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When Will Mobile Phones Replace Our Credit Cards?

September 22nd, 2010 | Online & Small Business Resources,shopping,Small Business,Small Business Tips | No Comments »

I was reading this article in the Denver Post the other day about how in 3-5 years a majority of consumers will no longer carry credit cards or cash but will instead use their phone to pay for goods.  While I am not so sure that this will be the case in such a short time period I think that consumers in the United States are definitely moving in that direction.

As this article points out, there are already convenience stores in Boulder, Colorado, and Starbucks coffee shops in Seattle that allow their customers to pay by using applications on their smart phone.  Most of the stores that currently allow shoppers to pay by phone do so through the use of a web-based account that the shopper has to pre-register for and “load” money into their account.  These consumers then bring their phone into the store and login to their account on the merchant’s website or through their “app” on their phone that displays an account number or bar code that the merchant can use to deduct the value of the goods purchased from the consumers account.  While this process is definitely a little less time consuming for both the merchant and shopper and no longer requires the shopper to carry a credit card, it really isn’t all that revolutionary to the bricks and mortar world.

Here is a new product from a company called “Square” that does have the potential to change how and where merchants and shoppers interact at a retail location: the Square Card Reader (pictured in this post).

Square is a new smartphone application for the iPhone and most Android-powered phones that allows merchants to sign-up for a free account and receive a free Square Card Reader that easily plugs into the headphone jack on their phone.  Merchants can then use the card reader to swipe a consumer’s credit card for payment or they can also just type in the credit card number into the smart phone application in order to accept payment.  The merchant is charged 2.9%-3.0% of the value of the transaction plus $0.15 for each transaction which is comparable to what other online payment companies, like Paypal, charge.  I think that Square has the ability to change how we define a “merchant” since their product makes it easier for the smallest of companies to compete with the larger players in their industry.

How popular is the Square Card Reader?  Right now Square has a special message on their website when merchant’s sign-up for a new account indicating that it could take weeks to get their reader in the mail because they currently have such a large backlog!

How do you see mobile payment systems changing the way business is done in your store?

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