How to accept mobile credit card payments

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  1. Introduction
  2. What are mobile credit card payments?
  3. What kinds of businesses accept mobile payments?
  4. How to accept mobile credit card payments
    1. Mobile device
    2. Payment processor
    3. Card reader
  5. Benefits of accepting mobile payments for businesses
    1. Do business anywhere
    2. Time and cost savings
    3. No chasing payments after the fact
    4. Sales analytics and insights
    5. It’s the new standard—and customers expect it
    6. Simplified payment process

Accepting mobile credit card payments is a fundamental way to create an effortless customer experience when you run an on-the-move business. Mobile businesses might enjoy the flexibility that comes with location independence, but they can’t always control some aspects of their customer experience. For example, they might not be able to curate how and where customers wait in line, what background music is playing, the temperature of the room, or what smells are in the environment. Cultivating customer trust, loyalty, and satisfaction rests on the few elements that you can control. These include paying for goods and services using a convenient online payment method, with as little friction as possible.

For mobile businesses, setting up an easy way to accept mobile credit card payments is a key component to building their brand and engineering a positive impression for their customers.

What’s in this article?

  • What are mobile credit card payments?
  • What kinds of businesses accept mobile payments?
  • How to accept mobile credit card payments
  • Benefits of accepting mobile payments for businesses

What are mobile credit card payments?

Mobile credit card payments are payments from a customer to a business in exchange for goods and services that are collected outside of retail environments like brick-and-mortar stores, websites, and apps.

What kinds of businesses accept mobile payments?

Businesses that operate and deal with customers on the go use mobile payments. This includes a wide variety of businesses, including:

  • Artists and artisans at fairs and festivals
  • Food trucks and coffee stands
  • In-home service providers (cleaning, massage, hairstyling, etc.)
  • Pet sitters and dog walkers
  • Plumbers, electricians, and contractors

There are many other businesses that might need to accept mobile payments from customers, even if they are also doing business in a retail store or ecommerce shop. For example, hairstylists might work in a salon, see clients in their homes, and travel to work at events. Mobile payments allow businesses like these to accept credit card payments wherever they are.

How to accept mobile credit card payments

In order to accept mobile payments from customers, businesses need to have a mobile device, a payment processor, and a card reader or mobile payment gateway to input credit card information. Depending on your payments processing setup, you might already have access to these components:

Mobile device

The hardware (like POS terminals and card readers) and software that power mobile credit card payments need a mobile device, like a smartphone or tablet, to work. Accepting payments can quickly drain the battery on a mobile device, although this is increasingly less common as mobile credit card reader technology evolves and becomes more efficient. However, it’s still best practice to make sure the mobile device you’re using to process credit card payments is fully charged.

Payment processor

No matter how you accept credit card payments—on a mobile device, online, over the phone, or in person at a brick-and-mortar location—you’ll need a merchant account and a payment processing provider. This payment service provider will likely also issue your credit card reader and point of sale (POS) software.

Card reader

Depending on whether you accept credit card payments at a static business location, and what hardware you are using there, your mobile card reader might be the same device, it might be modified for use with a mobile device, or you might need new hardware entirely.

There are three main types of card readers, although some modern card readers, like the one Stripe issues to its customers, combine the functionality of all three:

Card swipers
A credit card swiper uses the magnetic stripe (magstripe) on credit cards to accept payment. This is the original way credit cards operated, but this method is falling out of favor because it is the least secure payment option. In 2015, new regulations dictated that merchants are responsible for any consumer losses stemming from stolen credit card information because of a breached card swiper. Using an NFC or EMV card reader usually removes fraud liability from the business and puts it back on the credit card company.

NFC card readers
NFC stands for “near field communication,” and NFC technology enables two devices in close proximity to wirelessly communicate with each other. These readers allow customers to “tap to pay” and are compatible with digital wallets like Apple Pay, Google Pay, and many others.

EMV card readers
EMV card readers use the metal chips found on some credit cards. These chips were developed to avoid the credit card fraud vulnerabilities of magstripes, and they’re still commonly used. Some chip cards can be used with contactless NFC card readers, but others need to be inserted into EMV card readers in order to transmit payment information. Most card readers support both NFC and EMV transactions.

Benefits of accepting mobile payments for businesses

At a high level, creating a frictionless customer payment experience increases conversion rates, minimizes drop-off, positively impacts customer retention, builds brand loyalty, and leads to a healthier bottom line. Offering a dynamic range of mobile credit card payment methods is a central piece of this experience.

There are also specific advantages to accepting mobile credit card payments:

Do business anywhere

Being able to accept payments on your mobile device gives you the flexibility to conduct business and process transactions pretty much anywhere.

Time and cost savings

Before mobile payments were available to mobile businesses, the process of collecting customer payments was exponentially more cumbersome. Invoicing customers after the time of service, managing cash payments, and manually writing down (and later processing) credit card information are all massively time consuming, and time is a limited, valuable resource. Accepting mobile payments from customers gives you time back.

No chasing payments after the fact

Invoicing customers for services rendered risks not getting paid in a timely manner, and you might devote too much time and energy to collecting payments. Accepting mobile credit card payments can help you avoid this situation.

Sales analytics and insights

Most credit payment processors, like Stripe, equip businesses to conduct mobile payments with software that provides additional value, such as sales analytics and insights capabilities. Processing mobile payments within the same software ecosystem that processes other types of payments will give you meaningful visibility into what’s happening on the sales and accounting sides of your business.

It’s the new standard—and customers expect it

Just a few years ago, the ability to pay a mobile merchant by credit card on the go was a nice surprise for customers. People were used to paying cash, submitting their credit card details online, waiting for an invoice, writing a paper check, or giving their payment details over the phone. Those options are time consuming, inconvenient, and misaligned with the elevated, low-effort customer experience that most brands aim to create. At this point, mobile payments have become more common and customers expect to have this option, which makes them even more disappointed when it’s not available.

Simplified payment process

Accepting mobile credit card payments is incredibly simple. Mobile businesses have always had numerous ways of processing payments from customers, but none of them are as efficient as accepting mobile credit card payments directly on a mobile device at the point of sale.

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