Do You Need a Mobile Payment System?

It’s kind of ironic. You have so many ways to signify your identity these days. You may still be signing checks and contracts and other important documents with a pen. You’re probably at least acquainted with the concept of electronic signatures, and you undoubtedly have multiple PINs that you enter on keypads at multiple locations.

Yet here we are today, signing our names using the original writing tool: an index finger. Instead of carrying around a calculator and cashbox and receipt forms, mobile merchants are packing smartphones and tablets to process payments.

Accepting credit and debit card payments on mobile devices is not a new phenomenon. Merchants have been accepting plastic in exchange for goods or services for many years, at conferences, street fairs, retail locations – anywhere that commerce happens.

The Benefits

It’s not difficult to see how this capability could help your business. It can:

  • Increase sales.
  • Make you more accommodating and tech-savvy in your customers’ eyes, and,
  • Open up new selling venues for you.

How It Works

Besides a smartphone or tablet, you need to sign up for an account with one of the mobile credit card processors that offers these capabilities, like Square or PayPal Here (if you already have a merchant account, you should be able to add mobile support). You’ll also have to download and install the app that you’ll use for processing. And you’ll need to designate the bank account where your payments will be deposited.

You’ll either swipe customers’ cards through a small plastic card reader that attaches to your mobile device or enter the card information. One company, Flint, offers a solution that doesn’t require any hardware; you simply scan the card. Of course, you’ll pay transaction fees and possibly others; these vary among vendors.

Before You Select a Mobile Credit Card Processor…

  • Check with your own merchant account provider (if you have one) to see if it has recommendations.
  • Learn about the security measures that the vendor has put in place. There may be enough information on the website, but you may also have to call or email the company. Don’t be satisfied with acronyms. You need a simple, clear explanation of what exactly happens to the customers’ card numbers when you capture them. Besides the fact that it’s good for you to know this, you may get questions before a sale from your customers. Have an understandable explanation ready for them.
  • Be sure that you know about all possible charges as you’re comparison-shopping, and about cancellation policies.
  • Evaluate the processing app you’re considering – most vendors at least have screenshots on their websites. Is it easy to use? Does it have a lot of features that you won’t need? Apps that exist for only one purpose are usually pretty clean and fast, but you may prefer one over the other, all things considered.

Once You’re Up and Running…

  • Be sure that your mobile device’s operating system is always up to date.
  • Install a reputable antivirus/anti-malware application.
  • Don’t install anything but the most trustworthy apps on your smartphone or tablet. If you’re planning to do a lot of mobile sales, you may want to buy a dedicated device for that purpose only.
  • Do not let anyone else use the device you use for mobile payment processing. If your smartphone or tablet and your credit card-processing app don’t adhere to state-of-the-art security protocols, you may get a call from a recent customer reporting that their credit card statement contained charges for pizza and videogames near the date that they bought something from you. Everyone at your business or in your household—especially teenagers—should know that the device is off-limits.
  • Password-protect your mobile device. Lock it. Hide it. Disguise it. Do whatever you have to do to make sure that you and/or a trusted employee are the only people who can use it.

If you or your employees ever leave the office for destinations where a sale might be made, or if you even occasionally have walk-in business, you need to be equipped for mobile payments.


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