Make us your home page

Gadgets & Gizmos

From the staff of the Tampa Bay Times

Get a free credit card reader for your iPhone, iPad or Android



MINI Coopers are my hobby and I sell t-shirts and other MINI swag items at various events to help support the hobby. screen_shot_2011-02-04_at_2.08.53_pm.pngI use PayPal for things I sell online and have always wanted a way to accept credit cards at events. Anyone whoe sells things at art shows, car shows or even garage sales will tell you that accepting credit cards increases sales.

Verifone and Intuit make devices you can attach to an iPhone that are linked to a merchant account or have contracts and monthly fees. They range in cost from about $100-$200 and they add a fair amount of bulk to your phone.  And although the per swipe charges are fairly low, the monthly fees add up especially if you don't have enough sales to justify them. So those option didn't make sense for my small business needs.

But now there's a new device called Square. It's a tiny credit card reader that plugs into your iPhone, iPad or Android and when you set up an account at they'll send your the reader for free. The app is free too, so for absolutely nothing you can be ready to accept payments from Mastercard, VISA, Discover and American Express with no merchant account, no contract and no monthly fees. All you need is a U.S. bank account, address and a Social Security number.


Ok, so what's the catch? For each transaction processed through Square, you pay a fee. For swiped tranactions you pay 2.75% + $.15 and keyed-in transactions you pay 3.5% + $.15. One a $20 sale that amounts to $.70 and $.85, respectively. In contrast a PayPal fee for the same amount in the U.S. would be $.88.

The collected money is sent via electronic transfer to a linked bank account. For chargebacks and refunds, they use a system that keeps a regular balance in your Square account. The system will calculate whether you've accepted more or less than $1,000 from 7 days prior to every transaction. If you accept over $1,000 in that timeframe, anything above that will remain in your Square account for 30 days and for anything under, the funds will transfer to your account within 24-36 hours.

I ordered my reader about four days ago and it arrived in the mail today. It's really small, about the size of a Starburst Fruit Chew, and plugs into the headphone jack on the iPhone. I already had the app loaded, so I quickly swiped my American Express card and it worked on the first try.

The app can be configured to pay tips, send customers receipts and you can download sales data into a spreadsheet for your records. This thing is a great tool for yard sales, flea market dealers, Girl Scouts selling cookies (you know they'll buy more Samoas if they can put it on a card) and band moms selling World's Finest chocolate bars. Are any of you people listening?

And maybe, just maybe, it will be a great tool for a Gadget Guy selling MINI Cooper cookie cutters at the next car show too.

[Last modified: Monday, May 23, 2011 6:25pm]


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours