Chamber of Commerce Card Keeps Currency Local

Starting in early 2014, the New Paltz Regional Chamber of Commerce will introduce the New Paltz Regional Gift Card.

The card acts as a prepaid gift and reward card program designed to ensure “money stays local,” Peter Ingellis, interim president of the chamber, said.

Ingellis said the card, accepted by participating merchants within the Chamber of Commerce, would work similarly to Hawk Dollars, offering options for residents and students to use them instead of cash at local establishments. The shops, restaurants and other participating merchants can then choose to offer gift or reward opportunities at their discretion.

“There are a lot of a people out of touch with the ‘buy-local’ movement,” Ingellis said. “But, it is all driven by what the merchant and consumers want.”

Rittenhouse Payments partner Andy Perry, who designed the program, said the card is a “win-win scenario” for merchants and consumers.

“To begin with, the card is designed to be a ‘shop local’ card,” Perry said. “They only need one gift card to be used at multiple different merchants.”

Perry said the versatility of the card offers many opportunities for cross-selling between businesses.

“If you think about it, they’ll see a lot of new faces and returning faces,” he said. “If you live in the area, you’ll have the opportunity to get the card and access to the list of participating businesses. It’s like going into the Galleria with just one card.”

Perry said the card is “superior” to the Hawk Dollar system as there will be no charge for customers to redeem cards and they can be reloaded at any participating establishment.

“It can be loaded anywhere from $5 to $1000,” Perry said. “And merchants can reward customers in a myriad of ways on top of it from free lunch, dinner to discounts.”

Perry said the current structure of the program offers the cards to members of the chamber at a $17 monthly fee that will be eliminated once they garner the support of 100 businesses. The fee covers the initial start-up costs of cards, swipe pads, processing and marketing materials and businesses will only have to purchase the cards once, he said.

“That’s a sandwich and a cup of coffee these days,” Perry said. “And the more businesses we get, the more participants, the more successful we are.”

With a goal of 100 to 150 retail, restaurant and local businesses by 2015, Perry said the Chamber hopes to use different advertising methods and word-of-mouth to get the attention of local businesses.

“All us businesses are doing something together for one another, advertising and hoping to keep money local,” Perry said. “People just need to pick it up, load it, pass it on and take it with them. That’s the goal.”