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JAN 24 2011

PayAnywhere lets merchants charge by credit card using app on mobile devices

Arkansas Democrat Gazette

TECH SPOTLIGHT
By Melissa L. Jones


I’m used to being able to use just about any electronic device that comes to me. This week’s item is no exception, though I did have to step out of my comfort zone just a tad.

I’m not a merchant, but I do have friends who are. I know how credit-card transactions work, but I can’t give you fee comparisons off the top of my head.

 

I do know some retailers pay rental or service fees for the card readers that you swipe your credit card through. This expense can hurt small businesses or those who are self-employed. So to find a company that can provide credit-card transactions for a flat fee using mobile signals, well, I’m no expert, but that sounds good to me.

 

The PayAnywhere system provides credit-card transactions through North American Bancard with no monthly fees, only a flat transaction fee and a set percentage of the transaction amount. It does this using an app, or application, on certain mobile phone systems, as well as a card reader to swipe the cards. The card reader is a great asset but isn’t required to run the app.

 

The card reader currently is available only for iPhone 3G, 3GS and 4, but the app is available for iPod Touches and iPads as well. The company said apps for both Android phones and BlackBerry phones are coming soon, as well as card readers for the iPad and the iPod Touches.

 

As I said, I’m not a merchant, so I could not complete a transaction. However, I used PayAnywhere’s “test drive” feature, which takes you through every step of the transaction but doesn’t actually complete it by charging the card. The test drive itself is a great feature, so you can really put the app through its paces before deciding whether you want to open the required merchant account with North American Bancard.

 

The features are impressive. The application lets you put in items or services for sale and even categorize them. Once this is done, the “itemize” button on the transaction amount screen lets you pick out which items are being sold, so you can quickly tally your transactions.

 

You can set tip, tax and whether to e-mail a receipt to the customer. Once these items are set under the menu’s options, they don’t have to be added with every transaction.
The app isn’t limited to sales. It also allows pre-authorizations of credit cards, which would be good for ser- vice contractors who want to make sure they will get paid before rendering their services. You also can void or refund a transaction using the app.

 

There are two really great features about this system. First and foremost is the security, with all transactions encrypted. The app itself can be locked with a password so no one can see the transactions or merchant account. When credit cards are swiped using the reader, the confirmation box will “X” out all but the last four digits of the card to ensure anyone nearby doesn’t see the whole card number.

 

The second great feature is the reports. The app will generate sales reports for the day, week, previous week, month or a custom date range. The reports show sales, voids, refunds and a grand total, so merchants can see quickly how they’re doing during a certain time period.

 

The app works great on its own, but the card reader makes it that much better. The reader worked perfectly every time, immediately popping up a confirmation as soon as the card was swiped. The app then said when to pass the device to the customer for a signature, which customers can do with their index fingers.

 

The Help menu on the app is excellent, providing stepby-step instructions on each transaction type. It’s also very easy to understand, even for nonmerchants like me.

The more I tested these products, the more I liked them. The fact that the card reader is free with a merchant account is fantastic. Add to that no setup fees, no monthly fees, no cancellation fees ... I just knew there had to be a catch somewhere.

 

The only “catch” was the fees per transaction. Each transaction costs 19 cents, plus 2.69 percent in service fees if a card is swiped or 3.49 percent if the card is keyed in by hand.

Is that a lot? Not being a merchant, I’m not sure how these numbers compare to other credit-card transaction fees. Considering the lack of monthly fees, a free app, a free card reader and the convenience of being able to take credit cards for goods and services, the fees don’t seem terribly steep to me. It’s certainly convenient for the customers who prefer not to pay by check or cash.

 

This system looks to be a great solution for small businesses and self-employed contractors who need to be able to take credit cards without having to be tied to expensive rental equipment. Are the fees too much or just right? That’s where your expertise trumps mine.

 

The PayAnywhere app requires an iPhone 3G, 3GS or 4, an iPod Touch or an iPad. The card reader requires an iPhone 3G, 3GS or 4. Apps for the Android and BlackBerry phone systems are coming soon. The app is free. The card reader retails for $145 but is provided free with an approved merchant account through North American Bancard.

Melissa L. Jones can be reached via e-mail at mljones72@me.com.

 

*This article was published on page 21 and 22 of the Monday, January 24, 2011 edition in the Business section.

 

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