Card or Coin: Which Payment Type Is Better?

Card or Coin: Which Payment Type is Better?

As payment technology has advanced over the years, a new and important question has developed for laundry owners.

Should you be a coin store, a credit card store, a loyalty card store, or a combination? As with any important business decision, the best way to reach an answer is to weigh out the options, with the pros and cons of each.


Coin Only  1477455049_coin_dollar-01

For those only acquainted with the traditional coin laundry, you’re probably just now realizing there are other options. But if coin laundries have worked so well in the past, why change it?

Well, while coin stores are still the standard and beloved by many, issues around practicality inevitably come up as debit/credit cards have slowly become a preferred method of payment.

  • Familiarity – customers are used to coin stores
  • No credit card fees
  • Immediate payment – no electronic deposit delay
  • No extra cost – commercial washers/dryers already come equipped with coin acceptors
  • No credit card machines to install or maintain
  • Availability – if your change machine goes down completely, customers may have difficulty getting coins
  • Customer Inconvenience – dealing with coins can be a hassle
  • Security – carrying cash can make you a target
  • Owner Inconvenience – emptying and filling the change machine on a regular basis
  • Counting – money must be weighed and counted
  • Limited vend prices – can only change by coin increments ($2.00, $2.25, $2.50, etc)

But there’s a reason that coin laundries have been around so long, and there’s a reason they’re still popular.

While yes, the cash inconvenience is something to consider, the flip side is that familiarity is a benefit all on its own; with such a simple and well-known system, it requires little to no explanation to attendants or customers. The lack of technology involved also makes them cheaper and easier to maintain.

Credit Card Store  1477455082_advantage_payment_way

Most Americans have a debit or credit card these days.  This makes having a card-based payment system very convenient for many customers.  Not having to fill and maintain a change machine also makes it very convenient for owners.  However, that convenience comes at a very…hefty…price.

  • Can change vend prices down to the penny ($1.00, $1.01, $1.41, etc)
  • Availability – most customers have a debit/credit card, no worries about coin availability
  • Convenient for customers – just a quick swipe, no coins to handle
  • Convenient for owners – no change machine to empty/fill/maintain
  • Online reporting is available – no money to weigh or count
  • Security – no cash being handled, all deposits are made electronically to the bank account
  • Very expensive to purchase/install
  • Technology becoming obsolete means upgrade costs over time
  • Fees charged by the credit card processing company
  • Limited to customers that have debit/credit cards
  • An extra set of components to maintain and repair
  • Customers may hesitate to use credit cards due to fraud concerns

So, while credit cards certainly have their merits, there are definitely drawbacks, most notably the upfront expense of the system itself and the transaction fees charged.


Loyalty Card Store  1477455127_credict_card

A loyalty card system is similar to a credit card store, but instead of the customer swiping their debit/credit card at the actual washer/dryer for payment, they use a kiosk in the store to put money on a special “loyalty” card provided by the store.

  • Funds on a loyalty card encourage customers to return
  • Income from the “float” – the leftover unused funds on the loyalty cards
  • Customers can load cards at the kiosk with cash or debit/credit
  • Can change machine vend prices down to the penny ($1.00, $1.01, $1.41, etc)
  • Convenient for owners – no change machine to empty/fill/maintain
  • Online reporting available – no money to weigh or count
  • Expensive to purchase/install
  • Less convenient than a credit card store – customers must first visit the kiosk to load up their card
  • Some customers don’t like “float” – owners may get frequent requests for refunds
  • Owners must always keep the kiosk stocked with new loyalty cards
  • Technology becoming obsolete means upgrade costs over time
  • Fees charged by the credit card processing company

A lot of loyalty card systems advertise what’s called the “float,” or the left-over funds on a laundromat’s pre-paid loyalty card, as a positive feature for laundry owners.

However, that “positive feature” may not be completely accurate.

A local apartment complex recently completed a renovation of their laundry room, but instead of keeping it as a coin store, they changed to a loyalty card system.   We soon had new customers in our store, saying they “hated” that they had to load up a card and then not be able to get to the leftover funds.  So they came to our (coin) store.


The Verdict

A payment system that’s good for one store may not be the ideal system for another.  There are many variables, as you’ve seen above;  Initial and Ongoing Costs, Maintenance, Convenience, Availability, Familiarity.

One final variable that may tip the scales one way or the other is your store’s customer demographic.  Are they older folks, college students, young families, a mix?

Keep this in mind when deciding to change or upgrade your payment system.  Older customers tend to prefer cash and can be uncomfortable with new technology;  college students will prefer the convenience of swiping a debit card or using mobile payments.  Young families tend to fall somewhere in the middle.

Take all of the variables into consideration, and make the best judgment for your store.



About Laura Dobbins

Laura is the founder and co-creator of, and owner of two laundromats in the Sacramento area.  She’s a math geek (Calculus III was a breeze), and currently works as an Analytics Manager in the Healthcare Finance sector.  When she’s not busy analyzing something, she loves cooking French food and blogging.


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