates (because there’s no tangible money to steal).
- There may be fewer instances of money laundering (because of the digital paper trail).
- There are time- and cost-savings associated with not having to handle, store and deposit paper money.
- Cashless options make it easier to exchange currency while traveling internationally.
- Your personal information could be exposed in a data breach.
- If hackers drain your bank account, or you experience technical issues, you’ll have no alternative source of money.
- The unbanked and people who aren’t tech-savvy may struggle to keep up with evolving technology.
- Some may find it harder to control spending when they don’t see physical cash leaving their hands.
Source: Pritchard 2021.
Ultimately, it’s up to you to determine the best way forward for you and your fitness business. Love it or hate it, cash is playing an decreasingly important role in society. Do your own research, consider your local area’s demographics, and determine what options you’ll offer for your clientele.
Morris, C. 2020. Venmo bumps up sending limits. Fortune. Accessed Aug. 3, 2021: fortune.com/2020/04/21/venmo-sending-limit-increase/.
Pritchard, J. 2021. The pros and cons of moving to a cashless society. TheBalance.com. Accessed Aug. 3, 2021: thebalance.com/pros-and-cons-of-moving-to-a-cashless-society-4160702.
Ummelas, O., & Treloar, S. 2021. Cashlessness may have gone too far in Norway, government warns. Bloomberg.com. Accessed Aug. 3, 2021: bloomberg.com/news/articles/2021-04-23/cashlessness-may-have-gone-too-far-in-norway-government-warns.
Winberg, M. 2019. Planet Fitness and other gyms are violating Philly’s cashless ban. Accessed Aug.11, 2021: billypenn.com/2019/11/14/planet-fitness-and-other-gyms-are-violating-phillys-cashless-ban/.
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