One of the many side-effects of this bad economy is there are now many people out there who are starting their own businesses as either their main source of income or to supplement their income. And whether you are now a computer help consultant to your local community or selling gear at flea markets, you are going to have customers who will want to pay you using a credit card.
For the small-time business, this can be a significant hurdle, requiring lots of upfront and regular monthly fees. And if one wants to take credit card information for face-to-face transactions, it requires either bulky equipment that needs some kind of network connection or the risky use of credit card imprint gadgets.
However, online merchant account provider ProPay has another solution. Their recently released MicroSecure Card Reader is a very small handheld device that can capture and encrypt credit card information from the field and then securely transmit this information to the merchant's online account whenever they get back to their computer.
I had the chance to test the MicroSecure Card Reader and it was pretty simple to use and get started with. A few hours plugged into a computer's USB port charged the device and then I could take it into the field to take credit card information at customer homes or other road locations.
The device does look a bit like the skimmer devices used by crooks, but all information stored on the device is encrypted. To take a credit card I simply swiped a card through the device, with a green light signifying success. A charged MicroSecure Card Reader can hold up to 72 transactions.
Once back at my computer I logged into my online ProPay account and chose the "process cards" option. This launched an applet which displayed the transactions on the card. From here I entered the amount of the transaction and invoice information and the information was then securely transferred to my online account. From here, everything worked the same as if the transaction had been completely Web-based.
While the ProPay MicroSecure Card Reader is easy to use, there are some drawbacks. The online access requires Windows and Internet Explorer. Also, since the device is just grabbing credit card information and no transaction information, the merchant will need to keep an invoice log with data such as customer name, amount of transaction and the last digits of the credit card in order to match up the transactions and card information later.
Also, the device only works with the ProPay online service so if this isn't your e-commerce system of choice, you'll need to find another solution.
Still, the device is priced attractively at $149.95 and $4.95 a month. And for small businesses and independent consultants, it makes it much easier to let customers pay in the way they choose to.