A Step-by-Step Guide to Implementing Mobile Credit Card Processing
With mobile credit card processing technology readily available, easy-to-use, and capable of operating anywhere there’s internet, there’s no excuse for a business to not accept credit cards. Whether you’re running a national grocery chain or a food truck that’s never in the same location twice, mobile credit card processing is simple to implement and loved by customers – 50% of whom don’t carry any cash.
A mobile credit card processor is a card reading terminal attached to a mobile device with internet access and cloud-based payment processing software. The terminal is often attached via the headphone jack or Bluetooth. You swipe the cards through the reader and then the software processes the payment information.
Why implement mobile credit card processing?
First, mobile payment processing systems tend to be the fastest and cheapest processing system to set up, making them excellent for small businesses. A food truck, for instance, can be up and running taking credit cards at a fair within minutes.
Mobile credit card processing is a great idea even for established businesses, though. The low-profile of mobile payment processing hardware saves more space for merchandise. And even better, mobile credit card processing enables salespeople to ring customers up throughout a store, eliminating the long walk of contemplation towards the register. Businesses like restaurants can even boost their security by swiping cards right at the table, rather than having to take the customers’ cards away.
How to implement mobile credit card processing
The true difference between stationary and mobile payment processing is the hardware, meaning many of the following steps will be the same for implementing credit card processing in general.
Step 1: Choose a payment processor type
The first step to accepting credit cards in any fashion is to choose between setting up a merchant account with a merchant services provider or using a merchant aggregator, sometimes known as a third party processor or payment aggregator.
Merchant accounts are the accounts to which your customers’ credit and debit funds are transferred once processed. The account is opened with a merchant services provider, with whom you will be able to directly negotiate your credit card processing fees. Merchant accounts often offer additional benefits like fraud prevention services.
That said, merchant accounts require your company to be doing enough sales to have leverage in the negotiation. The threshold varies between merchant services providers, though typically $3,000 in monthly revenue is a good time to start thinking about setting up a merchant account. And due to the negotiation of fees, it typically takes a bit more time to set up a merchant account than to get started with an aggregator.
For businesses under $3,000 in monthly revenue, or those looking to process credit cards on the card immediately, a merchant aggregator is a good idea. A merchant aggregator lumps many small business accounts together to create the leverage necessary to achieve affordable processing fees. The merchant aggregator then charges a single flat transaction fee to all its clients.
Merchant aggregators are incredibly quick to set up because all it takes is to purchase the hardware and opt into their service as offered. However, they become expensive once your business starts making around $3,000/month.
Step 2: Understanding fees
There are a number of different fees associated with processing credit cards. Which fees you get charged are dependent on your processor, however, it’s recommended that you fully understand a processor’s fees before signing a contract. Because of this, it’s easier to work with processors who have a very transparent pricing model.
Transaction fees are charged by both merchant accounts and merchant aggregators alike. These are charged per sale in the form of a percentage of the sale plus a flat rate (ie 2.75% + $.10). The percentage covers the interchange fee (the fee which the credit card companies like Visa and Mastercard charge to transfer funds) as well as a markup fee added by your processor. The flat rate is charged by the processor to cover its operational expenses.
Merchant accounts charge you based on different pricing models, including interchange plus pricing, tiered pricing, flat or blended pricing, and more.
Each model has its pros and cons, and the right one depends on factors like your credit card processing volume, transaction values, and more.
Service fees are recurring standard charges for the services provided by your payment processor. Service fees can be charged for membership, PCI compliance, etc. Merchant aggregators typically roll these fees into their markup on the transaction fee.
Incidental fees are one time fees charged for a variety of activities your processor may have to perform for you, as well as penalties for certain actions. Incidental fees can include account set up fees or foreign currency exchange fees. Most notable among the incidental fees is a chargeback fee. Chargeback fees are typically quite hefty.
Step 3: Choose your payment processor
Once you know what kind of account fits your company’s needs, it’s time to choose the payment processor.
You’ll want to research a variety of brands. Make sure to check out their customer reviews. If you’re looking for a payment aggregator, compare the rates and tiers that each aggregator offers you.
If you’re opening a merchant account, ask for price quotes from three to five merchant service providers that you’re most interested in. While your business needs will determine what a good contract looks like to you, you should consider looking for month-to-month service with no early termination fees. You should also see if the provider is offering any promotional pricing, in order to secure the cheapest mobile payment processing contract possible.
Once you choose a provider, read your contract carefully before signing. Unexpected fees or terms can often be slipped into the contract.
Step 4: Purchase and set up mobile credit card machines
Once you’ve chosen a payment processor, you need the hardware. Hardware is what enables merchants to accept mobile credit card payments. The base part of the hardware is, of course, the mobile device (e.g., your phone or table), which must usually be purchased from a separate retailer.
Then there is the mobile credit card machine which can usually be purchased from your payment processor. Some processors allow you to lease hardware. Leasing hardware is cheaper up front, though hugely expensive in the long run (so, stay aware from leasing). Merchant aggregators sometimes even sell their hardware at retailers like Best Buy, so companies can get up and running in a single day.
Mobile credit card processing hardware features some type of card reading terminal that attaches to a smartphone or tablet. The most iconic version is Square’s small white, square card reader that plugs into the headphone jack. Many readers also wrap around the phone or tablet.
There are currently three ways for a terminal to read a card.
- There is the original card reader, the magnetic swiper. These are fairly insecure and rapidly becoming outdated. However, the swiper is still useful for older cards.
- Then there are EMV readers (chip card readers), which are far more secure. EMV readers are now legally required in most places.
- Finally, there are near field communication (NFC) readers that read digital wallets. NFC readers are only necessary if you want to take something like Apple Pay. While digital payments are not currently the most popular form of payment, an NFC reader is rapidly becoming handier as contactless payments become preferable in a post-pandemic world.
Payment Processors to Consider
There are many payment processors on the market, all claiming to provide the best mobile credit card processing. Here we’ll compare what some of the top providers offer as well as what their customer reviews say about them.
Payment Depot is a merchant services provider devoted to transparent pricing. We are a widely loved solution, with a 4.7 star rating on Capterra. Payment Depot is often referred to as the Costco of credit card processing with reviewers saying such things as “[Confident] I’m definitely getting the best rate for my merchant credit card acceptance.”
Payment Depot offers interchange plus pricing with a monthly membership. Memberships start at $49/month.
Square is a well-liked merchant aggregator who also has a 4.7 star rating on Capterra. Square is rich in features, even offering a free POS-lite app for iPad, making it incredibly easy for a new company to get sales up and running in a single day.
Of course, what Square provides in convenience, they certainly charge for. Their fees start at 2.6%+$.10 per transaction. While reviewers glow about it’s ease-of-use, they definitely note the expense.
PayPal is a merchant aggregator who charges a flat fee of 2.7% for any physical purchases in the US. Merchant Maverick gives PayPal 4 stars. PayPal offers many integrations and unlike most processors, can also function as a supplemental processor, rather than your only one.
PayPal is known for its customer support issues, though. While most support horror stories come from the B2C side of PayPal’s business, it certainly isn’t a solution that will be giving their merchants the white glove treatment.
Payanywhere operates as both an aggregator and merchant services provider. It has a 2.8 star rating on Fit Small Business.
A merchant aggregator, Payanywhere charges 2.69% for each physical transaction. Once you reach $10,000 in monthly sales, they then switch you over to a merchant account. Reviews indicate that Payanywhere is a good lightweight solution but lacking in features or support.
SumUp is a merchant aggregator who charges 2.75% for in-person purchases. SumUp is a very straightforward, lightweight payment processor, making it ideal for newbies. SumUp has a 3.9 star rating on Amazon, with reviewers pointing out that customer support is lacking and the funds usually take three to five days to appear in your account rather than the promised one to two.
Mobile payment processing is a must-have for most businesses with a physical sales location. It’s not particularly difficult to start processing payments on smartphones or tablets these days, which makes it incredibly easy to take your business on the road. Set up a pop-up event or appear at a local market with speed.
Need help implementing mobile credit card processing? Payment Depot has your back. Aside from offering low and transparent rates, we can help you determine the right mobile credit card processing solution for your business and get you up and running just a couple of days.