Why Do Tattoo Artists Only Take Cash?

In today’s world, many people carry little to no cash on them because everything is done using credit and debit cards. It can come as a surprise to someone getting a tattoo when they arrive at the shop only to find out that the shop only accepts cash. Suddenly the excitement of getting new ink is turned to disappointment or frustration as you leave to head off to the nearest ATM.

In the article below, we will go touch on the various reasons as to why a tattoo shop doesn’t accept cash. In addition, I’ll go over a few tips on what to expect when it comes to payments so that you aren’t blindsided with any surprises.

Why are tattoo shops cash only?

The first thing to realize, is not all shops are “cash only.” It seems to vary by region and location as to what the normal practices are.

Another significant factor that can influence the payment options accepted at your local tattoo shop is their size. Smaller shops are likely to only accept cash, so that’s another thing that you’ll need to consider.

Here’s the most common reasons that tattoo shops only accept cash:

It’s too expensive – Since people have become so accustomed to swiping their cards for everyday purchases from gas, to coffee to groceries, they tend to not realize how expensive it is for companies to accept credit and debit cards.

Every time you swipe your credit card, the company accepting the card is paying fees. Typically, there is a flat fee of 30 to 50 cents per swipe. On top of that, the credit card companies collect a percentage of the sale which can range anywhere from 1.5% to 4%.

Therefore, if a tattoo shop accepts a credit card payment for $1,000. It’s likely they are paying $30 to $40 for that single transaction.

In addition to these transactional costs, there is the expensive of the actual credit card machine. These machines can easily cost several hundred dollars each.

According to MarketResearch.com, the average tattoo shop makes about $240,000 in revenue per year. If 80% of those sales were from credit/debit cards, the shop would pay out around $7,000 a year in credit card fees.

Your small local tattoo shop is likely not making anywhere close to the $240,000 average that this survey states. Therefore, the owner is forced to save on costs anywhere they can, and often times, eliminating credit card transaction fees is the place to start.

Avoid taxes – Another reason that tattoo shops don’t accept credit/debit cards is because of the paper trail. When there’s a paper trail for income, it must be reported to the IRS so taxes can be paid.

Not reporting your income, even if it is in cash, is illegal and known as tax evasion. However, it is difficult for the IRS to find the cash payments. In addition, it’s not worth their time if the shop is operating on a rather small scale.

Lost money on charge backs – If you have a credit/debit card, odds are that at some point you have been charged for something that you didn’t receive or did meet the expectations that were set by the seller. This is a great advantage to using a card for a transaction.

Unfortunately, there are people that abuse this protection. From time to time, customers will call their credit card company and file a complaint which results in a charge back.

When this occurs, the credit card company reverses or withholds payment to the tattoo shop. This results in the shop and artist not getting paid and the dishonest customer walking away with free work. Sometimes this can occur on work that took hours to complete.

To avoid the possibility of losing out on payment, in a business where margins are already tight, a shop may not accept credit/debit cards as a form of payment.

Fraudulent Transactions – Identify theft and financial theft because of stolen credit cards is an increasing risk to business owners. If a shop accepts a stolen credit card, even if by mistake, the credit card transaction will get reversed and the shop will lose out on it’s payment.


Another thing that you should be aware of when it comes to payments at a tattoo shop is deposits. Be prepared for a tattoo artist to ask for a deposit if you call ahead of time to book a future appointment.

Tattoo artists will usually require a deposit to hold a time slot to protect themselves from no shows or last-minute cancelations.

No shows for appointments can severely reduce the amount of income an artist takes in during the month. The only real way they must protect themselves is to have customers put down a deposit for their appointment. Not all places will require it, but be prepared in case they do.

Tips for payment

Here’s a few tips for you to think through before showing up at the tattoo shop for your next ink. Following these tips will likely result in a much more enjoyable experience for both you and the artist doing your ink.

  • Call ahead – Call ahead and find out what payment methods the shop you are going to accepts. This helps avoid any possible payment surprises when you arrive.
  • Tip with cash – When it comes time to pay, always tip your tattoo artist with cash. When you add the tip to a credit/debit transaction, approximately 3.5% of the tip is going to the credit card companies. This may not sound like much, but it quickly adds up for the artist when they are already having to pay fees to the shop to have a chair in the parlor.
  • Don’t try to pay with check – Do NOT ever try to pay with a check. Under no circumstance should you ever try to pay with a check. This may sound obvious, but you would be surprised at how often this happens. A tattoo shop accepting checks is a huge risk to the shop. It is extremely rare for a shop to accept one.


Hopefully this article gives you a better understanding for why tattoo parlors have certain payment requirements. Ultimately each one will operate differently, but placing a quick call ahead of time can help eliminate any surprises on the day you get your new ink!