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Card swiper goes mainstream

By Janna Herron · Bankrate.com
Wednesday, October 26, 2011
Posted: 4 pm ET

The little Square plastic reader that could is hitting the big time after retail giant Wal-Mart said it will carry the mobile phone credit card swiper in its stores.

That's good news for the thousands of micro business owners -- from crafters to bake-sale moms to at-home wedding cake creators -- who turn away potential customers for their lack of cash, but abundance of plastic.

The white plastic reader will sell for $9.99 at Wal-Mart stores, but customers can get a credit for the price tag when they sign up for an account on the Square website. The device is also sold at Target, RadioShack, Apple stores and Best Buy.

The partnership with the discount retailer will increase the number of retail stores where Square is sold from 200 locations this summer to 9,000 across the U.S., according to a CNNMoney report. That underscores the proliferation of mobile payment technologies out there. This year, we saw the introduction of Google Wallet and several companies rolled out mobile gift cards and mobile phone discounts.

And Square is off to a quick start. So far, the company has sent out 800,000 readers to merchants and is processing $2 billion  in payments annually, the report said.

Square's goal is to make it easier for individuals and small businesses to tap into the plastic card network. The Square reader hooks up easily to iPhones, iPads and Android devices and lets individuals accept credit card payments on the go and without a bulky terminal. Square receives a fee worth 2.75 percent of the transaction. Customers receive cash from the purchase the next day through direct deposit.

"The spirit of Square is empowering individuals and small businesses," said Katie Bynes, a spokeswoman for the company, in an email to Bankrate. "Many people use it for garage sales and yard sales, and many Girl Scouts are active users as well."

Bynes even noted that Square's co-founder Jim McKelvey came up with the idea of the plastic card reader with friend Jack Dorsey after Jim's glass-blowing business lost a sale because he didn't take credit cards.

So imagine your next garage sale sign: "Tag sale next left, plastic accepted." Maybe then you can unload some of your pricier items easier.

Do you have any use for a Square reader? Let me know.
Follow me on Twitter: @JannaHerron

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