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Three-quarters of dealers responding to a just-competed ProSales survey say they are seeing more use of credit cards at their stores. And while they find the trend troubling, most still accept them--even to pay past-due balances.

"I hate them. Even with the 3% charge, we recoup only about half the cost of taking them," one dealer declared. "They are a necessary evil."

Of the 162 respondents from across the country who took part in the survey--all claiming some authority over or role in collections at their company--35% said the total number of charge accounts paying by credit cards has risen by more than 10% since June 2014. Another 41% said the number of payments using plastic had grown between zero and 10%.

In dollar terms, meanwhile, the change was even bigger: 39% said the dollar volume of payments made via credit cards had grown more than 10% since June 2014, while 36% said it was up between zero and 10%.

Graphic from 2016 ProSales Credit Card survey

Just under 5% of the survey respondents refuse to accept credit cards for point-of-sale purchases, while 16% won't take cards to pay a charge account. Of the roughly 85% of respondents who do accept the use of credit cards to pay a charge account, only about 7% refuse that card when the bill is past due. Another 7% will take it only as a last resort--"If it's the only way to collect the balance," one dealer wrote. For the rest, a card is OK, even if the payment is overdue.

Those companies that say no say they've paid a price; 36% of the 42 dealers answering the question said they have lost business because they wouldn't take a credit card to pay an account.

"We wish we could prevent the use of credit cards to pay accounts receivable but we reluctantly tolerate it as an accepted way of doing business these days," wrote one dealer, who like all participants in the survey was promised anonymity on his/her responses.

2016 ProSales Credit Card survey slide showing whether dealers impose charges.

Just under 35% of the respondents said they impose fees or extra charges on payments made with a credit card. But when asked to identify what they do, roughly a quarter replied that what they do is to forbid the customer from claiming an early-pay discount (though some still do, a few dealers noted). More than half of the others gave discounts of 1% to 2% for payments made with cash or check, particularly if payment arrived by the 10th of the month.

ProSales conducted the online survey on June 6-20. It received 210 responses, but only 162 fit our key criteria of being in the LBM business and also being responsible for the management or collection of accounts receivable payments. Responses came from every region of the country. Revenues were split fairly evenly between firms with $1 million to $10 million in revenue (25.3% of the responses), $10 million to $25 million (27%), $25 million to $100 million (28%), and over $100 million (19%). Sixty-eight percent of the respondents worked at companies that got at least 75% of their revenues from building professionals.