You can, too!
With Square, it’s easy, and free.
Square is a mobile credit card processing service founded by Jack Dorsey (one of the co-founders of Twitter).
One of the original iPad-only apps (and the very first app I downloaded to my iPad on release day in April 2010), it is now available for iPhone, iPod Touch, and Android devices. The app is free, and once installed, you set up a Square account. Once your account has been activated (now just a matter of days), the small Square Card Reader (also free) is sent to you.
It couldn’t be easier – plug the Square reader into the audio jack of your device, launch the Square app, enter details of your sale, then swipe your customer’s card, and have him sign (with his finger) and enter an email address. The transaction is processed immediately, and an email receipt is sent, which includes the location of the transaction and, optionally, a photo of the item sold.
The Square app for iPhone or Android works well enough, but the version for iPad is still the best experience. You can set up a library of items for quick access, and the larger screen makes the signing process much easier.
You may also enter the card information manually, but the processing fee will be higher (see below).
You don’t have to be running a store, or any kind of business, to use Square. Anyone can sign up for the service and get a free reader. If you want to be able to split a bar tab with friends and have them pay you via credit card, you can get a Square account and reader, and you’ll be ready to swipe your buddies’ cards to get paid.
It’s understandable that you might have security concerns. I certainly did at first. Fortunately, the folks at Square have thought everything through. The actual credit card information is never stored on your device. It goes right from the reader to Square for processing, and everything is encrypted. You can read more about Square security here.
Sure, there were some early problems…
The initial charge limits were far too low – with a daily limit of $100, and a weekly limit of $700, on the rare occasion that I would like to accept a credit card, I would easily exceed the daily limit. Fortunately, Square managed to completely rework their underwriting to get those limits increased. There is now no limit on how many or how large a payment you can accept. The first $1,001.00 per week is immediately deposited to your bank account (and typically available the very next day). The remaining amount is deposited within 30 days of the transaction.
There were also production problems with the first batch of readers. In a letter to users sent on 18 June 2010, “The Home Stretch“, Jack Dorsey stated that the company “released parts of Square before they were fully baked”, and that the whole team was hard at work resolving the issues.
As a result, it took months to get readers shipped out. They started with a small number of hand-picked customers, and worked out the kinks from there. A couple of weeks after I signed up in April, my account page showed that my reader was about to be shipped. A week or so after that, the status went blank, then I didn’t hear anything from Square until the end of August, when they asked to verify my financial information.
My reader finally arrived on 8 October, and worked flawlessly the first time, on my iPad. Not so lucky with my new iPhone 4, however. It seems that the original version of the reader made a metal-to-metal contact with the external antenna of the iPhone 4, and the resulting interference made it unusable. You can’t blame them, really, since none of the existing devices at the time the reader was designed had the metal band antennae of the iPhone 4. I tried a number of hacks with o-rings and small bits of paper, then finally got it to work with some very thin plastic film. It isn’t pretty, but it works.
In the photo below, the original reader is shown on the left, complete with the plastic film insulator. The new and improved version, which works with the iPhone 4 right out of the box, is on the right.
One week after the reader arrived, I found myself teaching a SCUBA class on a Saturday morning, and two of the students had not yet paid the course fee. I said that I could accept credit cards on the spot, and they both jumped at the opportunity to try this. I handed over my iPad to each student, and five minutes later, had done $850.00 in charges, and both had already received their email receipts. The money, less the transaction fees, was in my bank account on Monday. Sweet!
I had started to write up this blog entry in late October, but held off when I got a notice from Square that a new version of the reader was on its way. The new one arrived a few days later, and it works on both my iPad and iPhone 4.
The good news…
- Free App
- Free Card Reader
- No Merchant Account
- No Monthly Fees
- Competitive transaction fees (2.75% for swiped transactions, 3.5% + 15¢ for keyed-in transactions)
- No monthly minimum
If you do a lot of credit card transactions, you’ll probably already have a merchant account and a dedicated card reader. If, however, you don’t find yourself doing enough credit card business to justify the monthly fees and minimums, Square might be just what you need.
22 February 2011 Update
Starting today, the 15¢ fixed fee on swiped transactions has been dropped (was 2.75% + 15¢ per transaction). The 15¢ fee remains in place for manually key-in transactions.
Posted from Rockville, Maryland, United States.
Yesterday was the first day of the 2009 diving season at our local mudhole dive training site, Lake Millbrook.
It was a bright and clear spring day, though very windy. Air temperature was in the 50′s (F), and the water temperature at the surface was 53F (for the first six feet – below that, it was 39F all the way to the bottom). We had had a lot of rain this past week, so visibility near the surface wasn’t great, varying between 5 and 15 feet. As we got below 50 feet, though, everything was much clearer, and the visibility was around 30 feet. We spotted several small Bream in the shallows, as well as a couple of 12 to 15 inch Bass.
It might be hard to understand the allure of this disused quarry, but it’s convenient and a good place to hone skills or learn new ones. I’d estimate that between 40 and 50 divers turned out for the day.
I had one Dry Suit student, Rick Albert, who came to complete his certification, and I was assisted by my good friend and Divemaster, Ken Chotiner. We got in two dives, with a maximum depth of 83 feet, and a total bottom time of 61 minutes. Everyone remained comfortable throughout, so I’d call it a success.
It was good to be back in the water, though I’m certainly feeling the aches from it today.
Posted from Suitland, Maryland, United States.