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How To Accept Payment at Your Garage Sale (Cash, Venmo, etc)

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  • Post last modified:August 14, 2023
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It’s garage sale season! As an eager shopper, you may just need some spare cash and you’re ready to go.

But if you’re the one holding the garage sale, or yard sale, accepting various forms of payment takes a bit more preparation and planning.

While cash may be king, accepting credit cards and digital payments like Venmo can really take your sale to the next level.

Let’s walk through how to accept different payment types so your garage sale is a huge success!

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How To Accept Payment at Your Garage Sale (My Best Methods)

There are several payment methods that you can use to accept payments at your garage sale including.

  • Cash
  • Credit/Debit Cards
  • Cheques
  • Payment Apps (Paypal, Venmo, Cash App, etc)

Let’s talk about each of them one by one and I will also provide you with some tips and my personal experiences for using these payment methods.

1. Cash (My Recommendation)

Cold, hard cash will likely be the primary form of payment at your garage sale. But you’ll have to take some important steps to make sure your cash transactions go smoothly.

Have Plenty of Change On Hand

Imagine this – someone hands you a $20 bill for a $3 purchase.

Paying Cash at a Garage Sale
Image Credit: Florida Pickers ()

Do you have enough bills and coins to make the change?

You don’t want to lose a sale because you can’t break that big bill!

Take time before your sale to get ample change from your bank. For a high-volume, multi-family garage sale, I recommend having on hand:

  • $10 bills – while not used as often, you may need a 10 to break a $20
  • 10 $5 bills – the most commonly used bill since many items are priced under $10
  • 20 $1 bills – have plenty of singles to make small change
  • $5 worth of quarters 

That’s $125 total in small bills to make the correct change for your customers.

Keep this stash handy in a cash box or fanny pack.

When it runs low, you can trade up bigger bills for more small ones from your customers as well.

Some customers are really sweet and they will help you out without asking any question.

Be Aware of Counterfeit Bills

While very uncommon, you may encounter someone trying to pay with counterfeit money.

Be aware Of Counterfeit Bills

Don’t get crazy checking every bill, but stay alert for fake bills, especially with $20s and above:

  • Hold bills up to the light to see the watermark and security strip inside real currency. Counterfeits often lack these features.
  • Feel the paper – real money has a crisp feel while fakes feel more like basic printer paper.
  • Use a Counterfeit Marker to draw a line on the bill, if it turns amber, that means it’s a genuine currency but if it turns black that means it is a fake one.
    These can be purchased for about $10 and provide peace of mind.
    But these are not always 100% correct, I have seen many false positives while using these pens,  so I do not suggest you completely rely on these pens.
  • If a bill just doesn’t look right or feel right, politely ask for a different form of payment.

Protect Your Cash Box from Theft

Having a visible cash box at a garage sale is like putting up a sign telling thieves “Steal Me!”.

Protect Your Cash Box

So sow the question is “How to Protect Your Cash Box at Your Garage Sale?”, well just follow these tips:

  • Always have someone at the cash table. Do not leave your cash box unattended even for a minute! Assign one person to be a cashier at all times.
  • When that person needs a break, and nobody is there near the cash box, take the cash box into the house and put it in a safe place.
  • If you’re selling solo, keep cash in a fanny pack or cross-body purse you can wear to keep money secure. Use a purse organizer to easily separate bills.
  • At the end of each day, remove the cash earned and start with the same set of chang. This prevents losing the entire weekend’s earnings if your cash box is stolen.

Stay alert and take simple precautions to protect your garage sale cash.

2. Digital Payment Apps (Paypal, Venmo, Cash App, etc)

Wait, did i say Venmo? can you use Venmo for garage sales?

Of course, while it’s very rare to see people accepting payments through PayPal or Venmo at their garage sales (maybe cause most of them don’t know how to use these apps), accepting digital payments like Venmo or PayPal can set your sale apart!

Buyers short on cash may return home or to the ATM for more money…and never come back. Digital payments enable easy purchasing.

Know Important Requirements

Before accepting Venmo or PayPal, understand a few key requirements:

  • If the buyer pays by linked credit card, they’ll have to pay a 2-3% fee charged by the credit card company.
  • No fee will be charged if they pay using a linked Debit card, bank account, or existing balance in their account.
  • You must have them send money as “To a Friend” – NOT “Goods and Services” Otherwise you pay a 2-3% fee.
  • Transactions over $600 were reported to IRS as income. Avoid fees and tax hassles by marking all as “Friends and Family”

How To Accept Venmo or Paypal At Garage Sale

Accepting digital payments is easy once set up, follow these steps to get started:

  1. Create an account on your preferred App (Venmo or Paypal) using your Email and set a strong password.
  2. Add your bank account and card details to complete the account verification process.
  3. Create an easy username and upload your photo so that people can easily find your account and verify you using your image.
  4. When accepting payments, just give your username or email to the buyer and ask them to search you on the App.
  5. They can now directly pay you on the App but make sure they type in the correct username and your image should be visible.
  6. Ask them to select the option “Friends and Family” and Not “Goods and Services” to avoid fees.
  7. When paid, double-check whether the payment is received or not before allowing the buyer to leave.
  8. I suggest you practice this entire process with a friend and see how the transaction goes.
  9. Post signs that you accept digital payments to attract the crowd!

3. Checks (Avoid If You Can)

I will never recommend you accept checks at your garage unless you are actually missing out on a great deal!

However, at garage sales, people still regularly prefer to pay by check rather than carry large sums of cash, especially for higher-priced items.

While convenient, accepting personal checks does carry some risk. Here are tips to safely accept checks as payment:

Have Checks Made Out Properly

To accept a check as payment, the first thing you must do is:

Ask the buyer to write their Name, Phone Number and current home address on back side of the check or you can even note it down on a notebook along with the check number.

This ensures you have their full contact information should there be an issue with the check later on.

For example, “Sally Smith” gives you a check for that vintage dining table. Have her write “Sally Smith, 123 Main St, 555-1234, +1 222 333 4444” on back side of the check so you can get in touch if needed.

The check should also be made payable to your full legal name, exactly as it appears on your driver’s license or state ID card.

For example, if your name is Jane Doe, the check should be made to “Jane Doe” – not just “Jane”.

Only Accept Local Checks

One way to reduce the risk of a bounced check is to only accept local checks from banks present in your own city. This way you can easily visit the bank branch in person if there is a problem.

The more local the check, the quicker you can address any issues. 

Cash Checks at the Issuing Bank

Cashing checks at the correct bank is crucial to avoid fees.

Take each check to the actual bank location it was drawn from to cash it.

For example, if you get a check from TD Bank, go to the local TD Bank branch to cash it, NOT your own bank.

Let’s say you deposit checks from 5 different banks into your ABC bank account, and one check bounces, now, ABC bank may charge YOU overdraft fees!

Instead, cash each check at the real issuing bank to avoid any fees. Sure, it’s less convenient than one-stop depositing. But it saves you headaches and penalties down the road.

3. Credit Cards

I know, I know – taking credit cards at a garage sale seems kinda weird.

We’re so used to whipping out the cash for used goods in Sally’s driveway.

But hear me out! Busting out the credit cards can really take your sales to the next level.

Think about it – people get spendy with credit cards. Something about not seeing that cold hard cash leave their wallet makes them swipe away.

So they’ll grab little Jimmy’s old bike plus that vintage teapot and maybe even Sally’s homemade jam – cha-ching!

Now Square or Zettle take a small cut, sure. But you weren’t making that extra sale anyway without Visa breaking down barriers. 

So I say give it a whirl if you’re looking to clear more inventory. Just make sure to put up signage so people know your garage sale is accepting credit cards. 

Accepting Credit Cards With Square

Square Homepage
  • Review instructions for the Square card reader.
  • Order a Square magstripe reader that plugs into your phone through the mini USB port.
Square Card Reader
  • Download the Square app and set up your account.
  • Enter the transaction amount in the Square app.
  • Swipe the customer’s card.
  • Have them sign on your phone screen.
  • Confirm the transaction went through in the app.

Taxes

Garage sales are generally exempt from sales tax, but you may need to collect and remit sales tax if you are selling items that you have purchased for resale.

You should check your state’s tax laws to determine if you need to collect sales tax at your garage sale.

FAQ – How To Accept Payments at a Garage Sale

Here are some frequently asked questions on accepting payments at a Garage Sale.

1. Can I accept Venmo for garage sale?

Sure, you can accept Venmo to receive payments at your garage sale if you want.

It’s a digital option similar to accepting credit cards.
Customers would need to have the Venmo app on their phone to pay you.

They’d find you in Venmo, select an amount, and pay from their Venmo balance or connected bank account. You’d then transfer the money to your own bank account. 

2. How do people pay for items at a garage sale?

People usually pay cash at garage sales. Shoppers carry bills and coins so they can easily buy stuff.

They don’t want to fuss with cards or apps. For sellers, cash is nice and easy too – no extra equipment or fees to worry about. Just have a lockbox and some change ready.

When someone hands over a $20 for grandma’s old armchair, you give ’em back a few bucks. No receipts or statements needed!
Both buyers and sellers like keeping it simple with cash at garage sales. It’s old school but it works.

3. How do I accept Paypal at a garage sale?

It’s pretty simple to accept Paypal at a Garage Sale, first, get a Paypal account, setup your profile and set a username and profile picture then add your card and bank details to Paypal.

Ask your buyer to search for you on Paypal, they can recognize you through your profile picture, now they can send you payment to your Paypal account.

Ask them to send payment as “Friends & Family” or a transaction fee will be charged. 

Final Words

Accepting payments at your garage sale is essential to making a successful sale. You can accept cash, credit and debit cards, checks, and digital payments.

Each payment method has its advantages and disadvantages, so you should choose the method that works best for you.

Remember to handle your payments securely and follow your state’s tax laws to avoid any legal issues.

With these tips, you can have a successful and profitable garage sale.

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