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The most affordable way for business owners to accept mobile payments is with equipment they already own. That's right, your smartphone or tablet is the cheapest, and fastest way for you to get paid on the go.
And turning your device into a point-of-sale terminal is also easy. All you need to do is pick a mobile payment solution that works for your business, download an app to your phone or tablet, and you'll be ready to start accepting mobile payments anywhere.
Here are some of the best payment solutions for mobile devices:
The most popular way for businesses to accept mobile payments is with a mobile card reader and accompanying app. Most app and reader solutions will allow you to accept all major credit cards, as well as debit cards.
Square Inc. is perhaps the best-known provider of mobile payment services. This startup, which was founded in 2009 by Twitter creator, Jack Dorsey, has made a name for itself with a simple pricing structure and easy merchant sign-up.
Square merchants receive a small card-reader that plugs directly into a phone or tablet headphone jack. When used with Square's app, the reader provides a quick and easy way to accept payments on the go.
But just because Square is popular, that doesn't mean it's the best choice for your business. Make sure you choose an app and reader that offer a competitive pricing structure based on your monthly credit card sales. Square tends to work best for high-volume businesses with small check sizes, like coffee shops and street vendors.
Inner Fence, another popular mobile payments company, lets your business accept credit and debit cards using its Credit Card Terminal app and card reader.
Unlike most company's card readers, the Inner Fence version plugs into the charging dock of a tablet or smartphone, which makes this reader a little sturdier — good for those with high-volume credit card sales.
Inner Fence also offers credit card readers for use with Mac and Windows computers, making it a great solution for businesses that use mobile devices in addition to wired sales terminals.
If your business already accepts PayPal payments online or with a virtual terminal, then this app and reader combo might be the best option for you.
PayPal Here lets merchants accept all major credit and debit cards, just like Square and Inner Fence do, but it also allows users to accept payments from customers' PayPal accounts.
Instead of paying with cash or card, customers "check in" with your business on their mobile devices and then transfer funds to your business' Paypal account. PayPal Here is also one of the only credit card-processing apps that lets merchants accept checks electronically.
PayPal also offers more options than its competitors do for paying business owners. The service will either deposit funds directly into your business account or issue you a debit card that can be used to make purchases and withdraw funds from an ATM.
Launched earlier this month, Breadcrumb, Groupon's point of sale (POS) system for small businesses, is shaking up the mobile payment world.
This app and reader combo's “super swipe” rate of 1.8 percent is significantly lower than that of its competitors, and right now the company is offering a one-of-a-kind deal for new subscribers. Sign up today, and the first $5,000 you process will be free of fees.
The app's big sister, Breadcrumb PRO, has a good reputation as a restaurant POS system. It seems that this new app is poised to succeed as a simplified POS system for small business owners in other industries, as well.
Though the apps-and-reader combo is by and large the most popular method for accepting mobile payments, this isn't the only way to get the job done. Several innovative companies have taken the idea of mobile payments in a different direction.
This mobile payment solution for iPhone, Android and Windows Phone is truly one of a kind. Businesses can accept payments on their mobile devices that customers make from their own mobile devices — without the use of a card reader.
Customers using LevelUp are issued a quick response (QR) code that is linked directly to a credit or debit card. So instead of swiping a card at checkout, the merchant scans the customer's smartphone using the LevelUp app.
LevelUp also offers marketing services through individually designed customer loyalty programs. Instead of paying for payment processing, participants in LevelUp's Interchange Zero program pay for highly tailored advertising campaigns.
Dwolla is another innovator in the field of mobile payments. But unlike its app-and-reader counterparts, Dwolla doesn't require any additional hardware.
Much like PayPal Here, Dwolla requires customers making a payment to log into an app on their smartphones and select your business from a list of approved vendors. Payments are sent directly to your merchant account, and you can monitor these payments in real time from your own smartphone, tablet or laptop with the Dwolla Kiosk open in your Web browser.
Dwolla charges $0.25 per transaction with no additional monthly fees, making it the least expensive way for merchants to accept payments on their mobile devices.