MOBILE PAYMENT APPS BOOST BOTTOM LINE FOR SMALL BUSINESSES

Sales add up with card readers, paired with tablets or phones

2013-05-19T00:00:00Z Sales add up with card readers, paired with tablets or phonesAngela Pittenger Arizona Daily Star Arizona Daily Star
May 19, 2013 12:00 am  • 

"We'd definitely lose business if we didn't take credit cards in the tap room," says Tristan White, co-founder of Tucson's Dragoon Brewing.

Being able to accept credit cards for payment has become easier for small businesses and independent entrepreneurs with the introduction of mobile payment processing apps such as Square, RoamPay, Intuit GoPayment and Flint, to name a few.

These systems can virtually replace traditional point-of-sale systems, which normally consist of a cash register and card reader, when the merchant downloads a free app onto a smartphone or tablet and plugs a card reader into the phone.

Merchants can set up an account in minutes and be ready to accept credit cards instantly.

But those who process more than $800 in credit-card payments per month should be wary of the "instant approval providers," said Tucsonan Eric Miller, president of Eric Miller Consults, a credit-card processing consultation company.

According to Miller, fees for merchants processing a large number of transactions can add up to be more than fees of a conventional merchant account, and he said funds from larger transactions are sometimes held.

Dragoon Brewing accepts credit cards through Square. White said the business opened using Square and has stuck with it.

"We were looking at regular point-of-sale systems," White said. "But they're quite a bit more expensive with fees."

Square spokeswoman Faryl Ury said pricing is an important aspect of Square.

"A lot of businesses don't accept credit cards because fees are expensive and confusing," she said. "Fees vary, depending on what card the customer is paying with."

Square charges 2.75 percent per swipe for any credit card.

"There is no other fee," Ury said.

Similarly, merchants using Flint, another mobile payment app, pay 1.95 percent plus a 20 cent fee for debit-card transactions and 2.95 percent plus a 20 cent fee for credit-card transactions.

Tucsonan Kim Webb, national director of Pure Romance, which sells adult products, said she used to use a wireless handheld credit-card machine. "But it was expensive," she said. "There was a $25 monthly fee, plus 3.8 percent of each sale … then you had to order supplies from them."

Taking credit cards is a necessity for Webb, though, since approximately 80 percent of her sales are paid for with cards.

Webb started using Square about 2 1/2 years ago, and hasn't looked back. "I don't even take checks anymore," she said. "I don't have to worry about bounced checks, and the money is in my account within two business days."

The mobile aspect of such systems is a huge draw for merchants who operate outside of traditional storefronts.

Aaron Slachter, president of the Tucson chapter of the nonprofit motorcycle club Fire and Iron, said it uses Square so it can accept credit cards from people wanting to make donations at fundraising events.

"It's been convenient," Slachter said. "You can accept money wherever you go."

The same rings true for farmers market vendor Valerie Smith, co-owner of Jack and the Bean Soup, a small Tucson business that sells pre-seasoned beans.

"It definitely makes a difference for us ... moreso than I thought it would," Smith said.

Customers who aren't carrying cash often end up purchasing when they find out she takes credit cards, Smith added. That wasn't the case before. She said customers used to say they had to go get cash, but many never returned.

Smith estimates about 20 percent of sales are paid for with credit cards. "It has made life easier for us," she said.

Accepting credit cards takes the hassle out of getting paid for services, said Greg Goldfarb, CEO and co-founder of Flint. "If you can't accept credit cards, you have to send an invoice to get paid. With the new breed of mobile apps, that whole head-ache goes away because you get paid on the spot."

The apps also provide analytical, accounting and marketing tools.

"It fundamentally chan-ges the game for these businesses," Goldfarb said, "because they're getting paid faster and can engage customers without doing a lot of extra work."

More and more small businesses are adopting mobile technology. A study by Constant Contact, a small-business advisory group, found that nearly one in five small businesses is using a mobile point-of-sale solution, and 18 percent use mobile apps to manage operations, like accounting.

"We've seen rapid growth," Flint's Goldfarb said. "The average transaction is north of $100 that people are running through the phone. What's exciting is these are meaningful transactions, not $8 hamburgers.

"It's cool to see."

"It fundamentally changes the game for these businesses."

Greg Goldfarb, CEO and co-founder of Flint

At a Glance

Credit card processing apps for smart phones and tablets are becoming more popular with freelance merchants and entrepreneurs. Here's some information about a few of them.

Square:

Requires a card reader, which is free, that plugs into the phone or tablet, and a free app.

Platforms: Apple and Android. Fees: 2.75 percent of each transaction, with no monthly fee. Or, merchants can pay $275 per month, with no transaction fees.

Payment: Deposited next business day. Receipt is immediately emailed to customer.

Contact: squareup.com

Flint:

Does not require any additional hardware. Free app uses the phone's camera to scan the main numbers of the credit card. No data is stored on the phone.

Platforms: Apple. Will be available for Android later this year.

Fees: No monthly. Debit card transactions are 1.95 percent of the sale plus 20 cents. Credit card transactions are 2.95 percent plus 20 cents.

Payment: Deposited within two business days. Receipt is emailed to the customer.

Contact: flint.com

Intuit GoPayment:

Requires a card reader and app. Both are free.

Platforms: Apple and Android.

Fees: There are two pricing models. The pay as you go option is 2.75 percent of each transaction, with no monthly fee. The pay monthly option is $12.95 a month with a 1.75 percent fee per transaction.

Payment: Next business day.

Contact: intuit-gopayment.com

Tips from the BBB

Nick LaFleur, spokesman for the Better Business Bureau of Southern Arizona, offers the following advice to business owners:

• Read the fine print. You want to make sure that you're aware of the fees that are associated with these services so there's no surprises. 

• Do your research: There are many card-processing apps available for different smartphones. Businesses should make sure they're not only choosing the app that works best for their specific business, but also choosing a service provided by a stable and honest company that has a positive track record in the industry. 

Contact reporter Angela Pittenger at apitteng@azstarnet.com or 573-4137.

Copyright 2014 Arizona Daily Star. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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