Accept credit cards and sell more at hamfests with free credit card reader

A new electronic payment processing company called Square, named after the shape of their credit card reader that plugs into the audio jack of your smartphone, makes it possible for hams to inexpensively accept credit cards at hamfests. They charge a flat 2.75% of the transaction, but there is no per transaction fee, monthly fee, or equipment to buy or rent.

It’s brilliantly simple.  Download and install the free app for iPhone, iPad or Android. Attach the reader to the audio jack of your phone. Enter the amount of the transaction on the screen, swipe the card, and have them sign on the touchscreen with their finger.  Done.  That’s it.

I think it’s a no-brainer.  Apparently, so does Visa who made a “strategic investment” in the company just last week.

Here is a video demonstration:

Why is this great news for small-time sellers at ham radio swapmeets? Until now, it’s been prohibitively expensive and somewhat complicated for occasional sellers to setup for credit card processing.  Anyone who has tried to price it out knows the drill: statement fees, gateway fees, transaction fees, and on and on.  You simply had to do a certain amount of business each and every month to make even having the capability of accepting credit cards worthwhile.  With Square, there is no transaction fee or monthly charge of any kind.

Without fail, it seems that I always run out of cash just about the time I spot a great deal on a piece of gear. The seller could accept a personal check, but if we’re talking about a pricey item then that’s a pretty risky proposition.  They could use one of those “knuckle buster” card imprinters, but with those there is no real-time authorization and by the time you realize there is a problem a crook could be long gone.  With Square, lack of available funds isn’t an issue.  You’ll know if there is a problem right away.

Some people might balk at paying $13.75 in fees to sell a $500 radio.  Compared to cash, it does cost more.  But, think of it this way: accepting credit cards will give you access to a much wider selection of buyers. You’ll likely get a better price for your radio gear making the fee irrelevant.

Sign up for an account on their website and they’ll FedEx you a free credit card reader.

Editor’s note:

Some reader comments have expressed concern about chargebacks.  Here is the relevant info from their website:

How Square protects you from disputes

One part of building any payment service is dealing with cardholder disputes. As with everything else at Square, we strive to make dealing with these as simple as possible and we’ll certainly never charge you for it. Read below for a guide on how this works.

  • If one of your customers sees a charge they don’t recognize on their statement, they can call the toll-free number in the payment details that goes straight to us. We have all the information needed to look up the payment and help them get a better idea of what was sold. If we can’t find enough information about the purchase in your account, we’ll reach out to you and ask for more details so we can let your customer know.
  • Sometimes, the customer may go straight to their bank before calling the number and dispute the charge. If that happens, we’ll get a letter from the customer’s bank telling us that this payment is in dispute. We will then contact you to gather more information so we can provide the issuing bank as many details as possible to get it resolved successfully.

Some of the information we can provide in order to resolve disputes are:

  • Customer’s signature
  • Description on what was sold
  • Precise location data
  • Whether the reader was used for the payment or not

Because descriptions help describe purchases to customers, we always recommend our users add a description for the item or service sold as well as issue receipts. Also, make sure that your Account page accurately represents your business name. A customer may not remember the charge if it reads “Joe Smith” instead of “Joe’s Coffee Shop.”

(via KB2MOB @ AmiZed Studios)

Matt Thomas, W1MST, is the managing editor of Contact him at [email protected].

4 Responses to “Accept credit cards and sell more at hamfests with free credit card reader”

  • Chad KJ4VYI:

    don’t want to be a downer on this — its great i would like to use it but one problem i see is that say the person buys something from you they get it home and it doesn’t perform to standards and they call the credit card company to cancel or dispute the charges — you the seller get the money taken away from you and sometimes you may or may not get the product back you were selling or even if you know the product works both of you tested it out — he/she get home and finds out that the significant other tells you that you spent too much on that “thing” and you can afford it — a quick call to the credit card company and wala they take your money back and may or may not get the product back — i see a lot of scammers working this angle on electronics !! — kinda sucks in a way — neat idea but i would have to really check into the charge-backs

  • Chris G8YPE:

    I tend to agree with Chad there is a downer on the charge-backs, have had all sorts of problems in that area in the past, please don’t get on the subject of Paypal! Getting the goods back was virtually always impossible. Great idea but yes, watch out for the charge-backs.

  • Fred W0FMS:

    You might want to have the person also sign a sheet saying the equipment is accepted “AS-IS” in that case. I think the CC company would have a hard time reversing that if it is the case.

    I’ve had a hard time getting money back from scams the other way, I had to prove in all cases in writing I got scammed to get money back! I’d assume a letter the other way would have stopped me getting money back cold.

    Fred W0FMS

  • Jon W4JRK:

    I work for a processing firm who uses First Data as the processor. Yes, this is the newest thing to hit the market, however there are other companies that have something like this but at standard rates. They do not mention that if the card can not be swiped, due to any type of issue with the mag strip, its now 3.5% which is more than I ever charge. Additionally, there are cards whose cost is above 2.75% (few, but they are out there!) and this system does not have a way to give your customer a receipt. I work with another company who has a system where it prints a receipt from the phone.
    There’s positives and negatives with most things.

    If anyone wants more info, please feel free to email me.

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