Can I Connect a Credit Card Terminal to My Cell Phone?by James T Wood
Credit card terminals provide the ability to make charges to credit cards. In order to use a credit card terminal you first need to have a Merchant Account that identifies you as an authorized charger and provides a way for the credit card use fees to be charged. Some providers charge a flat fee while others charge a percentage of the sales. You can connect a terminal to a mobile phone through Bluetooth, hardware add-ons or by using a virtual terminal.
Accepting credit card payments requires that you have a merchant account. This provides a way to track the charges you make and the fees charged to you by the your provider for each credit card transaction. Credit card processors are the go-betweens that connect your transaction to the accounts at the specific credit card companies. Talk to your specific credit card processor, if you already have one, for solutions specific to your situation.
Traditional credit card terminals like you would see in a retail store can also be found in a wireless format that connects to a mobile phone through a Bluetooth wireless connection. This is a good solution if you need to have the phone and the terminal separated by up to 30 feet. The terminal will still use the data connection provided by the phone to process the transactions, but all that's required is a phone with Bluetooth and cellular data capabilities. Other mobile solutions require a smartphone running the Apple iOS or Google Android operating systems.
There are several applications and devices that allow the iPhone to become a credit card terminal (see "Resources"). If hardware is provided it will plug into the phone and a special application will need to be downloaded to interface with the hardware. Hardware allows for a credit card to be swiped, but there are iPhone apps that don't require swiping. You can download a credit card terminal app to your iPhone that will allow you to enter the card information manually and accept the charge.
As of February, 2011, Square Up is the only multi-platform smartphone credit card terminal solution. With applications for both the iPhone and Android systems you have several options as to the type of phone that interfaces with the Square Up hardware and software. Square provides a free swiping device that plugs into your phone; you then download the app to turn your phone into a mobile credit card terminal.