After you pick a service and sign up for an Apple card reader, you need to install the processor's app on your phone or tablet. Your iPhone or iPad needs to have access to either Wi-Fi or a data plan in order to process cards.
You can then attach a small card reader, also called a swiper or dongle, to your iPhone, usually by plugging the equipment into your headphone jack.
- Newer iPhone credit card readers may connect to your phone via Bluetooth and can read EMV chip cards.
- Some are also equipped with NFC technology that can accept mobile wallets like Apple Pay, which enables your customers to pay with their iPhones instead of cash or physical credit cards.
- A few of the newer processors, like Cartwheel Register, don't require a card reader at all and can use your phone or tablet's camera to capture card data.
EMV Chip Readers for iPhones: iPhone credit card readers need to be able to accept EMV chip cards or you may be liable for fraudulent purchases. Although some processors may claim that the EMV certification requirement doesn't apply to iPhone card readers, it actually does, according to Visa, MasterCard, American Express and Discover. Half of the processors in our review currently offer EMV-compliant card readers for iPhones and several of the others have them in development. Processing apps that scan the cards using your iPhone's camera are exempt from this requirement as they use different technology to process the card data.
Mobile Credit Card Processing: Fewer Fees
Very few of the companies offering iPhone card readers charge a monthly fee or PCI-related fees. Most also don't set a monthly minimum processing requirement, and those that do are typically full-service credit card processors that also offer mobile credit card processing as a stand-alone service. Approximately half of the companies we reviewed don't charge chargeback fees.
Mobile Credit Card Processing: Flat-Rate Pricing
Flat-rate pricing is the most popular pricing model for processors that provide iPhone credit card swipers, and most of the services in our review offer it. Flat-rate pricing is the easiest to understand since you usually pay a single percentage rate for each transaction, regardless of the type of card. Many times, you pay a different and slightly higher rate if you manually enter the card's information rather than swiping it. Some processors in our review also charge a per-transaction fee, though some only require this on keyed-in transactions.
Initially, flat-rate pricing may look more expensive than the typical starter rates that some companies advertise. One of the trademarks of flat-rate pricing, however, is that there are fewer fees with this model than with a traditional merchant account that has tiered or interchange-plus pricing. Many of the best mobile processors don't charge any additional fees.
There are some variations to flat-rate processing. Some companies, such as Cartwheel Register and Moolah, charge the same flat rate no matter how the card information is captured. Some processors charge a per-transaction fee on top of the flat rate. The per-transaction fee ranges from $0.05 to $0.30.
- If your business typically has large tickets, choosing a company that charges a lower percentage rate may be more cost effective, even with the per-transaction fee added on top of it.
- If you generally have smaller tickets, you may want to choose a processor that doesn't extract a per-transaction fee.