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Innovations and Payment Systems

How to host a garage sale during the coronavirus pandemic

Here's what you need to consider before you plan a garage sale


Mobile payments have made cash-only garage sales a thing of the past. Here’s how accepting card or mobile payment options can help you sell more items.

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Over the past year, most people have spent a significant amount of time at home. With fewer social gatherings, reduced capacity at gyms and many workplaces closed, our homes are no longer just the place we rest. It now also serves as an office, a place to exercise and maybe even a childcare center.

With our homes now serving double- and triple-duty, many have embarked on home improvement projects to make homes more livable for the age of coronavirus.

Whether you’ve embarked on home improvement projects, you’ve purchased new furniture or you’re just spending a significant time at home with family, chances are that home is significantly more crowed than it was this time last year.

If you’re looking to declutter, hosting a garage sale can be a great way to get rid of items you no longer need – and can earn you some extra cash in the process.

Cashless payment options

Even before most consumers looked for the most sanitary way to pay, payment options like mobile payments were already gaining popularity. Now, more consumers than ever are using mobile payment options.

“When was the last time you pulled out a wad of cash to pay for dinner or a stack of dollar bills to cover your rent?” says Bruce Dragt, executive vice president of YapStone Payment Processors.

Consumers can fund mobile wallets through their bank accounts or use credit cards to pay via their mobile device. The most popular e-wallets include PayPal and Venmo, along with mobile payment systems such as Square, Apple Pay and Google Pay

“If I want to have a garage sale and accept credit cards, I think Square would be the way to go,” says Natasha Mehra, former head of product development for 5miles, noting that the physical act of swiping a credit card that Square offers may be important to people who aren’t yet accustomed to mobile payments.

Earning more with increased payment options

Another benefit of offering several different payment options? You might make more money.

When Wendy Gubman of Mission Viejo, California, prepped for a garage sale, she collected and priced her items, scrawled her address on a sign, put an ad on Craigslist, and then added one final high-tech detail to that ad: “We accept credit cards for sales over $10!”

Accepting credit cards at a garage sale was something she had never done, and something almost unthinkable for the average person hosting a rummage sale a decade ago, but she ended up happy with her decision.

“I thought this would be a great way for my sales to increase,” says Gubman, who used a Square payment device linked to her iPhone. “People don’t think when they pull out a card how much money they spend, but when they only have a certain amount of cash in hand, I believe they may pass by something they really want.”

About 10 people out of the approximate 50 who visited Gubman’s sale used credit cards – and those who did ended up purchasing higher priced items, she says.

Mobile payment transaction fees vary

Garage sale proprietors need to keep in mind that each mobile payment option carries its own set of terms and transaction fees.

  • Square currently charges a 2.6% plus 10 cent fee for each transaction using swiped cards and a 3.5% plus 15 cent fee for manually keyed-in payments (which carry a greater risk to the company because a physical credit card isn’t necessarily involved in the transaction). Square charges these fees to the merchants, not consumers.
  • Venmo transactions are free if both parties have Venmo accounts. But if you use Venmo to pay by credit card, you’ll incur a 3 percent fee.
  • Zelle partners with banks to allow consumers to send money directly through their account.
  • Cash App is another peer to peer app that allows you to send money to other app users.
  • Apple Pay allows iPhone or Apple Watch users to pay for their transactions via a secure chip inside those devices.
  • For Android users, Samsung Pay and Google Pay function much like Apple Pay.

Regardless of which payment platform someone chooses, people hosting a garage sale shouldn’t be turned off by potential transaction fees, says Mehra.

“Most people do not carry cash on hand anymore, so it’s either having to sacrifice that minimal transaction fee, or not getting a sale at all,” she says.

Tips for shopping at garage sales using your credit card

If you’re a garage sale shopper, here are a few points to keep in mind while shopping and considering paying with credit:

  • There are no fees to you as a shopper to use any of these platforms to pay for your garage sale items – any fees incurred are all on the side of the merchant, or garage sale proprietor.
  • Since it’s advantageous to the seller for you to pay using funds from a mobile wallet, they may encourage you to pay by debiting funds from your bank account or e-wallet as opposed to a credit card. If you’re the type who likes to bargain, you may be able to negotiate a lower price since you’ll be saving them money on fees.
  • Credit cards still offer the best protection against fraud, though – under the Fair Credit Billing Act, consumers are protected from losses over $50, with zero liability to you as a cardholder if your card number is stolen, for example. Most issuers go beyond the law, and have $0 fraud liability policies. With mobile payments using e-wallets, you are subject to the policies of the individual platform.
  • Consider a card that offers cash rewards on qualified digital wallet purchases. Wells Fargo Cash Wise Visa® card*, for example, offers 1.8 percent cash rewards on Google Pay™ and Apple Pay® purchases for the first 12 months from account opening, and the Apple Card offers 2 percent cash back on Apple Pay purchases.
  • Mobile payments are convenient, but also can pose potential security risks. Locking your device, being alert to malware and exercising caution while using public Wi-Fi are just a few steps you can take to keep your mobile wallet secure.

Gubman says she was pleased with the results from her first time using Square at her garage sale.

“Once I said that I took credit cards, the reaction was positive, and people took a longer time shopping,” she says.

*All information about the Wells Fargo Cash Wise Visa® card has been collected independently by The issuer did not provide the content, nor is it responsible for its accuracy.

See related: Spring cleaning your small business finances

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The editorial content on this page is based solely on the objective assessment of our writers and is not driven by advertising dollars. It has not been provided or commissioned by the credit card issuers. However, we may receive compensation when you click on links to products from our partners.

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