Mobile card readers: what you need to know


Mobile card readers: what you need to know

The future is digital! Well, that’s how it feels as we seemingly move closer and closer to a cashless society. Mobile card readers are part of this new wave of technology that let more businesses offer people the option of paying on plastic. But what exactly are they, and do you need one?

What are they?

With card payments becoming more popular, mobile card readers provide a portable way for you to pay by card. The device is usually a small card reader that’s hooked up to a mobile phone or tablet.

You can buy these card readers from a number of different providers. Once you have your reader, you typically download an app on your smartphone or tablet and then connect the two devices together. This is commonly done with a wire or cable to connect the two, but some card readers can use Bluetooth to connect the card reader and your mobile device, which means it can be done wirelessly.

Many of the card readers out there also take Contactless payments, although it’s often more expensive to buy a reader with this technology.

When you’re shopping around for a device, be aware that many of the providers charge a transaction fee per purchase made with their card reader. Usually this is around 1% or 2% of the purchase; they take this money off what your customer pays you.

Do I need one?

If you regularly take payments from customers or you own a small business, you might want to think about getting yourself a mobile card reader. Of course, if you’re not in this position it’s unlikely you’ll have much use for one.

Say you own a small hair salon, or you’re a self-employed plumber or electrician, a mobile card reader means your customers can pay you using their card. Before, you may have had to ask them to take out cash or make a bank transfer. Having a card reader gives them more payment options and means you won’t lose out on customers who perhaps walk away after hearing that you don’t take card payments.

Using a mobile card reader is usually far cheaper than investing in a full card-reading system, so it’s suitable for smaller-scale businesses.

And this type of technology is often portable, which means you can take it out and about with you. Wherever you have an internet connection on your mobile, you should be able to process a customer’s payment. This makes it useful for jobs when you’re on the move, like emergency repair work or gardening.

Watch out for fraudsters

It’s recently been reported that some fraudsters are abusing mobile card readers with Contactless technology. There have been scenarios where people “bump” into you in the street to steal your bank details.

They do this by carrying a Contactless card reader that they hope will make contact with your credit or debit card to take a payment and your details. These “virtual pickpockets” can then use your details to shop online, as there are no limits to how much they can spend with your card details.

To try and avoid this, always keep your credit or debit card in a secure place like your wallet or handbag. Once you’ve finished paying for something, discretely put your card away and try not to advertise to people around you that it’s Contactless. If you want to be extra secure, lining your wallet or purse with tin foil protects your card from being read.