Imagine yourself in the near future, standing in line at your local coffee shop. After you give the barista your order, the salesperson swipes your card and swivels a tablet in your direction for you to choose a tip and authorize the payment. The person behind you merely pays with his smartphone, and the tech-savvy caffeine addict behind him pays automatically, her account linked directly to the store’s PayPal system.
Welcome to the world of mobile payment options.
Stuff You’ve Always Wanted to Know About Mobile Payments
You may be thinking of adding mobile payment options to your own business, or maybe you’re just curious about this as a practical application of technology. Today, we’ll discuss some of the basic questions behind mobile payment technologies. Ready?
What is a Mobile Payment? Mobile payments are made or received by a tablet or smartphone. They can also be done over the Internet.
What Kinds of Businesses Use Mobile Payments? Mobile payments are especially handy for businesses that operate away from a physical location at least some of the time. Pizza deliveries, vendors at fairs and shows, and flea markets are all prime examples of opportunities to use mobile payment technologies. However, many location-based small businesses—like the hypothetical coffee shop mentioned above—are using mobile payments as an easy way to process transactions and have them instantly integrated with their accounting software.
How Does Making a Mobile Payment Work? There are a couple of ways to make a mobile payment. One is by using a smartphone with NFC (near field communication) capabilities and downloading a wallet app (such as Google Wallet), which will allow your phone to make transactions wirelessly wherever the app is accepted. Another option, currently in the works, uses a Bluetooth signal to automatically connect your PayPal account to the merchant’s. You merely okay the transaction.
How Does Receiving a Mobile Payment Work? Tablet-based POS’s and even the occasional smartphone are showing up in small businesses with greater frequency, and this is where mobile payment systems really come into their own.
Basically, you can choose one of several entry methods: take a photo of someone’s card, enter the information manually, or swipe the card through a card reader. (Some companies will provide a small, detachable card scanner that connects to your mobile device.) The payment-processing app does the rest; some even automatically sync transactions to your accounting software.
What Companies Provide Mobile Payment Services? This technology is being picked up by payment-processing companies like PayPal, financial institutions like Bank of America, and credit card companies like Visa and MasterCard. Intuit, maker of the ever-popular accounting software QuickBooks, has also introduced a mobile payment service. And Starbucks even has its own proprietary mobile payment app that allows users to scan the screen of their smartphones to complete purchases.
Will mobile payments take over, as credit and debit purchases have done? It’s hard to say, but it seems obvious that they will be an increasingly common part of the near future.