Mobile payment--so recently novel, now ubiquitous--is getting better fast. Most significant, the services are increasingly targeted. You manage your accounts through QuickBooks? There's a service precisely for you. Your customers use mobile wallets rather than credit cards? You have choices.
In this graphic, the first six options are mobile versions of conventional point-of-sale systems. They come equipped with card readers--dongles--and proprietary apps. The next five options have nothing to do with readers. They are all about the app, on both sides of the transaction: Your customer pays not with a card but with a phone. So these products function less as virtual cash registers than as ways to beef up your brand by adding convenience, word of mouth, and app integration.
The company that started it all throws its reader in gratis, and Square might be the simplest to use of all these products.
From setup to checkout, Square keeps it simple. But don't expect stellar customer service. Square doesn't want to talk to you. Cost: 2.75 percent; keyed-in transactions are 3.5 percent plus 15 cents. Other fees: Or a flat fee of 5 per month if you swipe less than 0,000 a year.
Here Processes cards and checks…and PayPal.
You'll get access to your funds within minutes of swiping a card. Seller beware: If you process more than ,500 within a seven-day rolling period, you might not receive the funds for up to 30 days. Cost: 2.7 percent; keyed-in transactions are 3.5 percent plus 15 cents.
If you use QuickBooks, look nofurther: GoPayment syncsautomatically with the software. Best for quickbook users.
GoPayment is ready to go in four steps. But the reader won't work on Windows or BlackBerry devices. Cost: With a payment plan, 1.75 percent for swipes and 2.75 percent for keyed-in transactions. Otherwise, 2.75 percent and 3.75 percent. Other fees: .95 per month for the most popular plan.
A big bank is less likely to freak out over big charges and is equipped for fast-growth businesses.
BofA transactions are ultrasecure. But printing receipts directly from the app is not yet available. Cost: 2.7 percent; rates vary for American Express.Keyed-in transactions are 3.5 percent plus 15 cents.
You can pop the reader into a phoneor iPad and simply process payments, or you can spring for a comprehensive, iPad-basedpoint-of-sale system.
Order up! Breadcrumb is ideal for restaurants. It can split checks, add tips, and more. But keyed-in transactions can be held for up to 30 days. Cost: 1.8 percent plus 15 cents; keyed-in transactions are 2.3 percent plus 15 cents.
Easy setup, a free reader, and all the basics-;except that you can't acceptgift cards
SpotPay can take photos of the buyer or purchases. Clumsy: SpotPay's reader is bulky. Cost: 1.99 percent to 3.19 percent. Voice-authorized transactions are 3.19 percent plus .95. Extra Fees: .95 a month.
Lemon is among the most popular of the mobile wallets, with about three million users. The Lemon Network uses your existing payment platform to allow Lemon users to make one-touch payments.
Lemonheads love their mobile wallet. They will use it to do business with you. But merging Lemon with your payment platform is no easy feat. Cost: Free (but you're still paying your processor.)
Paydiant's app is white label; that is, you put your own brand on it. At the point of sale, you produce a QR code, which your customer scans.
Because customers register with you, you are able to collect valuable data on them as they use the app. But you are reliant on customers' downloading your app and associating their cards or accounts with it. Cost: Variable. Variable; expect to pay a licensing fee.
Dwolla is a different kind of service:It transfers money from one bank account to another.
Such a deal: Dwolla zaps money from customers' bank accounts in minutes, and processes transactions of less than for free. But there's no way yet to verify Dwolla payments inside your point-of-sale software, as Dwolla is a network, not a processor. Cost: 25 cents for transactions of more than ;otherwise, free.
It's a payment app that is also a marketing app: The customer's phone produces a QR code. When you scan the code, you get paid and the customer earns rewards. LevelUp also builds white-label apps.
LevelUp tracks your marketing campaigns in real time. A business can track only customers who download the LevelUp app. LevelUp does have more than a million users. But a business can track only customers who download the LevelUp app. LevelUp does have more than a million users. Cost: 2 percent. Other fees: for the scanner.