Turn your mobile device into a credit card terminal

If you need to accept customer payments when you're on-the-go, try the free Credit Card Terminal app, which is available for iPhone, iPad, Android, and Windows Phone 7-based devices.

For many, the phrase "private college" brings to mind the likes of Harvard, Yale, and Cornell; however, the reality is most are small colleges that live and die by tuition money. Most private colleges have endowments to cover some scholarships and some operational expenses, but the endowments are paltry compared to the billions that some schools have.

So, it's key that private colleges get the word out about what they do in order to help attract new students and engage potential donors. One such engagement activity that my employer, Westminster College, has developed is called Blue Jay Across the USA, a month long road trip undertaken by four Westminster College students. During their hectic month, the four students host dozens of activities and, sometimes, must charge attendees to offset the costs. In addition, with four students sharing a single minivan, space is a premium, so we take a number of steps to ease their journey and send them off with as little electronic clutter as possible.

One way that we do this is to provide them with an iPhone on which we've installed an app from a company called Inner Fence. Aptly named Credit Card Terminal, this app allows the students hosting various events to accept credit cards from attendees without having to lug around a separate credit card reader. The Credit Card Terminal app is free and available for iPhone, iPad, Android, and Windows Phone 7-based devices. (When I first started using Inner Fence a couple of years ago, I believe the app cost around $50.)

To work with the Credit Card Terminal app, we needed to do the following:

  • Add an additional terminal to our existing merchant account with our bank.
  • Ask our bank to create a new account for us at Authorize.Net, one of Inner Fence's payment options.
  • Configure the Authorize.Net account per the instructions. This included activating the account, setting administrative parameters, and eventually moving the new account from Test mode to Live mode. Credit card transactions can only be processed in Live mode.
  • Download the app and install it on the road trip iPhone.
  • Configure the app's Authorize.Net settings, which included setting an APU login ID and transaction key, both of which were provided by Authorize.Net.
  • Run test transactions.
  • Hand the phone off to the road crew after a short training session.

In total, I spent less than an hour on the process (we already have a pretty well-defined merchant configuration). I had to wait for some things to happen, but I don't count that as work time. So, from the time I requested the new terminal ID and Authorize.Net account to having the iPhone fully configured, it was less than 24 hours.

In Figure A, you can see the Credit Card Terminal app in action on an iPhone. You see the card detail capture and signature screens. The app allows you to have your customers sign just as they would in a store. Figure A

The data capture part of the Credit Card Terminal app
Inner Fence also offers Android (Figure B) and Windows Phone 7 (Figure C) versions of the Credit Card Terminal app. Figure B

The Android version of the Credit Card Terminal app
Figure C

The Windows Phone 7 version of the Credit Card Terminal app
Once the app is downloaded and installed, you need to configure the settings for your chosen payment gateway. In Figure D, note that we're using Authorize.Net. Figure E gives you a look at the five options you have at your disposal. If you just want to play with the app, choose the Try It Out (No Account) option. Figure D

Configure the settings for your chosen payment gateway provider
Figure E

Inner Fence has five provider options.
As you're working with your customers, you can keep track of their information, including their name, phone number, email address, and more (Figure F). This information is stored in the app. Figure F

Capture additional customer information
Assuming you've provided valid credit card and supporting information, such as expiration date, CVV code, and customer zip code, the transaction is approved (Figure G). Figure G

The transaction was approved.
You can email a receipt to your customer that shows the transaction details (Figure H) and even a small map that identifies where the transaction took place. Figure H

Email a receipt to your customers

Business bottom line

For business pros, think of the Credit Card Terminal app as a way to create an ad hoc checkout. If you're an IT consultant or a sales guy who might need to sell right then and there when you visit a customer, the ability to take a credit card on the spot eliminates billing hassles.

By Scott Lowe

Since 1994, Scott Lowe has been providing technology solutions to a variety of organizations. After spending 10 years in multiple CIO roles, Scott is now an independent consultant, blogger, author, owner of The 1610 Group, and a Senior IT Executive w...