Choosing a Mobile Card Reader for In-Person Sales

by Barbara van Look, Content Development Group
Exclusively for Fire Mountain Gems and Beads®

As the Renaissance Faire sign says, be sure to welcome Lady Visa and Master Card to your selling space.

How many customers have walked away from a purchase in your booth because they didn't have the cash? If you've had one, that one is one too many.

The new technologies coming with mobile credit card reader apps are making it easier for small businesses and independent craftspeople to sell their work. Mobile credit card reader apps increase customer convenience--and decrease one of the barriers to purchasing--by letting artists accept credit and debit cards without the immense fees connected to traditional card readers.

These mobile credit card readers, connected to cellphones or tablets, help jewelry makers, beaders and artisans of any stripe sell more art by not limiting their booths to cash only--or taking the risks involved with personal checks.

Which system should you choose? It depends on a number of factors, including how much you sell, how strong your online presence is and other aspects of your business life.
Lady Visa and Master Card Sign

Choosing Your Electronic Payment System

While Square is the most common and well-known option, jewelry makers have alternatives, too--including Sell On Etsy, PayPal Here and more. Here are three popular systems:

Sell On Etsy

Yes, the online marketplace has its own mobile card processing app!

One of the challenges facing jewelry makers selling both online and in person is keeping the inventory up to date online when you've spent the weekend selling at a convention, fair or market. When you use the Sell on Etsy app and reader, it will automatically update inventories online, so you don't have to log in when you get home and manually change your store. You can unpack your car, take a shower and go to bed!

Any customers who also have Etsy accounts can write reviews about your creations that feed back to your Etsy store. Electronic receipts allow them to add your Etsy store to their “favorites” list onsite, as well as let them sign up to receive email updates from your shop. Etsy has the same flat fee as Square--but its reader, app and processing of cash payments are all free of charge.

However, the Sell on Etsy app is only available in the USA, so it's not an option for everyone.

PayPal Here

Yes, the online payment company has its own mobile card reader system, with a range of helpful features and financial interconnectivity other systems don't have.

The biggest thing PayPal Here has is how it grows out of PayPal infrastructure--including live customer support, immediate funding and multiple payment acceptance channels (such as check processing). PayPal's funds are immediately available, too, rather than needing to wait until the following day as most other systems require. Their reader also accepts payments for chip cards, the latest security feature for debit and credit card systems. PayPal Here is available in the USA, Hong Kong and Australia.

However, PayPal Here requires a credit check and background verification, which can be a barrier for jewelry makers and artisans who are just beginning to sell their work, yet have financial complications in their histories.


We'll finish with the most common option: Square.

Square is simple and convenient, with card readers available for purchase at major retail outlets around the USA. Part of its simplicity is the flat rate it charges on every transaction--regardless of what or how much the purchase is, Square takes the same percentage off the top (2.75%). This is ideal for low-priced, high frequency businesses such as coffee shops, crafters, farmer's market vendors and similar types of venues.

In addition, Square offers analytics which can be accessed remotely, and assist in tracking which items are selling. Square does not require a credit check to begin, making this a helpful system for artisans who might be starting new businesses after bankruptcy or other life challenges to their credit ratings.

However, jewelry makers and artisans who work with high-end materials such as sterling silver or precious gemstone, and who sell their work at up-market prices, will find that Square is taking a sizeable chunk out of their margins. They will probably discover that shopping around for a different mobile reader system or a competitive merchant account will let them take more money home at the end of the day. Square has also been known to place a random “hold” on large transactions, causing a sales opportunity to slip through your fingers.

Other mobile card reading systems exist, and may be right for you and your business. Be sure to shop around to see which works best for you.

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