Consider the pros and cons of the two main approaches when going cashless at your water park or attraction.

Going cashless is the name of the game in entertainment (and pretty much everywhere else it seems) these days, but facility needs vary so it can be difficult to choose a cashless approach that makes the most sense.

For a water park, for example, going cashless means more security for staff working non-fixed locations in your facility, like at carts or when providing pool or cabana service. Servers won’t need to worry about keeping a bank of money from which to make change, and there’s less risk for theft or mistakes. Additionallly, fewer banks mean less change to purchase and have on hand, and time spent issuing and counting down drawers each shift.

There are two main approaches when going cashless: an approach that utilizes tokenization of a credit card and the traditional, stored value approach. Read on for the pros and cons of each to help you make the best decision for you.

No. 1: Tokenized-Tender Approach

Tokenized tender allows you replace sensitive credit card information with a unique token and attach it to a form of payment media, often an RFID wristband, but can be used with magstripe cards and even paper tickets and wristbands.

The Pros:

  • This form of media is more durable than cash so can easily be used in wet or dry areas of your park, and everything in between.
  • Using an RFID or even a paper wristband with tokenized tender allows guest not only to go cash-free but also hands-free as the media is literally on your guests’ wrists, minimizing loss or theft. In the event a band is lost, the token can easily be disconnected and applied to another band. This often makes it an ideal solution for many water parks and adventure attractions.
  • Guests can easily engage with your attractions and concession areas without needing to dig out a wallet or return to a locker, which makes it simple to act on impulses to purchase that ice cream bar or souvenir the moment the mood strikes.
  • Tokenization can make family fun easier as well, with members having their bands all tied to a single credit card. Parents or group leaders can set both individual and group spending limits so they can eliminate end of day “you spent how much?” surprises without interrupting Junior’s fun.

The Cons:

  • When using EMV chip and pin technology, security is in place, however, once the initial purchase is made, technically subsequent purchases are not considered “card present” transactions. This has the potential for causing an uptick in potential chargebacks. However, given that each transaction appears individually on a guest’s credit card at the time of purchase, it’s much less likely that they’ll dispute a $2.00 drink transaction than a $200 admission made at the beginning of their visit.

No. 2: Stored Value Approach

Storing value, such as adding $20 onto a gift card or game card is a simple approach that’s been around for some time. A guest comes to your park or purchases a gift card online, and the card works like cash anywhere in your park.

The Pros:

  • Like wristbands, this form of media is also more durable than cash so can easily be used in wet or dry areas of your park. If purchased in advance of a guest’s visit, this usually means a bigger spend at your park. In fact, according to First Data’s 2017 Prepaid Consumer Insights Study, retail consumers spend on average $38 more when using a gift card than the card was issued for. This supports the psychological spending notion that gift cards, like credit cards, aren’t thought of as “real money” and that funds spent in advance often do not factor into how much a guest is willing to spend out-of-pocket on their actual visit.
  • When using EMV Chip and Pin technology with credit cards, this type of approach is particularly attractive because every time a guest loads additional money to a card, they present their credit card, making it a chip present transaction, and saving you chargebacks.
  • Many guests will leave a small balance on their cards at the end of their visit which will help prompt a repeat visit, giving you more opportunities to “wow” them, build loyalty, and earn more revenue. Added to that, according to a recent retail industry study, gift card breakage (those unused amounts never redeemed) amounts to $1 billion per year in additional revenue.
  • Guests can register game cards if your facility uses a cashless system provider, allowing them to track their points and unused card balances, making it more likely that they’ll hang on to the card long term. This gives them peace of mind in case of loss, as well as giving you access to their contact information for marketing and guest spending data.

The Cons:

  • Requiring guests to present their credit cards each time they load additional money onto a card may lead to them spending less because they’ll feel the impact each time they present their credit card.
  • Using a card, like with cash, may be less attractive to your facility where guests may not want to keep up with a card.
  • Guests that travel in from another area who may not return soon may ask for a refund for any unused balance. This can create a bit of strain at your admissions counter as well as negatively impact guests waiting in line to enter or pay at your facility. Of course, this can be mitigated by providing a separate station for handling card refunds if you adopt this system and offer refunds.

The pros of these two payment options likely far outweigh any minor cons, and carefully considering your guests’ spending behaviors can help you decide which method is best for you. In fact, you could even employ both on the same form of media and load a card or wristband with an initial amount and add a credit card for purchases beyond the initial value.

Want to learn more about cashless integrations or tokenized tender? Contact us at

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