Writing a check may soon be a thing of the past when it comes to how we pay for our purchases

Monday, October 17, 2011

When Cape Girardeau photographer Chris Mackler is ready to make a sale, he no longer has to accept a written check, drive to the bank and wait for the funds to be available in his account. With his new Square device, he simply plugs a small, square credit card reader into his iPhone and swipes his customer's card, just like in a store. Transactions are deposited to Mackler's account within one business day, and his customers get their receipt via email or text message.

Mackler says Square is popular in the photo industry, and with good reason. The device and its accompanying smartphone app are free, and to use it is cheaper than having a traditional card reader. Mackler pays only 2.75 percent per transaction with Square. For a small-business owner who's not doing hundreds of transactions each day, that's a great deal.

"It's free unless you use it, and if you do, it's very cheap," he says. "It seems to be very secure. You just have to trust who you're giving your credit card to."

With more consumers relying on plastic rather than cash or checks, mobile payment options like Square are gaining popularity with shoppers and small-business owners, says Erica Wheeler, director of brand strategy for BOLD Marketing in Cape Girardeau. Starbucks even has an app that allows customers to look up nutrition information, track their rewards points and then scan a bar code to instantly pay for their purchases.

"Mobile payments are appropriate for a lot of people and businesses," says Wheeler. "A cosmetologist who may be self-employed can now accept payments from his or her customers via a smartphone. The pizza or Chinese delivery guy can now swipe your card and accept payment at the door. Or maybe you travel to a lot of conferences around the world and sell products. Through a mobile payment device you can now accept payment via your smartphone from anyone, anywhere."

At Cup 'N' Cork in Cape Girardeau, customers have access to an uber-convenient -- and secure -- payment option. Those with a microchip in their credit or debit card can simply tap the card on the "tap and go" device, and the payment information goes directly to the store's point of sale, explains Barry Robinson, owner of the downtown coffee shop.

"Your card never has to leave your hand," he says. "It's security. Total security."

Robinson has been using the system for about three months. Not many people are using it yet, he says -- but those who have the chip in their cards love it, and those who don't have the chip are asking how to get it. Robinson sees no downside to the system, and says he would recommend it to other business owners as well as to consumers.

"If you travel a lot and are worried about getting your card stolen or copied, I certainly would recommend it," he says. "It's really a good device as far as security."

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