Intuit Helps iPhone Users Accept Credit Cards

Thursday Sep 16th 2010 by Stuart J. Johnston
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QuickBooks maker updates its GoPayment credit card service with an add-on card reader for iPhones and an updated software app that, among other things, lets the customer sign with a finger.

Small businesses that deliver goods or services directly to their customers have been able to take credit card payments on the spot using mobile devices for some time now. Usually these systems allow you to use a smartphone's Web browser and key in the card numbers by hand, but that can be error prone. Some vendors sell an optional card reader that attaches to the phone.

The biggest benefit for the small business person, obviously, is to get paid faster -- but it also lends an air of professionalism to the business transaction. Even AT&T (NYSE: T) is in on the action with its recently-announced deal with Apriva for AprivaPay and AprivaPay Professional.

No surprise then, that Intuit (NASDAQ: INTU), maker of QuickBooks and TurboTax, is also in the business of providing tools to let mobile workers take credit cards on the spot.

In fact, Intuit just released what it calls the Complete Credit Card Solution, which combines its GoPayment service with a form-fitting, snap-on card reader for Apple (NASDAQ: AAPL) iPhones. Besides addition of the card reader, the iPhone GoPayment app has been updated to version 3.

Intuit's GoPayment service has been in the marketplace for 18 months, Mary Lunneborg, senior product manager at the company, told Small Business Computing. "In that time, we've handled $35 million in mobile payments," Lunneborg said. GoPayment is geared towards providing credit card processing for small business persons on the move. But it's just one of Intuit's avenues for payment processing.

Intuit is the eighth-largest payment processor in the U.S. in terms of numbers of merchants, she said.

At the same time, Intuit has seven million small business customers using at least one of its products, whether it's accounting, point of sale systems, or online payroll, Lunneborg said. The company has four million small business computer users who use QuickBooks, for example.

GoPayment Gets an Upgrade

In order to create the Complete Credit Card Solution, Intuit partnered with "intelligent case" maker Mophie, which provides the credit card reader. (Mophie is best known for its "juice packs" -- form-fitting battery packs that provide extended operating time to iPhones.)

An iPhone user can go into an Apple Store or online to Apple.com and get a Mophie Marketplace Credit Card Reader for Intuit GoPayment, which costs $179.95. Alternately, Mophie also offers it for sale.

The software for GoPayment is free at the Apple App Store.

"Swipe the card, enter the amount, and send the receipt to the customer. The customer can sign with a finger," Lunneborg said. According to an Intuit statement, the finger-signing capability is another new feature.

An additional new feature in the update is the ability to sign up for a merchant account over the iPhone. "Typically, it takes 24 or 48 hours to get a merchant account ... We'll give you an approval or decline in as little as 15 minutes," Lunneborg added.

"A user can apply from the GoPayment app, online or by calling Intuit right from their iPhone," according to an Intuit statement.

GoPayment currently supports iPhone 3G and 3GS, and there are plans for the iPhone 4. However, Lunneborg would only commit to "soon" regarding availability of the solution for the new iPhone 4G. The updated GoPayment software app also works with QuickBooks Mac 2010, and QuickBooks Pro 2009 and later as well as QuickBooks Premier 2009 and later for Windows -- enabling merchants to download transaction data, Lunneborg said.

Additionally, the updated software adds the capability to list items individually on the customer's receipt, as well as customizing receipts with a company logo, address and phone number, date, total, and even a map showing where the transaction took place.

Another new feature lets the seller have a predetermined set of items or services that they sell the most programmed into the app in order to save steps for the merchant.

Intuit has also simplified charges and fees. The service itself costs $12.95 per month, plus a percentage of the purchase price, called the discount rate -- which ranges from 1.7 percent for a swiped card to 2.7 percent for a hand-entered card number to 3.7 percent for a "non-qualified rate" -- plus a per transaction fee of between $0.30 and $0.34.

Intuit says there are no long-term contracts, cancellation charges, or set-up fees.

"We designed this to meet the needs of small businesses who want a complete credit card solution that works with their iPhone," said Chris Hylen, general manager of Intuit's Payment Solutions division, in an emailed statement to Small Business Computing.

The card reader doesn't is small and looks as if it's part of the iPhone. "It doesn't take a lot of space and it doesn't look like a mobile point-of-sale terminal," Lunneborg said. The card reader, in fact, weighs less than two ounces, Intuit says.

One paramount consideration for any small business person who needs to handle credit cards is the security of the customer's card information. For that reason, the card data is automatically encrypted immediately as the card is swiped.

"The credit card information is encrypted so no processing is done on the phone ... that is done by our [Intuit's] back-end systems," Lunneborg added.

You can check this FAQ for more information regarding GoPayment and other Intuit merchant services.

Stuart J. Johnston is a contributing writer at InternetNews.com, the news service of Internet.com, the network for technology professionals. Follow him on Twitter @stuartj1000.

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