Trash your cash register: 3 mobile payment options for your small business

Have you noticed the Apple Store doesn’t have a single cash register on the premises? And that all payment transactions are conducted by employees using mobile devices?

If you run a business that sells things, you might consider going in the same direction. More small businesses than ever before are turning to mobile payment platforms, and with smartphone use at an all-time high, new technology is making it much easier for small business owners to process credit card payments via smartphones and tablets.

For small businesses and organizations — particularly those that sell products at fairs and events, in restaurants, at concession stands, and door-to-door — these payment solutions offer reliable options for accepting payments other than checks and cash.

When it comes to accepting payments via mobile devices, the following platforms are particularly geared toward small local businesses. There are more, so be sure to read the reviews to help you make informed decisions about which platform makes sense for your needs. You should also ask other business owners for comments on their experience with these devices. And, of course, you should talk to your tax advisers and to your accountant so you have a clear view of how a mobile payment platform will fit into your cash-flow management processes.

Square: The market pioneer and industry leader is used in more than 20,000 retail locations nationwide and processes more than $5 billion in transactions per year. It’s a simple concept. Using a free app and card reader that plugs into an iPhone, iPad, or Android device, businesses and their employees can collect payments by swiping cards through the device. Once payment is accepted, the customer signs the touchscreen with either his or her finger or a stylus. A receipt is sent to the customer via text or email. The cost? Square charges merchants a percentage fee per swipe for most major credit cards, and funds are deposited the next day.

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Intuit GoPayment: This is similar in concept to Square. Merchants get a free app and card reader that can be plugged into a smartphone or tablet device. It also synchronizes with QuickBooks, making it easy to manage your sales records. You can also buy add-ons that allow you to print receipts. Intuit has two pricing options: percentage per swipe or a monthly fee with a lower percentage per swipe.  

PayPal Here: This option includes a free credit card reader and app, as well as a range of add-ons. For example, merchants can use their device’s camera to scan checks and cards (useful if you don’t have your card reader on you), as well as access their own PayPal account to make purchases. PayPal Here also charges per swipe and purports to be more secure, thanks to card-reader technology that encrypts cardholder information before it is transmitted to the device.

Patrick Hoffert is a partner with RPB CPAs.

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