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Accept Credit Card Payments On Your iPhone or iPad: No Costly Merchant Account Required

Small business operators, independent consultants, freelancers, and artisans can now accept credit card and debit card payments from customers and clients. Jason R. Rich explains how to set up a low-cost credit card merchant account using an iPhone or iPad.
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If your small business already has a credit card merchant account with a bank, financial institution, or merchant account provider, you'll find several apps within the App Store that allow you to process credit card payments using your iPhone or iPad. In fact, many of these apps allow you to connect a credit card swiper to your Apple mobile device to make processing credit card payments a more convenient process.

For companies looking to set up a merchant account that allows them to utilize a full-featured iPhone or iPad app for processing credit card transactions (instead of using a traditional credit card terminal), there's Credit Card Machine, a free app, but one that requires the user to set up a merchant account through PayNet Systems (and pay the fees associated with that account).

A similar service is available using the Merchant Account iPhone and iPad app available through Charge.com, which allows for the fast creation of a credit card merchant account with low transaction processing rates, and no account setup or cancellation fees.

Both the Credit Card Machine and Merchant Account apps transform your iPhone or iPad into a full-featured credit card terminal that allows for secure credit card transactions from anywhere where there's a 3G or Wi-Fi Internet signal.

If you already have a merchant account for your business, the trick is finding an app that's compatible with your existing credit card merchant account. To do this, contact your merchant account provider for assistance.

Another option for accepting credit card payments is to utilize the free PayPal app, which allows you to request money be sent to your PayPal account.

You can also manage that account using the app. There are also several third-party apps designed for use with the PayPal service, such as PayMobile—PayPal Manager ($4.99), which is designed for small business operators needing to manage multiple PayPal accounts remotely from an iPhone or iPad.

Square Offers the Best Option for Accepting Credit Card Payments Using an iPhone or iPad

Whether you're a small business, consultant, or freelancer, for example, or even an artisan showcasing your work at a local crafts show, one of the easiest ways to set up a merchant account, and be able to accept credit card payments within a few minutes, is to use the Square app and service:

  1. From your primary computer or Apple mobile device, begin by visiting https://squareup.com to set up a free account.
  2. Next, from the App Store, download the free Square app (http://itunes.apple.com/app/square/id335393788?mt=8).

To use the Square service to accept and process credit card transactions, there are no upfront costs, no contracts to sign, no recurring monthly fees, and no hidden charges. You simply pay a flat 2.75 percent fee per transaction (as long as you swipe the customer's credit card). Without the card swipe, there's a $.15, plus a 3.5 percent per-transaction fee.

Square even provides a free and extremely small credit card swiper that attaches to the iPhone or iPad through the unit's headphones jack (additional card swipers can be purchased at any Apple Store). You can use these swipers to swipe credit cards and process transactions, or you can manually enter credit card information from your customers or clients.

The free Square app accepts an on-screen signature from your customer, processes the transaction, and promptly emails your customer a detailed receipt. The proceeds from the transaction get transferred directly to the checking or savings account you have linked to your Square account.

Literally within minutes of setting up a Square merchant account, you'll be able to accept Visa, MasterCard, American Express, Discover, and debit card payments using your iPhone or iPad.

To set up a merchant account with Square, here's what you'll need to get started:

  • An iPhone or iPad with access to the Internet via a 3G or Wi-Fi connection
  • The free Square app that's available from the App Store
  • The free credit card swiper (supplied by Square) or available for purchase at Apple Stores
  • A U.S.–based bank account (where your funds will be transferred to each day)
  • A U.S.–based physical address (not a P.O. box)
  • A Social Security number or Tax ID number for your business

While you can manually process credit card transactions within minutes after setting up a Square account, the company will mail you a free credit card swiper within three to five business days.

Prior to using the app for the first time to process credit card transactions, you can set up command icons that will appear on the app's primary screen that represent each item you're selling. You can include the Item Name, Price, whether or not Sales Tax will be charged, and a brief Item Description, as well as attach a photo of that item. Again, depending on how many items you have, this process takes just minutes to set up directly within the app itself.

When you're ready to accept a credit card payment, simply launch the Square app, enter the transaction amount or tap on a pre-programmed Item icon (based on what's being purchased), swipe the customer's credit card, have the customer sign your iPad or iPhone's screen, and the app will connect to the Internet and securely process the transaction within seconds.

If approved, you'll be able to send a detailed receipt to your customer via email or text message. The funds from the transaction will be transferred to your account later that business day.

Square offers the easiest-to-use and least expensive method for accepting and processing credit cards using your Apple mobile device. This service is ideal for small businesses, consultants, freelancers, artisans showcasing their work at craft fairs, or anyone who wants or needs to be able to accept and process secure credit card transactions from virtually anywhere, without having to pay for and be tied to a formal credit card merchant account that typically has monthly fees, per transaction charges, and other charges associated with it, and requires at least a one-year commitment.

In the event of a dispute with a customer, Square intercedes. On each sales receipt is Square's toll-free phone number. To help resolve disputes, Square can provide a copy of the customer's digital signature, descriptions of the items purchased, the exact location where the item was purchased, and other transaction details.

To prevent disputes, however, Square recommends that merchants create detailed descriptions of their items and process their transactions using a recognizable name.

Being able to accept major credit cards and debit cards offers a huge advantage to small businesses and entrepreneurs, plus offers added convenience to customers.

For the first time, Square offers iPhone and iPad users an efficient and very low-cost way to be able to handle credit card transactions from any location, and automatically maintain detailed records of each transaction that can later be exported to bookkeeping or inventory management software on a primary computer, for example.

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