Cashless providers make big strides in vending

Every year, it gets harder for vending operators to ignore cashless vending. The OneShow in Chicago last month presented more cashless products than ever.

The deluge of information can be intimidating to the operator who likes to move slowly into new technology.

Cashless is an evolving opportunity, and there are several factors that determine whether or not a cashless installation will be profitable. Let’s first clarify what we’re talking about when discussing “cashless vending.” There are different types of cashless vending.

The Different cashless formats

There is prepaid cashless, which has been around a long time and continues to play an important role in vending.

There is also mobile phone activated payment. One such system was at the recent OneShow in Chicago.

Biometric activated vending has also been introduced.

But the biggest opportunity of all is in “open” cashless, which allows consumers to use their credit and bank debit cards in vending machines. This is being driven by consumer behavior.

The challenges most vending operators face is knowing which accounts to introduce an open cashless system to and which providers to work with.

Right now the answers aren’t simple. Open cashless is still fairly new and the investment is big, especially in a recession.

During the recent OneShow in Chicago, NAMA President and Chief Executive Officer Richard Geerdes announced that NAMA is introducing a cashless program that will become available to members beginning June 1. Through a partnership with Bank of America, NAMA is negotiating special rates for wireless communications and processing of cashless transactions.

The OneShow floor hosted open cashless hardware, card processors, gateway providers and telemetry service providers. Some systems include a combination of functions.

Given the different components involved in open cashless vending, an operator needs to understand all the different workings, their interoperability and their costs. The proposition is a moving target, given the costs for hardware, processing, and telemetry.

Providers step forward

One encouraging development is that a group of recognizable players now exists in all of these areas that have a track record in vending. Many of these players come to the operator’s table as educators and partners.

In reviewing their literature, it’s fair to say that the providers recognize the challenges operators face and are not oversimplifying the risks and rewards.

Operators who attended the OneShow found more credible, detailed information about cashless than they found in the past.

The most important point of all is that the providers remain convinced in their ability to bring the vending industry into the cashless era. This could be the most important development for our industry in many years.

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