First things first
The alternative to cash is card payment acceptance, which can happen in different ways.
It requires signing up for a card payment solution as a freelancer or business, since it’s near-impossible to accept cards as a private individual. Payment companies abide by strict card industry rules requiring a sign-up checking your business status and purpose of taking payments.
It’s therefore important you have a business or sole trader registration and communicate your intent to accept busking donations (some solutions don’t accept donations-based income).
When these conditions are met, there are different methods of payment, for example card readers that work with an app or QR codes that customers scan to pay a donation on their phones.
The main concern when picking a solution is whether it’s possible for the customer to process a donation without the musician having to push buttons or prepare a transaction. You don’t want to worry about doing anything fiddly mid-song, so transactions should be ‘self-service’.
Another consideration is the pricing structure. Unfortunately, you do have to pay transaction fees with all card payments. To avoid it entirely requires asking for a bank transfer (bit of a hassle) or using certain app-to-app solutions like PayPal.Me with a Personal account (intended for private use).
For small amounts, it is better with a fixed percentage rate instead of a fixed fee per payment. Most passersby pay small amounts like £2, so a fixed fee of e.g. 25p is a significant chunk of that (12.5% of £2), as opposed to a single fee of e.g. 1.69% (less than 4p of £2).
Based on these considerations, we’ve selected the following best apps for taking busking donations in the UK.