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Credit for a Change

In the world of vending machines, plastic is the new silver.

The next time you purchase a bottle of Coke or a snack from a vending machine, you may get to decide between cash and credit. Malvern, Pennsylvania-based USA Technologies, which provides both the hardware and services necessary to bring coin-operated machines into the modern world, has already rolled out more than 20,000 cashless, unattended point-of-sale devices in everything from Coke and laundry machines to highway tollbooths.

Shifting from coins to credit cards makes a lot of sense--and a lot of dollars--for vending companies of all kinds. "Our customers are seeing a 30 percent increase in the average [purchase] when consumers use credit vs. cash," says Steve Herbert, 45, president of USA Technologies. "That's a fundamental change for the consumer and for the [owners of] the vending machines."

Since credit card transactions require a data connection, vending machine owners who go cashless get another benefit: Operational data from their machines becomes available via the internet. Even though Cadbury Schweppes, Coke and Sony are all using the technology, Herbert says it was independent vending entrepreneurs who led the charge toward credit. "They recognized early on that this could change their businesses."

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This article was originally published in the December 2007 print edition of Entrepreneur with the headline: Credit for a Change .

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