Last summer, I took the whole family to the beach. As usual, I was volunteered to get frozen treats, but the vendor was at least 200 yards away, across sun-scorched sand. By the time I got back, my hands were freezing, my feet were burning, and the treats were partially liquefied. I seriously would have paid double if I didn’t have to go get them. If that vendor had a cart and a way to take something other than cash, his sales would have possibly tripled. Luckily for him — and other vendors, on-site service personnel, or anyone else that needs to take payments on the move — there are new options available for accepting credit cards.

Not long ago, setting up an account and equipping your facility for accepting credit cards was a hassle. Stringent credit requirements and minimum transaction amounts kept the little guys out of the game. It was simply too expensive to take a credit card for a small purchase. Fortunately, this is no longer true. In this post, I’ll highlight two easy options for getting started in the credit card game and staying mobile in the process.


These guys have made it about as simple as it can get. Each credit card transaction has a 2.75% charge if you swipe the card or a 3.5% charge plus $0.15 per transaction if you key it in manually. There are no set up fees and no contracts. The card reader and app are free and work with the iPhone/iPad (iOS 4.0+) and some Android devices (2.1+). You just enable GPS on your device and plug it into the headset jack.

Once everything is set up, you can accept Visa, MasterCard, American Express, or Discover. Funds from transactions are gathered and sent daily (except Saturday) to whatever bank account is attached to the Square account. The speed at which the funds finally arrive can vary depending on your bank. They claim next day payout in most cases.

Customers will have the option to receive a printed or emailed receipt, or they skip it altogether. The Square app also allows the mobile device to connect to specific models of receipt printer and cash drawers, if desired.

One of my favorite features is the ability to set up a visual point of sale (POS) device. For example, a waiter at a restaurant could open the app on his iPad and touch the picture of the item the customer wants, which will add it to the transaction. At the end of the meal, the waiter would swipe the customer’s credit card, offer to add a standard tip amount, then hand the card back. This feature makes it easy to monitor trends and summarizations of sales. Plus, as society becomes more conscious of identity theft, the customer can feel more comfortable if the card doesn’t leave their sight

GoPayment by Intuit

Like Square, GoPayment gives you a free card reader that plugs into the audio jack of your mobile device. Transaction fees are tiered, however. For accounts that have under $1000 in activity per month, there is no monthly fee and the swipe rate is 2.70% or 3.70% for manually keyed transactions. For businesses with more than $1000 in activity, there is a $12.95 monthly fee, but the swipe and keyed rates drop to 1.70% and 2.70% respectively. Vendors are not locked into a contract or commitment of any kind. GoPayment accepts more types of cards than Square, including Diner’s Club.

Though a limited number of devices will work with the provided card reader, a transaction can still be manually keyed into the web version of GoPayment, as long as the device has access to the internet.

You can purchase optional GoPayment devices to make life a little easier. An iPhone-specific card reader fits right onto the phone and looks more like an integral part of the device than the free reader. A compact, one-piece Bluetooth card reader and receipt printer is also available. Check out the site for a full listing of device requirements, fee schedules, and options.

Home service, delivery companies, restaurant waiters, and even Girl Scout cookie stands in front of grocery stores can now get up and running to accept credit cards. This is not only convenient, but it helps avoid the losses associated with bad checks or missed sales from cashless customers. On my next family vacation, I may even save myself a painful trip across the beach.