iPhone Card Reader Review
Choose the Best Mobile Credit Card Processor
The top performers in our review are Square, the Gold Award winner; Cartwheel Register, the Silver Award winner; and EMS+, the Bronze Award winner. Here’s more on choosing a mobile credit card processor that meets your small business's needs, along with detail on how we arrived at our ranking of services.
iPhone card readers let you accept credit and debit card payments via your iPhone or iPad rather than requiring you to use a POS (point of sale) system or credit card terminal. Aside from the hardware used in these transactions, the procedure of the transaction is identical to that of traditional credit card processors. When you swipe a card, your customer's information is securely routed to the processor, the card network, your customer's bank and, at last, your bank account, where the money, minus the processing costs, is deposited.
After you pick a service and sign up for an Apple card reader, you need to install the processor's app on your phone. Your iPhone or iPad needs to have access to either Wi-Fi or a data plan in order to process cards. You often have to 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 iPhones instead of cash or physical credit cards. Some newer processors don't require a card reader at all and can use your phone or tablet's camera to capture card data.
If you're looking for a card processor that lets you accept online payments, be sure to look at our Accept Credit Cards Online review. For a full-service processor that can help you accept in-store payments, look at our Credit Card Processing review. You can also read articles about mobile credit card processing.
Mobile Credit Card Processing: What We Evaluated, What We Found
While researching iPhone card readers, we looked for processors that offer competitive pricing and charge minimal fees since we know affordability is a top priority for small businesses. We also looked at companies offering month-to-month service without early termination fees, since you should be able to switch processors easily if you find better service elsewhere. Since your time is valuable, we looked for services with quick setup times. To be sure we found the best card reader for iPhone options for you, we considered credit card processors that offer mobile processing as a stand-alone service and payment facilitators that sponsor merchants to help them accept card payments.
Our reviewers reached out to every company multiple times, at various times on various days. We contacted company agents as potential customers via phone and email. We used our results from this evaluation to score each company on pricing, consistency, ease of application and customer service. Processing costs and fees ended up being key differentiators.
Pricing Transparency & Consistency Score
This score measures how readily available pricing, fees and terms information is on each company's website. Easily finding information online helps you to quickly determine if the company is one that can help your business. Transparency can help you anticipate the charges you can expect to see on your bill. Mobile card processors tend to surpass standard credit card processors in transparency, since most processors that supply credit card readers for iPhones are open and honest with pricing information and terms on their websites.
In addition to the transparency on each processor's website, this score reflects our tester's interactions with customer service representatives, including how forthcoming agents were with quality information. Many of the reps we spoke with referred us back to information on their company's website. We compared the information we received from each company throughout our evaluation for consistency. The companies that earned the highest scores provided complete and consistent information.
Ease of Application Score
This score reflects how easy the process is to apply for a mobile processing account with each company. In this score, we considered the time it takes to set up an account, the online availability of the application and the documentation required to complete your application. We also considered contract requirements and the amount of time it takes for money from transactions to be deposited into your account.
Half of the processors in this review can set up your account in one day or less. Three processors can take up to two days, while two processors may take three or more days. You can apply for any of the processors in our review online. Some processors require documents like your business license, your tax ID number and your EIN (employer identification number).
We also considered whether the processor requires you to sign a lengthy contract, and we looked at the time it takes for each processor to deposit money into your account following a transaction. Many processors take up to two days to do this, which is the average in this industry. Some processors, such as Cartwheel Register and CDGcommerce, can deposit money into your account by the next business day if you batch out before a certain time. Square has an instant-deposit feature that can give you immediate access to your funds. Other processors, like PayPal Here and QuickBooks GoPayment, may take up to three days to clear your account.
Customer Service Score
Our reviewers reached out to each company at various times on different days to evaluate the responsiveness of each service's agents. As we conversed with each company, we considered the representatives' responsiveness to our reaching out online, their ability to courteously answer our questions and their willingness to give rate information via phone. The companies that earned the higher scores performed well when we contacted them, and they followed up with our testers by either phone or email.
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 all of the services in our review use flat-rate pricing. This pricing model 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. Some processors in our review require 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 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. 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 $0.09 to $0.24.
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.
Mobile Credit Card Processors: Our Verdict & Recommendations
It's important to carefully consider mobile processors that provide iPhone card readers so that you can find the one that is the best fit for your small business. Square is a good option because it provides solid support options for small businesses and offers tools for analytics, invoicing, appointments and more.
EMS+, Cartwheel Register and Spark Pay offer flat rates, no long-term contracts and no fees. If you need a processor that also handles banking needs, Spark Pay may be a good choice as it is the mobile arm of Capital One.
Before you sign up for an account with a mobile processor that provides iPhone card readers, be sure to take the time to contact the companies directly to get quotes that are specific to your business. It's also important to read through the full contract or user agreement before you sign it to be sure you aren't surprised by any fees.
Disclaimer: The pricing listed in this article, in the matrix and in our reviews is reflective of the date this review was last updated. Pricing reflects our testing scenario; the pricing you receive may differ due to processing volume and average ticket size, among other factors. Top Ten Reviews seeks, whenever possible, to evaluate all products and services using testing scenarios that simulate as closely as possible the experiences of a typical small business owner. The processors had no input or influence over our testing methodology, nor was the methodology provided to any of them in more detail than is available through reading our reviews. Results of our evaluations were not provided to the companies in advance of publication.