If you’ve been to a trade fair or festival recently, you may have noticed traders using their iPhones (or other smartphones) to take credit and debit card payments.
Perhaps you’ve wondered how you can do the same? If you run a small business or are a sole trader, the ability to take payments like this opens up a whole new way to sell your products – sometimes resulting in customers spending more with you, or buying something that they wouldn’t have done otherwise.
Thankfully, taking card payments with your smartphone is straightforward and inexpensive – and in this article we’re going to tell you exactly how to do it.
Mobile point of sale (mPOS)
Mobile point of sale uses a simple card reader device linked to an app running on your phone. The app connects to the Internet to authorise payments, so you can take payments anywhere with a web connection – and this can be via 3G/4G or Wifi. As you can probably see already, this means you can be hugely flexible in where you can take card payments – it’s a truly mobile solution.
Customers insert or swipe their card in the card reader, and authorise the transaction with their PIN number, or sign on the smart phone if the card requires a signature.
Card readers can range from very simple devices with a card slot and a keypad, to more sophisticated devices that have their own display screens. The readers link to your phone using either a cable or a wireless Bluetooth connection.
Early card readers introduced in 2011 connected to the phone through the audio jack of the phone, and required a signature for authorization. New card readers uses “chip and PIN” as the default method rather than “chip and sign” technology, which is now largely phased out in Europe.
How to get started
To get started taking card payments, all you need to do is sign up with a suitable provider and take delivery of your card reader. Then you just install the relevant app on your iPhone and link it to the reader.
One of the easiest and most inexpensive solutions comes from iZettle. Until the summer of 2016 iZettle offered a completely free basic card reader that connects to the iPhone using a cable.
In the summer of 2016, iZettle introduced iZettle Reader (for the relatively small fee of £79 – see our iZettle review for latest special offers), which connects via Bluetooth, has its own integral display, and takes Chip & PIN, swipe and contactless payments, as well as Apple Pay.
Customers pay iZettle a small percentage of each transaction value for the use of the service. (In the specific case of iZettle, this percentage reduces for a higher volume of sales).
iZettle isn’t the only provider out there; SumUp and Payleven offer similar deals based on a small fee for a card reader and an ongoing transaction-based commission charge. All of these allow you to get up and running taking mobile card payments for comfortably under £100.
You might like: Five questions to SumUp co-founder Alexander-Marc Christ
The list of providers goes on, and includes some big names including WorldPay Zinc, Barclaycard Anywhere, PayPal Here and Elavon MobileMerchant. All of these providers have iPhone-based solutions, so you have an abundance of choice.
A few years ago, it would have seemed like science fiction for a single trader to accept contactless payments from a phone or an Apple Watch – now it’s a reality, and costs next to nothing to get started.