Wireless & Mobile Credit Card Processing

Take advantage of the convenience and opportunities with mobile credit card processing.

Flexibility has a value in business. Increasing customer options increases business reach. This principle extends past customized services into payment options. In fact, it’s the main reason businesses take credit cards in the first place – to reach a community of customers which prefer the safety and security of a credit card over cash or checks.

The next evolution in payment options is happening by going mobile. By accepting, validating and even generating a receipt where customers are, instead of forcing them to visit a fixed location, businesses can expand their reach.

The Big Leap Forward

Hand-held devices for processing credit cards took off when they were adopted by package delivery services. FedEx and other delivery companies once required customers to ship from a fixed retail location or keep an active account that could be billed as packages were sent. These restrictions limited the number of transactions for small businesses that either didn’t have an account or didn’t want to travel to a service center.

With the introduction of the now familiar unit carried by FedEx drivers, the company could obtain signatures and bill credit cards directly – essentially bringing services to their customers, instead of making their customers jump through hoops. Besides reaching more customers, FedEx also picked up the ability to validate cards immediately and shortened their cash-flow chain considerably. Modern versions of these wireless units collect global positioning system (GPS) information, a time stamp, package information, a signature, and credit card data. All of these features improve security and track information FedEx exploits in marketing – door to door package location in real time.


Wireless credit card processing can be useful for remote billing, but also finds use in-house. Waiters may use a unit to bill credit cards right at the customer’s table, collect tips and generate a receipt. Flea markets, auctions, fairs and other fixed locations can add credit cards right in vendor’s stalls.

Perhaps the most exciting use is for outside sales. Businesses can send their sales staff with a mobile device (and even a smart phone will work) so that they can bill as part of the sale – offering convenience for customers and greatly improving cash flow. Even door-to-door sales can end with a swipe that the home office can track in real time, with location, amount of sale and items safely recorded. Customers either get a receipt on the spot or confirmation emailed to them.

How Mobile Credit Card Processing Works

There are two general methods used. The first is available by accessing the internet through a smart phone and simply entering customer information. This simply handles the transaction as if the customer were visiting your website. This also comes with the highest fee structure because processors deal with it as a “card not present” transaction. The second method is to swipe the card with a reader.

A basic “swiper” attaches a card reader directly to a smart phone. In a sense, this turns it into a card reading terminal. This has a higher security level and lower fees, but doesn’t give you the ability to collect a signature electronically.

Mobile terminals are full-function and do collect a signature and generate a receipt. They can be standalone (as in the FedEx type mentioned earlier) or plug into a USB port on a smart phone. Depending on who handles your credit card business, a mobile terminal may be offered as a sweetener to get you sign up. These also generate the lowest fees because they capture both the credit card information with the swipe, and a signature.

The disadvantage of mobile terminals over other entering information into a website is that you have to make sure phones that will be used are compatible with the other equipment and there can be an equipment cost. So, for example, if your sales staff is using their own Internet enabled phone and entering information through a website, they already have the needed equipment (their phone) and know how to use it. There’s no additional cost and it isn’t limited in scope. Terminals are – you need one for everyone who will need to use the technology.

Types of Products and Services

The basic iPhone app to swipe credit cards with a reader is free. The basic reader, called “the square” runs around $10. However, this works on the iPhone and Android type devices. You will still have to pay transaction fees of $.15 to $.28 per transaction, depending on your processing company – and you’ll have to pay Square, Inc. as well (2.7%).  It is worth considering for those who only run a few cards and don’t have the business sway to leverage into a better deal. The app does a few nice things though – it captures signatures and if you want, takes a picture of the item being sold.

Other solutions are marketed by various companies and customized to customer needs. Typically, they will give you a program that runs on whatever style of phone you have, including iPhones, Android types, and even Blackberries. The devices they offer plug into the phone, capture signatures as well as data, and can print out a receipt for customers. Service fees for the equipment run around $20 a month, but you can often get a discount on transaction fees by using the solution preferred by your processing service.

Direct blue tooth enabled devices do not need a mobile phone and are standalone terminals. With a wireless connection, they swipe, capture signatures and print receipts. Among the choices, these have the lowest overall transaction fees. Some are quite high-tech and will also record order information for business use along with customer data. These functions are a great way to reduce errors and track sales when they are downloaded later at the home office. If GPS is part of the package, owners can even track locations and monitor their sales force remotely.