If there is one gadget I have on me (other than my smartphone) when I’m out and about, it’s a Square. This little card reader makes it possible to easily split the tab at a restaurant, lend and borrow money on the go, and even collect for services rendered on-site rather than having to wait for lengthy invoicing and check writing processes.
Square isn’t for everyone, though. In this article, we’ll discuss some alternatives to Square as a payment receiving solution while also touching on some digital payment methods you can employ without the need to have your credit cards with you at all.
Thanks to several wallet-replacing technologies that have finally arrived in the mobile space, there really isn’t much of a reason for me to carry a wallet beyond having a safe place to tuck my identification. Every credit and debit card I own is entered into Google Wallet, and I can use the NFC feature on my phone to make payments at some of my favorite hangouts simply by tapping my phone to the card reader.
Intuit’s GoPayment device is a lot like the Square. It attaches to your phone via the headset jack and allows you to scan credit cards on smartphones and tablets running iOS 4.0 or Android 2.1 or higher. A full list of compatible devices can be found here.
The GoPayment device is free and carries no monthly charges to use. If you pay a monthly fee of $12.95, you can enjoy transaction fees as low as 1.7%. Non-paying members have transaction fees starting at 2.7% for swiped cards and 3.7% for keyed-in card numbers. The rates are higher for card numbers you enter in yourself because of the inherent security risk involved.
You can have your money added to a Visa card instantly, enabling you to withdraw your earnings from an ATM or spend it as you would any other prepaid Visa.
Like the Square and GoPayment, SAIL is another card reader that attaches to your smartphone, allowing you to take payments from iOS and Android devices. The rates on SAIL are actually quite reasonable. 2.7% for swiped transactions on a free account and 1.95% for folks who pay a $9.95 monthly subscription charge.
I personally love the way digital receipts look through SAIL, and being able to take NFC payments from Google Wallet is a huge advantage for small business owners with tech savvy customers looking for businesses that accept phone-to-phone payments.
Something Big on the Horizon (MCX)
Imagine if a mobile payment option were to be backed by a number of retail giants including: Walmart, Best Buy, Target, and others. This idea is about to become a reality as these companies are teaming up to introduce the Merchant Customer Exchange (MCX), which promises to bring competition directly to mobile payment solutions for both customers and merchants alike.
Being able to buy and sell things with your smartphone or tablet as the centralized payment medium is a great thing. Having a solution that is backed by some of the largest retailers in the world is even better. That would mean your customers would already know about and/or use the service before even coming to your shop. This eliminates those crazy looks you get when you ask someone to hand over their card and swipe it into your phone. Even today, people still get a bit queasy about that. I even heard one story from a relative that someone called a manager and threatened to call the police for card theft, thinking the waiter was doing something underhanded by using a mobile payment device.
As with anything in technology, it takes some getting used to. A big push from some big retailers doesn’t hurt, either.
Photo: Ryan Matthew Pierson