PayPal as terminal
December 21, 2012 5:51 AM   Subscribe

Is there a way to use PayPal to set up your computer as a way to accept credit cards in person at a fundraising event?

Tomorrow evening is the annual Christmas gala and silent auction for a local classical music festival. It's the biggest fundraiser of the year. In past years the only way for donors or auction winners to pay was with cash or cheque.

We'd like to be able to offer the option of using credit cards, and PayPal seems like a natural fit - we don't have the cash to pay for an actual credit card terminal. We use PayPal to accept online payments - is there a way we can use PayPal to accept payments in person, and have it set up by Saturday evening?

We're located in (somewhat) rural Canada, if that helps.

Note: We know about Square and PayPal Here. PayPal Here isn't available in Canada yet, and our Square card reader hasn't arrived yet.
posted by tomcochrane to Work & Money (14 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
I would not be comfortable accessing paypal from someone else's computer. Too much chance of inadvertently leaving my login info somewhere that it shouldn't be.

You might let people fill in a form with their email address and donation amount, so you can send them a Paypal invoice later.
posted by jon1270 at 5:58 AM on December 21, 2012 [1 favorite]

If you don't have a reader and your POS terminal hasn't been vetted by a QSA (which you probably won't do -- you're probably looking at 8-10k for a single system), you can't do this without violating the PCI DSS standard governing secure transmission of payment card data.

You need the reader because it encrypts the data before it ever touches your endpoint device. The only way to do this is have them complete the transaction on their personal device. As a merchant, you're required to provide a secure transaction environment.
posted by bfranklin at 6:00 AM on December 21, 2012

Any chance you can get to an Apple Store? They sell Square readers directly now. Also, the Square app will allow you to enter a manual credit card, however the transaction fee is higher.


I agree with jon1270, I wouldn't be happy about entering my paypal login in a public computer.
posted by dyno04 at 6:06 AM on December 21, 2012

Maybe see if someone you know locally has a Square reader? You could borrow their reader and use it with your Square account.
posted by sriracha at 6:07 AM on December 21, 2012

I run events for a nonprofit school.

The first thing I'm thinking is check out is going to be a nightmare. Whoever is at the computer will be stressed out because it's the end of the night, people want to leave (and I'm assuming you will have wine and alcohol at the event?), a line starts forming because entering a credit card manually is time consuming even if you are accurate in typing in the information every time.

(We typically use Greater Giving terminals for our events.)

Do you have paypal already set up as a nonprofit and do you use virtual terminal? You can donate without having the other person sign into paypal but you need to have the credit card security code which won't be a problem for you because people will be handing you their cards.

What will really suck is the paypal fees. In an effort to offset them, I charge a 3.5% fee but that can come to quite a lot and many people choose to pay with a check when they find out how much that can add up to.

Also, if you use the donation link, it has a maximum of of $5000. Over that, you will have to log into paypal and use the virtual terminal and the fees are higher.

Yeah, paypal is annoying to work with. I say this from experience and it is super obvious now that I have typed it out.
posted by spec80 at 6:13 AM on December 21, 2012

Consider pledges to be followed up immediately the next day with a paypal email invoice. Our experience has been that 95-98% of pledges are fulfilled if we can get the contact details of the people and they sign a little pledge card. If you have staff/volunteers willing to do the follow-up the next day, this is a low-stress work around that has the bonus of giving you another contact point with these credit card donors.

We hate paypal with a burning fiery passion and are trying to ditch it for our own merchant account because they changed policies and disabled our online payment function without notifying us in the first week of December and were unhelpful in fixing it (we solved it on our own) so PLEASE test this first with a paypal account and a credit card payment to make 100% sure you can do this workflow before offering it to donors.
posted by viggorlijah at 6:30 AM on December 21, 2012

Our museum uses Square to let people buy memberships on the spot at events. It seems to work very smoothly.
posted by PussKillian at 7:13 AM on December 21, 2012

Seconding Square for this situation. I know it's short notice now, but find someone with a Square reader you can borrow. I'm pretty sure Sqaure accounts are instantly created.
posted by Brian Puccio at 7:33 AM on December 21, 2012

And with Square, use the iPad app, not a smartphone.
posted by beagle at 7:44 AM on December 21, 2012

If you can set up auction software as well, it goes a long way to making all this easier (especially for the attendees). I'm used to, but I'm sure there are a lot of good ones in general. The key thing is getting a credit card linked to their bid number at the start of the night, and then they never need to come back to pay, just to whichever room has their stuff to pick up. (And you enter all the slips with the correct bid numbers, and they get their receipt emailed to them when you're done.) If not in time for this year's auction, try to set something like this up by next year's.
posted by Margalo Epps at 7:46 AM on December 21, 2012

Best answer: I don't know how long it takes to set up, but PayPal offers a virtual terminal service -- the virtual terminal is what you're looking for, you can manually enter credit card numbers and perform charges from any computer where you can log in to PayPal. I believe there's a monthly charge, but there's a number there to call and find out if it is available to you.
posted by AzraelBrown at 8:35 AM on December 21, 2012 [1 favorite]

You can use your square account without the card reader if it doesn't arrive in time. Info is halfway down the page here.

The fee is higher (3.5% + $0.15) than swiped cards (2.75%) but may still be a better rate than paypal depending on what your estimated take for the night will be.

You can also enter your cash and cheque payments so that you'll have a full record of transactions for the night.

Seconding beagle, if you can, use an ipad rather than a phone.
posted by lunaazul at 10:37 AM on December 21, 2012

I would NOT risk this: in the pre-Square days, we accepted some payments during an open studios event using PayPal, having people log in to their own accounts to checkout/pay, and this triggered something on PayPal's end (everything coming in through same IP address, maybe?).

What ended up happening was that PayPal auto-disputed, and ultimately reversed, every sungle sale despite all the customers in question willingly telling PayPal yes, they made and wanted that purchase. It was a total pain in the ass and financially painful to boot.

Surely SOMEONE in your town has a Square reader you can borrow? Or can get to an Apple store and overnight one?
posted by at 7:32 PM on December 21, 2012

Response by poster: I found a Square reader! Now if we can just get our Square account set up by this evening, we're golden!
posted by tomcochrane at 6:35 AM on December 22, 2012

« Older Last Minute Amazon Gift   |   How to present surprise gift to grandparents Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.