How you can use your iPhone to accept card payments from clients - Digital Photography School

How you can use your iPhone to accept card payments from clients

In 2009, Jack Dorsey, co-founder of Twitter, founded a new company called ‘Square’ which brings the most mind blowingly simple merchant services straight to your iPhone. This may be old news to you in the U.S., but here in the U.K., we’re still waiting to see this fabulous technology in our hot little hands.

Square is so simple. It’s an app for your iPhone, iPod Touch or iPad. Square comes with a little cube-shaped dongle to plug into the earphone jack on your iPhone which is used to swipe cards. The screen turns into a pad for the client to enter their pin and the software even allows for ‘card-not-present’ transactions for clients over the phone.

The best bit? Square doesn’t require a merchant account, subscription, minimum monthly transactions or any-o-that! A lot like PayPal, you’re charged a small per-transaction fee (pennies) and then a less than 3% fee. During the transaction, customers enter their email address to receive their invoice/receipt via email (complete with a Google map of the location of the charge) so the entire transaction is paper-less.

For photographers, this will offer us so many more opportunities and reduce so much admin time which most of us would rather not have to deal with. Am I right? Am I right? Here are some ways I will use Square when it hits the UK:

  • On the spot services like prom & events
  • Client deposits and remaining balances on the day (exe: bride forgets the check on the day? Square’s got you covered)
  • Transactions in the studio

Obviously, we’ll be able to use Square for any and all transactions, but just imagine the ease and added revenue possibilities of having a credit card machine in your pocket!

As easy and wonderful as Square seems, it only takes a split second of thinking like a criminal to come up with all sorts of badness. It will be very interesting to see how all the inevitable legal actions against Square will pan out to further form the technology into a flawless tool for honest merchants on the go.

Are you already using Square? Please tell us about your experience and the way you’ve found it helpful in your photography business.

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Elizabeth Halford is a Hampshire Photographer and keeps a rockin'photography blog where she writes about photography and business in "real.plain.english". She's addicted to Facebook and can be found answering photography and business questions every day here on her page

  • http://www.rjbarnes.com Rob Barnes

    never thought to use it this way but it looks interesting. how to you access the money once its been swiped. Does one need to wait for it transfer from another account like paypal? Are there limitations on the amount the account can hold? I would possibly do it just for the convenience of the whole process. Especially since i had to wait over a week to get payment for pictures i had printed for a client(which comes out of my account initially).

  • Bradley

    I used Square but stopped using it in favor of Intuit GoPayment. Not only is Intuit GoPayment less expensive (I get 1.64% on my card swipes as opposed to Square’s “just under 3%”) but all my activities download into QuickBooks automatically! That way I don’t have to be constantly inputting data when I get back home from an event selling photos. Also, Intuit GoPayment works on tons of different mobile phones, not just an iPhone, and even just if I have internet access on my computer. Like Square there is no contract or cancel fee which was key for me.

    I even found a promo code link online and got a free copy of QuickBooks 2010 Pro when I was approved! This was the link you can use for the free copy of QuickBooks Pro 2010: https://merchant.intuit.com/signup/?b=isogp&p=bg15390

    I am very happy because I saved money, got free software, and even made running the business side of photography a heck of a lot easier to run!

  • Bradley

    I forgot to mention another key part- I got my money faster. Money deposited into the bank account of my choice in 24-48 hours. Smooth.

  • Nick

    Plus I believe Square have recently issued a note saying they are scaling back their rollout due to infrastructure concerns. I think they’re getting hit with more traffic than they can handle.

    So bearing this in mind, it might be quite a while before it comes to the UK (if it ever does)

  • Nigel Johnson

    I looked at square a while back… Before the disappointment set in that they aren’t coming over here for a while. They do have the cool swipe gizmo that plugs into the headphone jack, that’ll be cool… When they get here… If they get here.

  • http://www.rubberduckdoes.com Matt Bristow

    I have been following the progress of Square for a while now, unfortunately I dont see it coming to the UK anytime soon, but I wasn’t aware of it using PIN tech aswell. There are other iPhone apps that do require an account, my wife uses one that utilises a paypal pro account its very good. like all things you pay for what you get and unfortunately if its a free service in th elong run you will pay for it! Something like PP Pro is only £30 a month and if your not doing that and much more theres no point in taking credit card payment IMHO.

  • Nigel Johnson

    Does anyone wonder if clients would worry about the security aspect of this? We are all used to the secure symbol on bank websites and places like, but just entering your pin into a mobile phone that turned up with the photographer that also has all the details of you credit card you just swiped…

    I hope i just have a paranoid friend, but i can’t help wondering that because chip and pin is still a new thing on the other side of the pond, are people going to be a little more paranoid here? might that stall uptake?

  • http://ludwigschubert.de Ludwig Schubert

    @bradley:
    Intuit GoPayment is less expensive?
    It’s $14.95 monthly with a Monthly Minimum Fee of $20.
    You have to use it for payments of at least $1099.26 a month for Intuit to be cheaper.
    Is this the case for the many semi-pro and amateur photogs on this site?

    I wouldn’t bother correcting you if your comment didn’t just seem so payed-for to me.

    Regards,
    Ludwig

  • http://just4ewe.org spiderlady

    I have the square and use it and love it, it is a smooth seamless operation. I have another CC machine, that turns out to be more costly. It is so portable, it is 1″ square. The money goes into your account of choice quickly. I have no problem and the square is free. It sends a receipt to the user and they can sign right on the phone/pad using their finger. Check out their site. Square.com

  • jason w

    Er, what? Somebody asks you to put your PIN into an iphone and you agree? Who would do that?

  • http://billcrowther.com Bill Crowther

    This is a great idea/product yet it is struggling to get off the ground I assume due to the many people who want it. I’ve been waiting for over 2 months now for Square to approve me and to receive the card reader. If you watch the Squarup.com forums, there is a lot of frustration around low daily and weekly limits (initially $100/day and $700/week cap on transactions) and the length of time for customers to actually gain access to the service.

    I hope to be able to use it successfully once Square has worked through some of these issues. I love the idea of being mobile!

  • Bradley

    No it’s just the best I’ve used. I also used to have a wireless terminal but that was waaay to expensive.

    Respectfully I don’t think your math is right. It’s half the percentage. The minimum really isn’t a big deal if you actually intend to use it. Sell a few photos and you’ve met the minimum. And so what if you don’t? I didn’t hit the minimum a couple months ago- I was $2.34 short so I was billed an extra $2.34. I’m cheap but not cheap enough to raise a fuss over paying that. Besides, it saved me from having to spend $200 on the 2010 version of QuickBooks.

    If my sales ever dropped to where I wasn’t selling anything I suppose I would care about it but then I would just cancel. That’s why no cancel fee is the best way to go- if you can find it. That’s what got me to sign up for Squared but I didn’t know this was out here at the time. Just take it for what it’s worth!

  • Jake

    I signed up for square a few months ago and have yet to receive a card reader from them. The forums on their site as well as the comments for their app in the android marketplace are full of people complaining about it. The company’s failure to adequately prepare for its launch had caused me to lose confidence in it. When out comes to financial matters, I expect more from a company. Plus, they limit their weekly and daily transaction amounts to a ridiculous $100. I also saw a video from an online tech blog where the guy couldn’t even get his reader to work (he was one of the few to actually get one). I’d be mad to get a defective reader after waiting months to get it. I’d also worry about how timely and reliable the company will be at processing my transactions and depositing my money, given how inept they’ve been at getting a simple reader in my hands.

  • Bradley

    @Ludwig:
    When I said no I was responding to your “payed-for” comment- it is in fact cheaper in my experience than Square.

  • Alex

    Just as a correction, you would have to make at least 1346.85 a month for Intuit to be cheaper. (Although its a little less depending on how many payments are made due to the fee per transaction with Square.) So lets say $1340.
    But I can understand what bradley is saying because there is some value in ease of use through integration with Quickbooks if that’s what you use (not to mention the free copy of 2010).

  • Bradley

    The limit is ridiculous. With the intuit account I mentioned above you set your own guidelines for monthly & individual transactions. You can’t be serious with $100 limits.

    As for the comment on pin sales you should never put your pin in on a phone- that’s a scam. My customers debit cards go through as credit with no pin and it makes no difference for them. By the way Apple uses an almost identical system to the Intuit one in their stores.

    What else is nice is that I have my girlfriend cover shows for me sometimes while I am at another (we’re in Chicago and there is a lot going on). With my setup, I can use my iPhone while she uses her normal (unspecial) phone with the same account and it all downloads into QuickBooks. Then I can see each location’s sales separately and it tells me when the money hits my account.

  • http://www.toddwardphotographer.com Todd Ward

    I read the reviews on the Square when I went to look at the ap and they are not very complimentary.

  • http://www.invisiblegreen.com marcus

    Is there a reason there’s no link to the website in this article? It would seem to be a useful bit of information for those interested in checking it out.

  • http://www.picturememine.com Jess

    I feel your article is a bit short-sided and could have been more thoroughly researched (i.e. its not just an app for iPhone users, its also very popular with Android phones). There’s also a lot that has changed for Square in the last little bit. They are working on the transaction limit, as they didn’t originally forsee people wanting to charge large transactions and they limited the amount to mitigate risk.

    Give the people a break… geesh. They’re working on it.

  • Steffanie

    @Marcus: the website is https://squareup.com/. Hope this helps!

  • http://www.kristensimental.com Kristen Simental

    Looks like there are indeed a few “paid” comments here – which sucks and makes me feel less secure with their service. They’re very “Keep Calm and Carry On” kind of comments. I’m waiting for approval on Square. I’m thinking this might be helpful for headshots and even wedding deposits.

  • raoul

    Try Google Checkout as an alternative to PayPal. It makes a lot more sense and can increase your business though it’s links with the advertising products.

  • amy

    @ Ludwig Schubert :

    Regarding Intuit GoPayment, it’s actually cheaper than $14.95 a month. It’s $12.95 a month and there are absolutely no minimums. http://gopayment.com/pricing-3Y5-633GR.html

  • http://www.invisiblegreen.com marcus

    @steffanie — Thanks. I found the link easily enough. I’m still curious why an article about a service would fail to include a link to the company’s website.

  • http://www.auzzie.net/beetree Ross Campbell

    I looked at a similar plan using Telstra Next G, (I presently use wireless EFTPOS), but it had no provision to print a hard copy receipt for my customer. I didn’t go ahead with it. It is my guess this has no printing facilities either. How does the customer get their receipt?

  • http://www.jdweddingphotography.com.au/ John

    Interesting article, but I think the introduction and increasing popularity of PayPals iPhone app would be more popular and trusted by clients. We have not used squareup.com but will look into it and compare it to PayPal after your recommendation.

  • http://www.rubberduckdoes.com Matt Bristow

    @Ross Campbell I believe they are emailed it

  • Louie M

    I searched for a long time for a credit card service. I am a Paypal user for many years but didn’t like waiting 3 days for my money to show up in my account. Square is the best thing to happen to me and my company. I used it for the first time at a daycare photo shoot and I was blown away with the ease of use and the customers real liked the idea of watching me slide their card and them signing for it with their finger on my phone. Not to mention them getting to choose their receipt being e-mailed to them or receive it in a text message. Also I received my money that night from square in my bank account.

Some older comments

  • Louie M

    July 1, 2011 03:43 am

    I searched for a long time for a credit card service. I am a Paypal user for many years but didn't like waiting 3 days for my money to show up in my account. Square is the best thing to happen to me and my company. I used it for the first time at a daycare photo shoot and I was blown away with the ease of use and the customers real liked the idea of watching me slide their card and them signing for it with their finger on my phone. Not to mention them getting to choose their receipt being e-mailed to them or receive it in a text message. Also I received my money that night from square in my bank account.

  • Matt Bristow

    July 3, 2010 03:03 am

    @Ross Campbell I believe they are emailed it

  • John

    July 2, 2010 04:14 pm

    Interesting article, but I think the introduction and increasing popularity of PayPals iPhone app would be more popular and trusted by clients. We have not used squareup.com but will look into it and compare it to PayPal after your recommendation.

  • Ross Campbell

    July 2, 2010 09:42 am

    I looked at a similar plan using Telstra Next G, (I presently use wireless EFTPOS), but it had no provision to print a hard copy receipt for my customer. I didn't go ahead with it. It is my guess this has no printing facilities either. How does the customer get their receipt?

  • marcus

    July 2, 2010 05:27 am

    @steffanie -- Thanks. I found the link easily enough. I'm still curious why an article about a service would fail to include a link to the company's website.

  • amy

    July 2, 2010 03:04 am

    @ Ludwig Schubert :

    Regarding Intuit GoPayment, it's actually cheaper than $14.95 a month. It's $12.95 a month and there are absolutely no minimums. http://gopayment.com/pricing-3Y5-633GR.html

  • raoul

    July 2, 2010 02:26 am

    Try Google Checkout as an alternative to PayPal. It makes a lot more sense and can increase your business though it's links with the advertising products.

  • Kristen Simental

    July 2, 2010 01:01 am

    Looks like there are indeed a few "paid" comments here - which sucks and makes me feel less secure with their service. They're very "Keep Calm and Carry On" kind of comments. I'm waiting for approval on Square. I'm thinking this might be helpful for headshots and even wedding deposits.

  • Steffanie

    July 2, 2010 12:17 am

    @Marcus: the website is https://squareup.com/. Hope this helps!

  • Jess

    July 1, 2010 02:59 pm

    I feel your article is a bit short-sided and could have been more thoroughly researched (i.e. its not just an app for iPhone users, its also very popular with Android phones). There's also a lot that has changed for Square in the last little bit. They are working on the transaction limit, as they didn't originally forsee people wanting to charge large transactions and they limited the amount to mitigate risk.

    Give the people a break... geesh. They're working on it.

  • marcus

    July 1, 2010 01:22 pm

    Is there a reason there's no link to the website in this article? It would seem to be a useful bit of information for those interested in checking it out.

  • Todd Ward

    July 1, 2010 11:31 am

    I read the reviews on the Square when I went to look at the ap and they are not very complimentary.

  • Bradley

    July 1, 2010 10:17 am

    The limit is ridiculous. With the intuit account I mentioned above you set your own guidelines for monthly & individual transactions. You can't be serious with $100 limits.

    As for the comment on pin sales you should never put your pin in on a phone- that's a scam. My customers debit cards go through as credit with no pin and it makes no difference for them. By the way Apple uses an almost identical system to the Intuit one in their stores.

    What else is nice is that I have my girlfriend cover shows for me sometimes while I am at another (we're in Chicago and there is a lot going on). With my setup, I can use my iPhone while she uses her normal (unspecial) phone with the same account and it all downloads into QuickBooks. Then I can see each location's sales separately and it tells me when the money hits my account.

  • Alex

    July 1, 2010 09:59 am

    Just as a correction, you would have to make at least 1346.85 a month for Intuit to be cheaper. (Although its a little less depending on how many payments are made due to the fee per transaction with Square.) So lets say $1340.
    But I can understand what bradley is saying because there is some value in ease of use through integration with Quickbooks if that's what you use (not to mention the free copy of 2010).

  • Bradley

    July 1, 2010 08:39 am

    @Ludwig:
    When I said no I was responding to your "payed-for" comment- it is in fact cheaper in my experience than Square.

  • Jake

    July 1, 2010 08:19 am

    I signed up for square a few months ago and have yet to receive a card reader from them. The forums on their site as well as the comments for their app in the android marketplace are full of people complaining about it. The company's failure to adequately prepare for its launch had caused me to lose confidence in it. When out comes to financial matters, I expect more from a company. Plus, they limit their weekly and daily transaction amounts to a ridiculous $100. I also saw a video from an online tech blog where the guy couldn't even get his reader to work (he was one of the few to actually get one). I'd be mad to get a defective reader after waiting months to get it. I'd also worry about how timely and reliable the company will be at processing my transactions and depositing my money, given how inept they've been at getting a simple reader in my hands.

  • Bradley

    July 1, 2010 07:52 am

    No it's just the best I've used. I also used to have a wireless terminal but that was waaay to expensive.

    Respectfully I don't think your math is right. It's half the percentage. The minimum really isn't a big deal if you actually intend to use it. Sell a few photos and you've met the minimum. And so what if you don't? I didn't hit the minimum a couple months ago- I was $2.34 short so I was billed an extra $2.34. I'm cheap but not cheap enough to raise a fuss over paying that. Besides, it saved me from having to spend $200 on the 2010 version of QuickBooks.

    If my sales ever dropped to where I wasn't selling anything I suppose I would care about it but then I would just cancel. That's why no cancel fee is the best way to go- if you can find it. That's what got me to sign up for Squared but I didn't know this was out here at the time. Just take it for what it's worth!

  • Bill Crowther

    July 1, 2010 07:46 am

    This is a great idea/product yet it is struggling to get off the ground I assume due to the many people who want it. I've been waiting for over 2 months now for Square to approve me and to receive the card reader. If you watch the Squarup.com forums, there is a lot of frustration around low daily and weekly limits (initially $100/day and $700/week cap on transactions) and the length of time for customers to actually gain access to the service.

    I hope to be able to use it successfully once Square has worked through some of these issues. I love the idea of being mobile!

  • jason w

    July 1, 2010 07:43 am

    Er, what? Somebody asks you to put your PIN into an iphone and you agree? Who would do that?

  • spiderlady

    July 1, 2010 07:42 am

    I have the square and use it and love it, it is a smooth seamless operation. I have another CC machine, that turns out to be more costly. It is so portable, it is 1" square. The money goes into your account of choice quickly. I have no problem and the square is free. It sends a receipt to the user and they can sign right on the phone/pad using their finger. Check out their site. Square.com

  • Ludwig Schubert

    July 1, 2010 07:39 am

    @bradley:
    Intuit GoPayment is less expensive?
    It's $14.95 monthly with a Monthly Minimum Fee of $20.
    You have to use it for payments of at least $1099.26 a month for Intuit to be cheaper.
    Is this the case for the many semi-pro and amateur photogs on this site?

    I wouldn't bother correcting you if your comment didn't just seem so payed-for to me.

    Regards,
    Ludwig

  • Nigel Johnson

    July 1, 2010 07:25 am

    Does anyone wonder if clients would worry about the security aspect of this? We are all used to the secure symbol on bank websites and places like, but just entering your pin into a mobile phone that turned up with the photographer that also has all the details of you credit card you just swiped...

    I hope i just have a paranoid friend, but i can't help wondering that because chip and pin is still a new thing on the other side of the pond, are people going to be a little more paranoid here? might that stall uptake?

  • Matt Bristow

    July 1, 2010 07:20 am

    I have been following the progress of Square for a while now, unfortunately I dont see it coming to the UK anytime soon, but I wasn't aware of it using PIN tech aswell. There are other iPhone apps that do require an account, my wife uses one that utilises a paypal pro account its very good. like all things you pay for what you get and unfortunately if its a free service in th elong run you will pay for it! Something like PP Pro is only £30 a month and if your not doing that and much more theres no point in taking credit card payment IMHO.

  • Nigel Johnson

    July 1, 2010 07:01 am

    I looked at square a while back... Before the disappointment set in that they aren't coming over here for a while. They do have the cool swipe gizmo that plugs into the headphone jack, that'll be cool... When they get here... If they get here.

  • Nick

    July 1, 2010 06:47 am

    Plus I believe Square have recently issued a note saying they are scaling back their rollout due to infrastructure concerns. I think they're getting hit with more traffic than they can handle.

    So bearing this in mind, it might be quite a while before it comes to the UK (if it ever does)

  • Bradley

    July 1, 2010 06:24 am

    I forgot to mention another key part- I got my money faster. Money deposited into the bank account of my choice in 24-48 hours. Smooth.

  • Bradley

    July 1, 2010 06:18 am

    I used Square but stopped using it in favor of Intuit GoPayment. Not only is Intuit GoPayment less expensive (I get 1.64% on my card swipes as opposed to Square's "just under 3%") but all my activities download into QuickBooks automatically! That way I don't have to be constantly inputting data when I get back home from an event selling photos. Also, Intuit GoPayment works on tons of different mobile phones, not just an iPhone, and even just if I have internet access on my computer. Like Square there is no contract or cancel fee which was key for me.

    I even found a promo code link online and got a free copy of QuickBooks 2010 Pro when I was approved! This was the link you can use for the free copy of QuickBooks Pro 2010: https://merchant.intuit.com/signup/?b=isogp&p=bg15390

    I am very happy because I saved money, got free software, and even made running the business side of photography a heck of a lot easier to run!

  • Rob Barnes

    July 1, 2010 06:04 am

    never thought to use it this way but it looks interesting. how to you access the money once its been swiped. Does one need to wait for it transfer from another account like paypal? Are there limitations on the amount the account can hold? I would possibly do it just for the convenience of the whole process. Especially since i had to wait over a week to get payment for pictures i had printed for a client(which comes out of my account initially).

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