Following the launch of Square in May 2010, the mobile PoS solutions market has turned into a highly competitive battleground with European and North American providers jostling for a piece of the action. Here, PaymentEye provides an overview of the different players and their solutions, to clarify what each providers offer and what sets them apart.
Co-founded by Twitter creator Jack Dorsey and Jim Mckelvey, Square has been a major force in the US mobile PoS market since its launch. An estimated 1 million merchants have signed up and Square now claims to be processing around USD6 billion in payments annually. The Square card reader plugs into the headphone jack of an iPhone, iPad, or Android device, allowing card payments via a downloadable app. It charges 2.75% per swipe for Visa, MasterCard, Discover and AmEx, while manually-entered cards (payments for which the card is not swiped) cost 3.5% plus USD0.15 per transaction. Customers are then able to receive their receipt by text or email. To entice merchants, Square does not charge monthly fees, set-up costs or request merchant account payments.
Recently Square introduced a number of schemes to attract new business and encourage repeat custom. In June, the company launched a digital loyalty scheme by rolling out an update to its ‘Square Register’ app which turns an iPad into a cash register, and ‘Pay with Square’ app which enables m-payments. As a result, merchants can offer deals such as first-visit reductions and personalised loyalty cards to their customers. This was followed by a political fundraising initiative in July, which allows campaigners to collect donations on their smartphone. The election campaigns of President Barack Obama and Governor Mitt Romney both announced earlier this year that their staff and volunteers will accept campaign contributions using Square.
Square’s security features are designed to stop fraud via live monitoring programmes that analyse transactions as they are happening. This helps to detect and investigate suspicious activity before a fraudulent charge takes place.
As yet, Square, a magnetic stripe-only solution, has not made any definite plans to expand outside the US, where it would have to adjust to incorporate Chip and PIN transactions. However, Square may be faced with increased competition at home as European providers muscle in to take advantage of gradual Chip and PIN implementation.
This product, again available on Apple and Android devices, was launched in March and is available not only in the US but also in Canada, Hong Kong and Australia. There are plans to launch in the UK and Europe, but a specific date has not yet been set. Users of this solution can swipe credit cards using the thumb-sized reader and mobile app provided and also use a mobile camera to scan and process cheques using a PayPal account, of which there are an estimated 160 million active users. Keen to poach some of Square’s customers, PayPal Here charges a flat 2.70% for swiped cards (Visa, MasterCard, Discover and AmEx) and PayPal transactions. It also charges 3.5% + USD0.15 for key-in and scan-in card transactions. Users also get a business debit card with 1% cash back while merchants can send electronic invoices and scan cheques at no cost. Payment funds are usually available in users PayPal accounts within minutes. PayPal Here comes with an encrypted card reader and is backed by PayPal’s risk management capabilities.
If Square took the US by storm then iZettle can claim to be its European equivalent, although it is only compatible with Apple’s iPhone and iPad. iZettle’s app and mini chip-card reader is one of the cheapest mobile PoS solutions to operate since it dropped its fixed transaction fee in May. Initially merchants were charged EUR0.15 per transaction on each sale in addition to 2.75% for MasterCard, Visa and Diners Club card payments and 3.75% for American Express. Now users only pay the 2.75% charge for MasterCard, Visa and Diners Club card and 3.75% for American Express. Unlike Square’s reader or PayPal Here, which both rely on using the magnetic strip on credit cards, iZettle can read cards with embedded chips - the security standard common in Europe.
According to reports, there are an estimated 50,000 users in the Nordic market since its launch in September and around 1 million businesses signed up to the service in the US. iZettle has attempted to extend its international coverage by trialling the service in the UK, a region considered to be one of the biggest markets in Europe. At present iZettle only supports MasterCard, AmEx and Diners Club cards in the UK, but the company is in talks with Visa about enabling its cards to work with the device. The main issue facing iZettle's launch in the UK is that it uses chip and signature rather than the favoured Chip and PIN.
The UK’s mPowa attempts to take mobile PoS solutions one step further by providing functionalities its competitors do not possess. The first thing that differentiates mPowa from its rivals is its ability to accept both swiped and Chip and PIN cards from all major card issuers including Visa, MasterCard, AmEx and JCB. The transaction fee is 0.25% per purchase with minimum spends of USD0.40, GBP0.25 and EUR0.30. Unlike its American and European rivals, mPowa has made its solution available to Blackberry and Windows Phone as well as the standard Apple and Android device.
Recently it was announced that mPowa will be launching in the US which puts it in direct competition with Square and PayPal PayHere. Merchants with large numbers of European customers whose preferred payment option is Chip and PIN will be attracted to this solution.
VeriFone – SAIL
VeriFone’s SAIL application is one of the newest solutions on the market which offers a credit card swipe device and two different pricing plans for swiped transactions on iPhone, iPod and Android. The two pricing options are aimed at low and high volume businesses. Users of the Go Plan can expect a no monthly service fee applied for using the solution and a 2.7% transaction fee for Visa, MasterCard and Discover cards, with the keyed rate for these cards priced at 3.7%. AmEx transactions have a swipe rate of 2.95% and a keyed rate of 3.7%. Under the Pro Plan, there is a monthly fee of USD9.95 and a 1.95% transaction fee for Visa, MasterCard and Discover cards. The keyed rate for these cards is priced at 2.95% per transaction. Both keyed and swiped AmEX transactions under the Pro Plan are priced at 2.95% per transaction. For merchants with higher volumes and multiple locations, SAIL offers integration with traditional VeriFone countertop devices that support emerging standards such as EMV smartcard, NFC contactless, mobile wallet.
Social media savvy merchants will be attracted to SAIL as it has a built in functionality designed to attract customers through channels such as Facebook, Twitter and Yelp.
Heartland offers users a downloadable app which, when paired with a Mobuyle encrypted reader that is inserted into an audio jack, converts an Android, iPhone, iPod Touch and iPad into a PoS terminal. The device accepts a number of major card brands via card swipe or manual entry, including Visa, MasterCard, Discover, American Express Corporate cards and Heartland gift cards. Hartland has not provided information on transaction fees but indicates that they are in accordance with Durbin amendment rates for debit cards while credit card rates are around 2%. A feature that sets it apart from its competitors is its ability to accept card payments with Store and Forward functionality. This means that even if merchants are out of range for cellular coverage or Wi-Fi access, they can still accept payments. In addition to this service merchants can also process mail and telephone orders.
Heartland has tapped into the restaurant and catering industry by launching a tailor specific device with more payment options. These include the ability for food runners and servers to accept a car-side payment, which eliminates the need to go back into a restaurant to process a payment; a catering functionality, which allows restauranteurs with catering services to accept card payments onsite during an event; and a delivery service, allowing drivers to accept food delivery payments.
Created by North American Bancard, PayAnywhere is similar to mPowa in that it works on Apple, Android and Blackberry devices. The company’s solution incorporates an app and mobile card reader which can connect to a cash drawer and an AirPrint-enabled or Star thermal printer to transform into a PoS-lite interface, allowing receipts to be printed or emailed. It charges all swiped cards 2.69% and all keyed cards 3.49% + USD0.19 per transaction and accepts Visa, MasterCard, Amex and Discover cards. PayAnywhere allows its users to continue accepting transactions even if network connections have been lost. The solution also enables transactions to be saved and sent through once connectivity is restored. PayAnywhere also comes with a free merchant portal that gives access to business intelligence tools and lets merchants create customised, detailed reports including batch summaries, monthly statements and settlement reports.
The roll out of mobile PoS solutions over the past year has created healthy competition in a space that is heating up rapidly. Players are continually looking to get one up on their rivals as is evidenced by Square's recent offering of a flat monthly usage subscription to smaller merchants and iZettle dropping its fixed transaction fee in May. Going forward, it will become increasingly cheaper for merchants to accept payments on the go and enhanced features such as loyalty programmes will further build out the service offering. The potential of Mobile POS also goes beyond retail/restaurant transcations as seen in the use of Square's technology in the recent Obama/Romney political fundraising campaigns. Merchants would be advised to keep a close eye on this space...