Encouraging your customers to pay in cash is not only great for your business (buh-bye, credit card transaction fees!), but great for your community

Accepting cash diversifies payment options, keeps money out of banks’ deep pockets, and gives people without bank accounts access to goods and services. Cash is a win for small businesses and customers alike! 

Taking more cash payments might feel risky for your indie retail business. I promise that the benefits to you and your customers far outweigh the negatives. Let’s look at the facts about accepting cash, how you can encourage customers to pay in cash, and how to keep you and your employees safe when handling cash transactions.

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Accepting Cash Payments Can Feel Scary to Indie Retailers

Before we jump into some unique ways to encourage cash payments, I want to acknowledge that accepting more cash can feel scary for indie retailers. Even if you already allow customers to pay in cash, encouraging them to do so might worry you on a few different levels.

Myth: Taking Cash Payments Makes You a Target for Robbery & Theft

You may have concerns, fears, or doubts about your safety if you promote the cash movement or have large amounts of cash at your store. As a former detective for a large urban police department, I understand and empathize with this concern. I want you to be safe, too! 

However, the actual rates of robbery and theft in the United States have decreased by around 4% nationwide. All forms of larceny have decreased by ~10% since 2019, according to the FBI. 

I don’t want to discount your feelings and I would never want to compromise your safety. There is, of course, the possibility of a scary situation due to having more cash on hand, such as being the target of a robbery or burglary. According to the data available right now, though, accepting cash as a form of payment doesn’t appear to make businesses a larger target.

Fact: Accepting Cash Payments Supports Your Community

There are a surprising number of people who, for whatever reason, do not have a bank account. This often includes people who are low-income, elderly, homeless, or undocumented. 

Giving customers the option to pay in cash allows the “unbanked” to access consumer goods without needing to open an account. It’s fairer for everyone when retailers accept cash!

Fact: Credit Card Fees Can Kill Small Indie Retail Stores

Credit card fees are often in the top 3-5 expenses for small businesses. Those same small businesses already have incredibly low net profit margins. 

Sadly, the 2-3% transaction fee charged by credit card companies can take a large chunk out of those net profit margins and cause financial stress.

pay in cash

The Best Ways to Encourage Customers to Pay in Cash

Encouraging customers to pay with cash can be challenging when digital payments are so convenient. I try to carry some cash with me when I’m out and about, but sometimes I do find myself cashless and have to pay with a credit card.

However, some customers (and potential customers!) DO carry cash consistently. With some friendly reminders and a small push—especially for those who love to support and shop small—we can get customers to pay in cash more often. Here’s how.

Cash-Only Discounts. Offer a small discount on their purchase or a special promotion for customers who pay in cash. 

Loyalty Cards. Create a punch card system where customers receive a stamp or punch for every cash purchase they make. Once they collect a certain number of stamps, they can redeem them for a free item or a discount on their next purchase.

Spin The Wheel. Set up a spinning wheel near the checkout counter with different prizes or discounts. Customers who pay in cash get a chance to spin the wheel and win something extra, such as a free product or a percentage off their total purchase.

Cash-Only Raffles. Hold regular raffles or drawings exclusively for customers who pay in cash. Offer enticing prizes like gift cards, merchandise, or even a grand prize for larger events.

Exclusive Cash-Only Events. Host special events or sales where only cash transactions are accepted. Advertise these events as “Cash-Only Sales” and offer exclusive deals or discounts only available to customers who pay in cash.

Freebies for Cash Payers. Offer a complimentary item or sample to customers who pay with cash. This could be a small snack, drink, or promotional item related to your business.

Community Support and Education. Emphasize the benefits of supporting local businesses and the community by paying in cash. Display signage or information near the checkout area explaining how cash transactions help keep money circulating within the local economy.

Cash-Back Bonuses. Offer a cash-back incentive for customers who pay with cash. For example, you could give them a $5 voucher for every $50 spent in cash, which they can redeem on their next visit.

Themed Cash Days. Dedicate certain days or weeks as “Cash Appreciation Days” or “Cash Bonanza Weeks.” During these periods, offer additional incentives such as double loyalty points, exclusive discounts, or special giveaways for customers who choose to pay in cash.

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Wait, What About My Margins?!

Discounts and giveaways might feel contradictory when I talk so much about protecting your margins. However, these incentives are small compared to the thousands and thousands of dollars that most small businesses pay to credit card companies in fees.

Running these promotions keeps money from flowing to credit card companies who profit in the billions. I’d much rather see customers saving 2% and small business owners winning by not losing even 2% of their sales to credit card fees. It doesn’t seem like much until you see your year-end P&L!

How to Promote Your “Pay in Cash” Incentives

You can promote these incentives through your regular marketing channels, such as on social media and in your email newsletters. If you’d like, you can also post signage in your store. 

For safety purposes, I wouldn’t recommend any signage on your storefront windows about cash. Educating consumers about the benefits of using cash, though, is a great way to subtly direct your customers to skip swiping their credit cards.

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Cash Safety Tips for Indie Retailers

When you take cash, it’s crucial to take safety precautions to protect yourself and your employees.

Invest in a Safe. Purchase a quality safe with a combination lock or digital keypad to store cash securely during business hours and overnight.

Limit Cash on Hand. Keep only the necessary amount of cash in the register at any given time. Regularly move excess cash to the safe or deposit it into a secure bank account.

Install Security Cameras. Install visible security cameras both inside and outside the store. Ensure they cover all areas where cash transactions occur. I’ve included some of my favorites in my free Tools of the Retail Trade guide.

Train Your Employees. Educate employees on cash handling procedures, including how to spot counterfeit money. Emphasize the importance of vigilance and security.

Vary Deposit Times. Avoid establishing predictable patterns when depositing cash at the bank to minimize the risk of being targeted by potential thieves.

Implement Cash Handling Policies. Establish clear protocols for cash handling, including procedures for opening and closing the register, conducting cash counts, and reconciling discrepancies.

Keep a Low Profile. Avoid advertising large cash holdings or publicizing cash-handling routines that could attract unwanted attention. 

Be Prepared for Emergencies. Have an emergency plan in place in case of a robbery or security breach. Train employees on what to do during such situations to minimize risks and ensure their safety. I shared some helpful tips in Episode 112.

Secure Your Store Perimeter. Ensure doors and windows are secure at all times. Any door that isn’t a main entry point for customers should be kept locked. 

Utilize a Cash Management System. Invest in cash management systems that automate cash handling processes, track transactions, and provide detailed reporting to identify discrepancies or irregularities.

Stay Informed. Stay informed about security best practices and stay informed about local crime trends. Consider organizing a Facebook group or text chat with other small businesses in your area so you can share this type of information.

By implementing these safety tips, small business owners can help protect themselves, their employees, and their assets from potential risks associated with handling cash transactions.

I want you to be safe, but I also want you to profit more—and that means credit card companies need to profit less. I hope you’ll keep encouraging your customers to pay in cash!

Resources

Timestamps

  • [04:37] Accepting Cash Payments Can Feel Scary to Indie Retailers
  • [07:41] The Best Ways to Encourage Customers to Pay in Cash
  • [14:34] Cash Safety Tips for Indie Retailers

Connect With Kathy

Kathy Cruz is an Independent Retail Coach who helps store owners work smarter, profit more, and grow their brick and mortar businesses. 

Connect with Kathy and learn more here:

Website: www.savvyshopkeeper.com 
Instagram: @savvyshopkeeper
Mastermind Group: Master Shopkeepers

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