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Credit cards used for church donations

Summary

Sunday morning leave you without cash? Use your credit card for a donation in church.

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With the acceptance of credit cards for church donations, it really can be said that plastic payments now can be made nearly everywhere.

At Augusta, Georgia’s 1,100-member evangelical Stevens Creek Community Church, worshipers can make a donation via credit card at one of the church’s three “Giving Kiosks.”  The kiosks consist of a sleek black pedestal with a computer screen, magnetic-stripe reader, and numeric keypad on top.  By following the on-screen instructions, donations can be made by swiping a credit card or debit card and typing in some numbers.

The church’s pastor, Marty Baker, thought up the kiosk concept several years ago after noticing that few churchgoers seemed to carry cash anymore for the collection bag.  As a result, he began investigating the electronic payment business.  Baker eventually designed the kiosk with the assistance of a computer programmer who attends the church, also finding ATM companies who agreed to build the machine for him.  The first kiosk was introduced to the church in early 2005.

As evidence of the kiosks’ growing acceptance among members of the congregation who carry credit cards or debit cards, the three machines are forecast to take in $200,000 to $240,000 in 2006, or about 15 percent of the church’s total donations.

Over the summer, through SecureGive, their for-profit company, Baker and his wife started to sell the devices to other churches. The couple charges $2,000 to $5,000 for the kiosks, which come in a number of setups.  The Bakers also charge a monthly subscription for of up to $49.95 for licensing and support.  Additionally, a card-processing firm gets 1.9 percent of each transaction, a small portion of which goes to SecureGive.  So far, seven other congregations have installed or ordered the kiosks, all of which are Protestant and are located primarily in the South.

The kiosks allow donors to identify their credit card or debit card donations as a regular tithe or an offering, or earmark it for building or missionary funds.  The devices provide a central church computer with information about the donation, with donors then receiving an e-mail confirmation.

The accountant at Family Church in West Monroe, Louisiana, where one of the kiosks was installed, notes that some members choose that method of donation for the bonus airline miles they can earn with their airline credit cards.

While volunteers at Stevens Creek still pass around the wooden-handled collection bag, they are finding it considerably lighter. Some churchgoers have been known to put their credit card or debit card receipts into the bag as a remnant of the old ways of donating.

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