Thanks to recent developments in mobile software and hardware, you can now accept credit card payments via a swipe on your mobile phone. As this technology spreads, it could mean big changes for small businesses, travelling merchants, part-time vendors, or boutique owners.
Within the last several weeks, at least three services have popped up, designed to turn a smartphone — primarily, Apple’s iPhone, but eventually others — into a tiny point-of-sale system for processing credit card transactions. Each includes a way to swipe a credit card, input that data into your phone, and run a transaction.
We’ve also found a few apps that already exist commercially, which eliminate the swipe and enable transactions with just a credit card number, expiration date, and touch-screen signature.
The idea is that small retail merchants or even individuals will be able to accept secure credit card payments for goods and services where either cash or more complex payment-processing infrastructure was necessary before. Imagine being able to accept credit cards at a flea market, or as a roaming service provider — hair stylist, for instance. Or imagine being able to replace your bulky point-of-sale setup with an iPhone or iPod touch. (Heck, Apple is doing this in its retail stores using a similar configuration.)
So who are these companies? What are these products?
Like Square, payment-processing giant VeriFone will soon roll out PAYware Mobile, software and hardware that allows iPhones to accept credit card payments. This time, it's a special case for an iPhone 3G or iPhone 3GS that includes a magnetic card reader. VeriFone's case was set to begin shipping on Jan. 15, and it plans to have its app in the iTunes App Store before the end of January.
The advantage here is obviously VeriFone's relationships with thousands of merchants, and potentially its back-end systems. This could allow merchants to add iPhone-based credit card swiping to their existing VeriFone-based infrastructure. But the jury's still out on whether it will be able to match Square in elegance or user-friendliness.
VeriFone says it plans to make versions available for BlackBerry, Microsoft Windows Mobile, and Google Android devices 'in the near future.'
Mophie is best known for making iPhone cases that include extra batteries inside, which effectively double the length of a phone's battery life. Now, the company is making more sophisticated cases, including 'Marketplace,' which is 'coming soon.'
Like VeriFone's case, the Mophie case adds a magnetic card reader to an iPhone. Mophie software will handle emailing receipts, digital signatures, etc. But no word yet on pricing or other features.
With Intuit's GoPayment, you can submit credit card information by just inputting the card info, or by swiping it on the optional external card reader.
The runner-up in the General Business Solution category at the 2009 CTIA WIRELESS show, GoPayment offers a secure transaction, the ability to view your transaction history online anytime, as well as the option of text messaging or emailing receipts to your customers.
Price: Monthly fee of $19.95, one-time setup fee of $59.95, percentage fee on all charges, etc.
As featured in one of Apple's App Store ads, Innerfence's Credit Card Terminal lets you charge customers by inputting their credit card information manually. It submits the information securely and instantly, and you know immediately if the transaction is approved.
The app also includes valuable features like signature capture, virtual receipts, and a record of transaction history. The cost of using the app has a few layers (charges per transaction, special fees, etc.), so check them out before you commit.
You can watch the Apple ad here.
Price: $0.99 for download, $25/month service fee, a percentage charge per transaction, and other fees
Image: App Store
Swipe is similar to CC terminal: all it takes is some credit card info and a signature to complete the transaction.
Bonus: if you already have a merchant account with one of the gateways they work with, you pay no extra fees to use Swipe. If you don't, they'll set you up with an authorise.net account. Read the details here.
Price: $.99 for download, $24.95/ month service fee, a percentage charge per transaction, and other fees
Image: App Store
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