Whether you’re a small retail business operator, consultant, freelancer, an artisan who sells his or her work at craft fairs, or some type of tradesman, chances are you could benefit from being able to accept credit and debit card payments from your customers or clients while on-site with them. After all, more than 160 million Americans have credit cards, and most people spend more when using a credit or debit card versus when spending cash.
Using a specialized credit card processing app in conjunction with a card reader that connects to your Apple iPhone or iPad, you can begin accepting card payments from anywhere that your iOS mobile device has an Internet connection.
In the past, in order to accept credit card payments, it was necessary for a business to have a merchant account with a bank or financial institution. To obtain this, an application fee, monthly service fee, equipment rental fee, a per-transaction fee, and a percentage of each sale were among the charges that a merchant needed to pay. The business also needed to commit to a long-term service contract with the merchant account provider.
Today, thanks to companies like Square, Intuit, and PayPal, this is no longer the case. Any small business operator, for example, can download a free iPhone/iPad app, set up a free account, obtain a free or low-cost card reader that connects to the iPhone or iPad via its headphone jack, and then begin accepting credit and debit card payments within a matter of hours or days.
When you use one of these services that cater specifically to small business operators, freelancers, and independent entrepreneurs, for example, revenue from all sales transactions is deposited into the merchant’s existing checking or savings account within 24 to 48 hours, and the fees charged to the merchant are extremely low. There are also no minimum usage requirements or long-term contracts.
To begin accepting credit and debit card payments using the free Square Register app, begin by visiting www.squareup.com and setting up an account. You’ll need to provide basic information about yourself and your business (if applicable), as well as your existing checking or saving account information.
Square, Inc. will then mail you a tiny card reader that connects to your Apple iPhone or iPad. However, you can also visit any Apple Store and purchase an identical Square card reader for $9.95. In the meantime, you’ll need to download and install the Square Register app onto your iOS mobile device.
The free Square Register app is an extremely easy-to-use and customizable app that allows you to quickly create a database of the products or services you’re selling, as well as enter details about yourself as a business operator. The app then transforms your smartphone or tablet into an intuitive and interactive virtual cash register with a credit card processor.
Once activated, the app allows you to process credit card payments via your iPhone or iPad. As each sale is made, your customer’s credit or debit card gets swiped, the data is collected by your iOS mobile device, your customer digitally signs the iPhone or iPad’s touch screen (using their finger or a stylus), and then the credit card transaction gets processed immediately.
At the same time, your customer receives a detailed receipt via email or text message (his or her choice), or if you have an AirPlay printer linked to your iPhone or iPad, a receipt can be printed on the spot. Within 24 to 48 hours, the funds from the transaction are deposited into your checking or savings account automatically.
If a credit card reader isn’t connected to your iPhone or iPad, it’s possible to manually enter the customer’s credit or debit card information, although the customer will still need to virtually sign your iOS mobile device’s screen for you to process the transaction. The app automatically calculates sales tax or gives the customer the option to add a tip, if you turn on these in-app features.
To keep things very simple, Square charges a flat fee of 2.75% of every transaction, regardless of your sales volume or how frequently you use the service. However, as the merchant, you instead have the option to pay a flat fee of $275 per month for unlimited usage, with no percentage of sales fees whatsoever.
There are no startup costs or hidden fees, either. One benefit to using this service is the fast start-up time, because you can begin accepting credit and debit card payments within a few days. There are also no long-term contracts.
Once your Square account is operational, either from the Square Register app or from the company’s website, a merchant can manage his or her account, view transactions, and generate custom sales reports. The data can also be exported to popular spreadsheet or bookkeeping applications.
Additional functionality built into the iPhone and iPad app is the ability to connect a cash drawer to the device.
The GoPayment credit card processing system for the iPhone or iPad works very much like Square. As the merchant, it’s necessary to set up a free account and then download and install the GoPayment app onto your iPhone or iPad.
Upon setting up an account, within seven days Intuit provides a free card reader that connects to the headphone jack of the iPhone or iPad. By the time the card reader arrives, you’ll be ready to begin accepting credit card payments.
Intuit offers two separate pricing plans for the GoPayment system. As the merchant, you choose the one that makes the most financial sense based on your sales volume. The Pay-As-You-Go plan has no monthly service fee, but has a 2.75% transaction fee as long as the credit/debit card gets swiped through the reader. There’s a 3.75% keyed rate for manually entering credit or debit card information into the app to process a sales transaction.
Alternatively, the GoPayment system has a monthly plan that costs $12.95 per month, but the per-transaction fees is reduced to 1.75% for card swipe transactions or 2.75% for keyed transactions. No other fees are charged for either plan, and revenue processed through GoPayment is automatically deposited into your existing checking or savings account.
PayPal Payment Standard
PayPal has innovated how payments can be made to online merchants as well as through eBay.com (which owns the PayPal service). However, for small business operators, the company also now offers the PayPal Payments Standard plan, which competes head-on with the merchant account services offered by Square and Intuit in terms of being able to accept credit and debit card payments using an iPhone or iPad.
The benefit to using the PayPal Payment Standard plan is that is works in conjunction with already established PayPal accounts, as well as your own checking or savings account. The service charges merchants a flat fee of 2.7% per transaction, but there are no other fees, and the app and card reader are provided for free.
One additional feature of the PayPal Payment Standard plan is that when using the camera that’s built into your iPhone or iPad, you can snap photos of paper-based checks you receive from your customers or clients, and process those payments immediately as well. The same app also allows you to manage cash payments. All sales data can then be accessed and managed online, or exported into your existing bookkeeping or spreadsheet software.
In today’s business world, all small business operators, entrepreneurs, consultants, and freelancers need to take advantage of every tool available to them in order to remain competitive. Using your iPhone or iPad to accept credit or debit card payments when you’re “in the field” or on-location working with customers or clients makes it easier. It’s also more convenient for you to collect payment for your goods or services from anywhere your iOS mobile device has access to the Internet, using a Wi-Fi, 3G or 4G (LTE) wireless data connection.
The services offered by Square, Intuit, and PayPal are all low-cost credit and debit card payment processing solutions that can be implemented quickly and that require no long-term commitments. Ultimately, as your business grows, you may be able to save money in fees by obtaining a traditional credit card merchant account from a bank or financial institution, but for start-ups, low-volume businesses or small “mom and pop” operations, one of these three solutions can typically meet your needs.
Before choosing which credit card processing solution to go with, test out each app and related website to determine which can best be customized to meet the needs of your business in terms of how the app allows you to process sales, generate receipts, and manage your credit and debit and sale-related finances.
Also, try to project how much revenue you will be generating through credit card sales, and then choose a solution that offers the lowest rates and/or fees. Over time and after processing many transactions, the difference between paying 1.75 and 3.75% per transaction, for example, will definitely impact your bottom line.
Finally, determine which credit cards you’ll be able to accept (Visa, MasterCard, American Express, and/or Discover), in addition to debit cards, plus figure out what other payment options you’ll be able to offer to your customers using one of these services.