Accepting credit card payments has traditionally been a difficult and expensive proposition for small business owners, requiring merchant accounts, lengthy contracts, crazy monthly fees, and specialized hardware. While it is certainly possible to circumvent the merchant account maze by using services like PayPal, lacking the ability to process plastic may be losing you potential customers, not to mention slowing down your receivables. Fortunately, a new service called “Square” has made it simple and cost effective to accept credit cards using your iPad, iPhone or Android smartphone.
Signing up for Square is free (and super easy), as is the card scanning widget they provide. And I won’t lie — it’s kind of cute. As soon as you insert the card reader into the audio-input jack of your device and download the free app, you are ready to start processing credit card payments. You will only incur fees when a card is charged. Square charges a flat 15¢ per transaction plus 2.75% for swiped (in-person) transactions or 3.5% for keyed-in (over the phone/fax/email transactions). Traditional card services typically charge about 30¢ plus 2.9%, so these rates are highly competitive, especially if the majority of your sales are processed in-person.
Aside from providing another customer-friendly payment method, Square’s software also makes it easy to keep track of your transactions. Customers can choose to have their receipt emailed to them and it can also include the location of the transaction. Credit card sales are automatically recorded, but you can also use the program to keep detailed records of your cash sales. With all your transaction records in one secure on-line location, it is simple to track your profits from anywhere. Another great feature is the ability to include your logo on receipts to email your customers, making Square both an environmentally friendly tool and an easy way to promote your brand awareness.