Selecting a smartphone credit card processing system

Like most small business owners, my success doesn't depend on having clients. My small business success depends on having paying clients. But for the work I do, I often face the difficult choice of completing a job without assurance that the client's credit card payment will authorize, or losing the job because I can't seal the deal on-site with the client.

Luckily, small scale credit card processors, including many small businesses, can now benefit from low cost, secure smartphone credit card processing systems. I recently surveyed the leading offerings as I selected a system for my own use. Based on my experience, here's a guide to smartphone credit card processing systems for the small business owner.

How Smartphone Credit Card Processers Work

Until recently, small business owners who accepted payment by credit card were forced to buy standard processing equipment that was tied to a brick-and-mortar location. Accepting payment from an off-site customer usually meant either higher processing fees or a potentially risky long wait for an authorization. Recent advancements now make mobile credit card processing affordable for smartphone users.

The basic set-up is simple. Using a free app, users of smartphones (including both iOS and Android systems) can authorize credit card payments from any location with Internet access. Some systems require a physical card reader that attaches to one of the smartphone's inputs. Other systems allow for manual entry of the card information.

Does Mobile Credit Card Processing Make Sense for My Small Business?

In short, most likely yes. Competition for business in the market is fierce, so vendors now offer a range of options to suit nearly every budget. Depending on the plan you select and your volume of sales, overall mobile card processing fees can compare favorably to traditional systems. But even ultra small scale users can find low-cost options. Most mobile processing systems offer strong encryption and security features, and many link to existing merchant accounts and bookkeeping systems.

Which Systems and Features Should I Benchmark?

No one system maximizes efficiency - and profits - for each business. However, the leading vendors now offer scalable solutions for steady and growing small businesses of all sizes. The main features you should seek are pricing structure, ability to customize and hardware options.

Take time to explore the pricing structures of the main vendors. Most products, such as the popular Square, offer a combination of a flat-rate fee plus a per-transaction fee. How these combinations work with your expected volume and transaction types will determine your best deal.

Make sure you consider your need to customize credit card processing solutions. Most systems offer the opportunity to adjust your pricing structure according to your changing needs, but consider the availability of different flat-rate monthly fees and their effect on transaction fees. Depending on your volume and growth, the ability to pay more in monthly fees could have a pronounced effect on your bottom line.

Finally, consider each product's hardware options. Some services offer card swipers that fit right onto your smartphone's case, whereas others connect via USB or even the headphone jack. You might want to compare manual entry options and the effect of manual entry on transaction fees.

By expanding my options for accepting credit cards, I've been able to better leverage my time and process payments quickly and efficiently. Explore the information and select the option that will best help your business do the same!

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