Square Deal

22 10 2010

Huey Lewis once sang that it’s hip to be square, and I have to say that with today’s newest credit card payment system, he ain’t just whistlin’ Dixie. The Square now allows businesses large and small to take their credit card terminal with them wherever they do business. And it is only about the size of one die.

Compatible with a slew of Apple products as well as Android, Square may be more saving grace than just convenient payment gateway. Small businesses often have a disadvantage outside the office or store front because standard terminals are clunky and expensive, especially for wireless units. The Square, though, relies on the same wireless networks our phones are using. Have a small quilting business that finds you at craft shows across the region? Accept credit cards on the fly and listen to that cash register hum.

But wait, there’s more!

The Square is also perfect for individual use. There’s nothing worse than 5 people trying to split a bill and bar tab at a restaurant. Inevitably the kindest, best-endowed person in the group just gives in and says, “It’s on me. This math is brutal.”

So now you can accept your friends’ credit cards, making sure to tack on the 2.75% + 15-cent transaction fee. Yes, now you, too, can become your friends’ ATM and bill-settler-upper.

Launched by Twitter co-founder Jack Dorsey, Square seeks to democratize credit card transactions for everyone. As a small business owner, I have often wished for the ability to accept plastic while away from my terminal. Customers often do not carry cash, and checks are quickly becoming passe. Furthermore, many people do not like writing down their credit card information for processing back at the office. The Square helps sellers to not lose the sale.

No doubt the biggest concerns will be over privacy and security, but the Square encrypts data no differently than do larger, more expensive wireless terminals. But because the device is so new and so different, there may be some initial reluctance to let sellers (or your friend) use it.

All fears aside, the Square marks a new era in payments. It will help even the field between large and small vendors, and help solve restaurant debates between otherwise good friends. I have never been accused of being too hip, but this handy little device is going to make this square dude one gransacting fat cat. Sixteen digits at a time.

Dr “Visa or MasterCard?” Gerlich

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