The cashless stadium revolution

Back in January 2019 the first major North American sports team announced that it’s home stadium was going cashless. That team was Major League Baseball’s (MLB) Tampa Bay Rays who play at Tropicana Field

Just a few months later, in March 2019, the Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta, home to the Altanta Falcons and Major League Soccer’s Atlanta United, became the first pro sports stadium to feature cashless transactions on all purchases. 

And where these first-movers have gone, the majority have followed. Whilst many stadiums were moving towards cashless payments prior to Covid-19’s arrival, the pandemic vastly accelerated the trend. During 2020, when stadiums around the world were closed to fans, many teams took the opportunity to install cashless systems in anticipation of the return of fans.

MLB makes the cashless move

Take Major League Baseball for example. 26 of the 30 Major League Baseball teams were completely cash-free for the 2021 season. The other four teams (the Blue Jays, Indians, Marlins and Red Sox) still accepted cash, but all strongly encouraged cashless transactions. Towards the end of the season, in September 2021, The Blue Jays announced they were implementing Reverse ATMs. And on 13th April 2022, the Red Sox announced that Fenway Park had transitioned to a cashless environment in time for the start of the season.

Tappit are proud to be working with two MLB teams. 2021 saw Tappit implement cashless payments for San Diego Padres and The Cincinnati Reds. Our mobile pay solution has been implemented to both teams’ MLBs ballpark app. 

A cashless NFL

Between 2020 and 2021, twenty-nine out of the thirty NFL teams made the transition to cashless payments. The lone exception is Soldier Field.

Tappit started working with the Kansas City Chiefs and the Jacksonville Jaguars to take both teams cashless ahead of the 2020 season. Both teams use Tappit’s white-label mobile payments system through the team’s official app, which will allow fans to make purchases using only their cell phone. 

The start of the 2021 season also saw the NFL say farewell to hard tickets and go “fully digital” instead. And of course, the big news for 2021, was that Super Bowl also went cashless for the first time in its 55-year history.

Why are stadiums going cashless?

Fan experience

The speed and ease of making payments, the safety of transacting (at a greater distance than using a card) and the fact that lines are reduced are all big ticks for the fan experience. The Tampa Bay’s said the team’s primary motivation was to improve the fan experience by reducing wait times in concession lines. This sentiment was similarly echoed by many other teams including The Green Bay Packers and the San Francisco 49ers.

Make it personal

Using a system like Tappit turns anonymous visitors into fans. Without cashless payments, stadiums are very limited by what they know about the fans coming to their venue. They may have some basic information on the ticket buyer alone, but not everyone who comes to the stadium. By offering cashless payments, organisations have access to first-party data and gain insight into the purchases and habits of every guest. This rich data can help stadiums to create personalised experiences which drive fan loyalty and form the foundation of a flexible and scalable data-first platform. 

This personalised experience can start before the visitor even gets to the parking lot. Collecting data at all available customer touchpoints including the parking lot, concessions, merch stores and seat vendors provides you with a deep understanding of each and every fan and how they interact with the venue. Based on this behavioural data, targeted rewards and incentives can be sent via a mobile app, to encourage certain buying behaviours, drive loyalty, repeat visits and to elevate the fan experience.

Increase Revenue

Evidence shows that implementing cashless payments increases revenue. 

Digital payments make purchasing easier for fans, and when buying is easier, fans spend more. Fans at a stadium or arena spend 25% more when not needing to deal with cash for transactions.

Source: Visa

Our own customers see this time and time again. The Jacksonville Jaguars for example, implemented Tappit’s mobile pay cashless solution and saw a 60+% increase in spend per cap. On average we see around a 22% increase in revenue as a result of implementing cashless payments.

Reduce operational costs

Going cashless streamlines operations since cashiers don’t have to count money and provide change. Moving to digital payments eliminates processing fees that banks charge for large cash deposits, and helps prevent loss from human error or theft. And the cost savings can be huge. For example:

Mercedes-Benz Stadium saved $350,000 over 49 events in 2020.

According to AMB , with the savings coming from areas such as reduced personnel costs and fewer incidents of theft. Similarly, Bill Walsh, vice president of strategy and development for The Tampa Bay Ray commented that the team saved $150,000 in operating and manpower costs and these operational savings have paid for the investment in cashless payments.

The Covid effect

As a result of the pandemic, stadiums and venues need to provide extra safety and security measures to ensure that fans feel comfortable. Cashless payments help to build confidence with the public who know they can come to an event without having to handle cash or coins. 

The technology enabling cashless stadiums

There are a myriad of ways that stadiums have chosen to go cashless. Not all will increase revenue or provide valuable fan data. Reverse ATMs for example, where fans can turn cash into prepaid debit cards with no transaction fee, whilst helpful for those who are un-banked don’t remove cash from the venue.

Contactless cards and 3rd party mobile payments (Apple Pay for example) do reduce contact and speed up transaction time. The big drawback is that they don’t provide stadiums with first-party data. Without this data stadiums can’t leverage all the opportunities to personalise the fan experience. This why we’re now seeing more and more pro teams and stadiums invest in fully integrated white-label digital wallets.

For a deep dive into the different types of cashless payments, read our Cashless Payments Guide.

What’s next for cashless stadiums?

The cashless payments landscape has shifted dramatically over the last few years, largely due to Covid. We expect that colleges will be next in moving to cashless and we are already seeing this trend. Tappit partnered with Learfield in 2021 and we have recently announced a partnership with the iconic Rose Bowl Stadium. 

We also expect to see more pro sports teams and stadiums to move away from reverse ATMs and contactless. Instead, white-label digital wallets integrated into a fan app or app-less solutions will be the way forward. 

If you’d like to know more about how cashless payments can benefit your business, then do get in touch.

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