What is a mobile eftpos machine?
Wireless or portable or mobile? Let’s get the naming convention right
There is quite a lot of confusion regarding the naming conventions of different types of eftpos machines. In particular:
- Portable eftpos machines. These refer to the traditional bulky terminals that you see at most stores but without any wires. This allows merchants to walk around and take payments anywhere in the store, so long as the device has WiFi. But because the device does not have 3G or 4G, it cannot take payments on-the-go.
- Mobile eftpos machines (traditional). These again refer to the traditional bulky terminals that you see at most stores. However, this version has 3G built-in and does not need to pair to any other device. So technically you can take payments on-the-go, as long a your willing to carry the cumbersome terminal around with you.
- Mobile eftpos machines (used with smart devices). These refer to the small dongles or card reading tiles that pair with a smart device and enable you to take credit card payments on-the-go. These are the newest type of eftpos machines on the market.
In this review, we are reviewing mobile eftpos machines that are used with smart devices. For the purpose of simplicity, we will refer to these as simply mobile eftpos machines.
What is a mobile eftpos machine?
A mobile eftpos machine is generally a small piece of hardware — such as a dongle or card reading tile — that connects to your smartphone or tablet and enables you to take card transactions.
Instead of going to a bank, signing up for a plan and renting a bulky eftpos terminal, you can generally purchase a mobile eftpos device at a store, download an app, and start taking payments almost immediately.
And because the device is so small and works through the 3G in your smart device, it is perfect to take out and accept payments on-the-go.
What type of businesses use mobile eftpos machines?
Mobile eftpos machines are certainly not the best option for all businesses. Firstly, not all businesses require payments on-the-go (e.g. small retail stores). Secondly, mobile eftpos machines typically have higher transaction fees than traditional eftpos machines from banks.
However, there are a few key scenarios where mobile eftpos machines really shine. These include:
- Mobile businesses that need to take payments are various locations, such as food trucks, tradespeople and travelling salespeople.
- Temporary businesses that are open for short periods and don’t want to rent a terminal on an ongoing basis, such as market stalls or seasonal businesses.
- New businesses that need to start taking payments right away and cannot wait a week for a traditional eftpos terminal.
- As a backup device just in case a business’s main eftpos machine breaks down and they are waiting for a servicing technician.
How did we choose a winner?
Before we started reviewing each of our contenders, we sat down and figured out what is important to businesses that use mobile eftpos machines. The CounterGuru brains trust landed on a number of important factors. These include:
- Mobile eftpos fees. All our contenders advertise their transaction fees but what about all those pesky hidden fees? We’ve left no stone unturned and accounted for them all.
- Payment types. It goes without saying that all our contenders accept credit cards. But which cards? And what about Apple Pay, Google Pay, Afterpay, Zip, Alipay and others?
- Merchant onboarding experience. One of the biggest draws to mobile eftpos is that merchants can get up and running really quickly; much faster than bank eftpos.
- Access to funds. A business is only as good as it’s cash flow. You need funds fast. We find out how quickly each of our contenders gives you can access your funds.
- Hardware and technology. Mobile eftpos is considered some of the newest technology in the market. We look at who has the best devices and why.
- Transaction features. Does the solution support multi-currency, dynamic discharging, least-cost routing, and other features? This is the boring stuff but it definitely makes a difference.
Our Winner: Square Reader
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The Square Reader is so versatile that there are a few different segments that would well-served by the solution:
- You want to get your business up and running quickly. Square has the smoothest and quickest onboarding experience, and is bundled with a fully-featured free point of sale software. Purchase the card reader and start taking payments immediately.
- You are a micro-businesses or mobile business. The Square reader is the smallest and cheapest card reading hardware on the market. It is perfectly suited for temporary (e.g. market stall) or mobile businesses that need to take payments in different locations or on-the-go.
- You value aesthetics. The Square Reader is hands-down the best looking mobile eftpos solution on the market. It looks inspired by Apple but without the Apple price tag.
Why it’s great
It’s immediately clear that the Square Reader is far-and-away the best-looking hardware in its class. But it also has the most functionality.
For one, it has the smoothest onboarding experience of any mobile eftpos solution. Merchants purchase the Square Reader through a brick-and-mortar or online store, download an app, and then start taking payments immediately.
Most eftpos machines won’t allow merchants to take payments for 5-7 days while they do identity checks. But Square will let you start taking payments and will hold those funds in a digital wallet, while it does identity checks in the background. Once those are done, you’re free to send those funds to your bank account.
And unlike the PayPal Here mobile eftpos solution, there are no fees for transferring your money to a bank account. Square is not the cheapest contender in the mobile eftpos market, but it arguably has the most transparent pricing structure. Merchants won’t be surprised by their monthly bill.
But the thing that really sets Square apart is their free point of sale software. No other contender offers a fully-features point of sale solution and this automatically saves merchants in point of sale software fees. And it really sets Square apart from other contenders.
For a more in-depth look at the Square Reader, check out our dedicated Square Reader review.
Flaws but not dealbreakers
As we mentioned, although the Square Reader has the cheapest hardware in the mobile eftpos market, the cheapest transaction fees are with Mint mPOS. However, Squares fees are on the low side of average, so you’re definitely not going to be gouged by using the Square Reader.
The Square Reader also lacks a number of key payment functionalities. These include things like least-cost-routing (automatically processing transactions through the cheapest card network), dynamic currency conversion (presenting the transaction value in other currencies), and dynamic surcharging.
But, as we found during our research, no mobile eftpos solution offers these type of features.
Runner Up: Mint mPOS
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You don’t care about bells and whistles; you’re just looking for a decent mobile eftpos solution with the lowest transaction fees on the market.
Why it’s great
The Mint mPOS is cheap. It’s 0.21% cheaper than the Square Reader for Visa and Mastercard transactions, which means that a merchant that transacts $40,000 per month will save over $1,000 in transaction fees per year. Moreover, if you transact over $2,000 per month (which isn’t too difficult to do), then Mint will waive the $10 monthly fee.
You can also earn Velocity points just for using your Mint mPOS device. You will earn 1 Velocity Frequent Flyer point for every $20 transacted, which can add up fairly quickly to some free flights and accommodation.
Finally, Mint has 8 POS integrations and offers their own free point of sale software. Mint’s point of sale software is nowhere near as good as Square’s POS and we wouldn’t really recommend you use it. But if you already use one of the third-party point of sale software that Mint integrates with, then it’s a nice added bonus that even Square can’t compete with.
Flaws but not dealbreakers
Mint mPOS doesn’t quite stack up to the Square Reader on features. You can’t purchase the Mint mPOS outright, the onboarding experience is relatively slow, and you need to wait before you can start taking payments. But if you don’t need to get up and running quickly, then this doesn’t really matter.
Like Square, Mint mPOS also lacks key payment functionalities, such as least-cost routing, dynamic currency conversion, and dynamic surcharging. But it’s difficult to hold this against Mint, as no mobile eftpos solution offers these features.
For a more in-depth look at Mint mPOS, check out our dedicated Mint mPOS review.
Who else did we consider?
In addition to the Square Reader and Mint mPOS, we reviewed a number of other mobile eftpos solutions. However, each of them had one or more major flaws, which means that we couldn’t recommend them for most merchants.
PayPal Here was one of the first mobile eftpos solutions to enter the Australian market but they’ve been overtaken by the Square Reader and other competitors.
We like that PayPal Here has a fast sign-up and onboarding experience for new customers, and it deposits funds into a digital wallet that can be accessed immediately. Merchants who already use PayPal for their online store will enjoy seeing their PayPal Here transactions on a shared dashboard.
But there are a couple of dealbreakers. For one, PayPal here does not accept eftpos cards, which make up over a 25% of all card transactions in Australia. And then there are borderline deceptive hidden fees, including a 1% cost to transfer money from a PayPal digital wallet to a bank account.
St George Mobile PayWay
St George Mobile PayWay is the best mobile eftpos solution offered by a traditional bank. You purchase the mobile eftpos solution for $99, which is on par with PayPal Here but more expensive than the Square Reader.
Transaction pricing is expensive but not exorbitant. Eftpos transactions cost 30c and Visa/Mastercard transactions are 2.40% (American Express fees are determined on a case-by-case basis). However, there is a limit of $7,500 in transactions per month, making the solution only really suitable for micro-businesses.
Tappr is an interesting solution that’s difficult to evaluate. They use the same tried-and-true mobile eftpos device as Mint mPOS and PayPal Here, and they offer lots of payment types. Not only do they accept every major card scheme, but also Afterpay, Zip, Alipay, Wechat Pay, JD Pay, and Beem It. This is really beneficial to some merchants.
But great features come at a great price. They charge 1.77% plus credit card network fees for card transactions. Based on our analysis of Reserve Bank data, we estimate the total transaction fees to be approximately 2.20% – 3.50%. And they charge up to 6% for non-card payments types, such as AfterPay.
Tappr has a lot going for it but unfortunately its fees are simply too high for this to be a good option for most merchants.
Quest PocketPay could have been a good solution. They accept more payment types than most competitors, including eftpos, Visa, Mastercard, American Express, Diner’s Club, and JCB. Pricing is reasonable at 28c for eftpos and 1.82% for Visa and Mastercard transactions (excluding GST; other card types are prices on a case-by-case basis).
Unfortunately, the devil is in the detail. PocketPay comes with a 12 month lock-in contract with a painful $176 cancellation fee if you break the contract. Plus, they charge an additional $5 per month to accept contactless transactions. No competitor charges extra for contactless payments.
Paymate is no-frills mobile eftpos solution. It has very few features and only accepts eftpos, Visa and Mastercard (no American Express, Diner’s Club or UnionPay). And despite this, it comes with the highest fees in the market of 2.60%.
ANZ’s FastPay solution is our least-recommended mobile eftpos solution. The device requires a smartphone with a headphone jack (which most modern smartphones simply do not have and we refuse to consider using a dongle), it can’t accept tap-and-go transactions, the app hasn’t been updated in a long time, and the fees are some of the highest in the market at 2.30% per transaction.