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Repurpose your smartphone as a mobile payment center

Brandy Courtade offers tips for repurposing your old smartphone and turning it into a mobile payment center.

It's easy to get caught up in the latest gadgets and want to upgrade. There's nothing inherently wrong with wanting the most powerful technological business tools, but in this constantly moving river of technology, it's too easy to become wasteful. While selling your phone or shipping it off to be recycled are fine solutions, consider how your old smartphone can serve you more before casting it off. By that I mean, consider repurposing it. Specifically, I'd like to talk about repurposing your smartphone as a mobile payment center.

As a personal device, your smartphone probably used apps with potentially risky permissions, and maybe you weren't always the most careful with your smartphone activity. Regardless, using an old phone for the sole purpose of processing payments on the go will make it more secure than a smartphone that's also connected to Facebook, Twitter, etcetera. I think IT consultants who make trips to multiple client sites could benefit from this, as well as mobile sales teams.

Choosing a payment processing app

There are a couple of ways you can choose to transform your phone. Any way you cut it, you're going to need a payment processing app. There are several you can download for free, and this is the most painless part of the process. It gets tricky, however, when the app you use charges you for "not having the card present." In these cases, you need the hardware associated with it so the customer can swipe their card and you don't get charged.

Beyond that, these little add-ons are great, and many of them also print receipts. However, they can run upwards of $200, which (at that point) is rather silly. A fine way to test the waters of this project is to use the Intuit GoPayment app. It's a free download, and once you fill out the application, they'll send you the card reader for free. There's a 2.7% swipe fee and a 3.7% fee for processing a payment without swiping, but there isn't a monthly or start-up fee.

Follow these steps to install Intuit GoPayment:

  1. Download Intuit GoPayment from Google Play or the App Store
  2. Tap Download
  3. Tap Accept & download
  4. Tap Open
  5. If you already have an account, sign in — or you can do a "Test Drive" to try out the app

Upon running a test drive, I found the interface to be clean and snappy. The test simply lets you run a demonstration of what entering payment information would be like, and once you enter all the information, there's a screen where the customer signs for the transaction with their finger (or stylus, if you have one).

If you find you like it as much as I did, here's how to sign up: (Note: These instructions apply to signing up as an individual and not a business.)

  1. If you're in test drive mode, tap the back button
  2. Tap End Test
  3. Click Sign Up
  4. You'll be prompted to enter your email address, which will also serve as your username. Enter your desired email address.
  5. Next, create a secure password (I recommend not using a password you've used anywhere else)
  6. Re-enter your new password
  7. Tap Next
  8. Enter your credentials, including your name, birth date, SSN, address, and phone number
  9. There are two checkboxes in regards to what types of credit cards you'll accept. One is frozen (Visa, Mastercard, Discover, and JCB), and the other is American Express.
  10. You'll be asked if you already have a GoPayment Card Reader with two options: Yes, I already have one and No, please mail me one.

I recommend you use your GoPayment account to store money made from transactions rather than providing bank account information. One of the biggest advantages of making your smartphone a sole-purpose device is security, so I recommend making the most of it. You'll be able to access the funds from that account or use their prepaid Visa card.

The decision for the application process takes up to two business days. However, I received approval within 20 minutes of applying, so it most likely won't take that long. Upon approval, your card reader is shipped the next business day.

I like Intuit GoPayments for a number of reasons. A free card reader vs. buying one for $200 is a major plus, but more importantly, transactions made with Intuit's card reader are securely encrypted. And while you're not obligated to pay a monthly fee, you have the option to enroll in "volume" subscriptions, which reduces the swipe fees. Another plus is that it's integrated with QuickBooks. You can even manage your account via the browser on your PC with the help of the downloadable application for desktops. All in all, it's a well polished way to turn your old smartphone into a mobile payment center.

Additional tips

When repurposing your smartphone as a mobile payment center, make sure that it's encrypted. If you have an Android device, I recommend using OI Safe, which — unlike some other encryption apps — doesn't require the Internet permission, so you don't have to worry about the possibility of the information being transferred to a server. Additionally, it works in conjunction with OI Notepad, which I will detail later. First, let's install OI Safe:

  1. Download OI Safe from Google Play
  2. Tap Install
  3. Tap "Accept & download" (notice the only permission is to modify and delete SD card contents)
  4. Click Open
  5. Tap Accept
  6. Select Continue
  7. You'll be prompted to create a Master Password (I recommend yet another unique password for added security)
  8. Enter and confirm your password
  9. You'll see a menu showing Business and Personal passwords
  10. Tap on the notification in your notification bar that shows you're logged in
  11. A timer displays a count down to when the application will automatically prevent other apps from requesting passwords, or you can simply tap Lock

Now, let's install OI Notepad. You can use this to keep backups of customer transactions and invoices, and OI Safe will encrypt the notes.

  1. Download OI Notepad from Google Play
  2. Tap Download
  3. Click Accept & download
  4. Tap Open
  5. Select Accept
  6. Click Continue

Adding a note is easy. Use your phone's menu button, and tap Add note. The interface is very bare and not precisely ideal for complex documents, but it's great for logging basic data as a backup (since Intuit will keep track of and encrypt transactions), such as customer names, amount billed, and a brief description of the job. Once you're done, tap your menu button, and then tap Encrypt. You will be prompted to give OI Safe permission to encrypt. Select the Allow checkbox, and then tap OK.

Lastly, I recommend that you delete all other apps unless you see some purpose they might serve as a mobile payment center. This is merely an extra security measure, as it will ensure no permissions are leaked, and will greatly reduce the risk of data theft or loss.

Have you ever turned an old gadget into anything else? If so, what and how? Share your experience in the discussion thread below.

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About Brandy Courtade

Brandy Courtade has spent her whole life tinkering with whatever gadgets and technologies she can get her hands on. She contributes to the IT news analysis site Infoboom and is also a Gadgets Examiner for Examiner.com.

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