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When it comes to taking your money, today’s mobile businesses have plenty of options for mobile EFTPOS transactions.

Active ImageCash flow is a key issue for any business. The sooner the money is out of your customers’ hands and into your bank account, the better it is for your business. While some businesses operate solely on a cash basis, for most mobile businesses that is not an option. The speed of billing and receiving payment is critical to success.EFTPOS offers significant benefits by allowing a business to receive payment in situations where a customer doesn’t have cash on hand but has something just as good: a credit or debit card. However, for businesses on the move, an EFTPOS solution sitting on a counter back at the office isn’t much good.

For these businesses a mobile EFTPOS—a payment system that does its job wherever the business does its job—is vital.There are a number of reasons why mobile EFTPOS is good news for mobile businesses and one of these is the immediacy of payment. A technician can, for example, make a service call, invoice the customer and receive immediate payment, instead of manually imprinting the customer’s credit card, which requires the business to get the paperwork to the bank or to enter it electronically at a later time, and which carries no guarantee that the charge will be authorised.

With mobile EFTPOS, the processing can be done on the spot. In addition, an EFTPOS solution supports debit cards, which can’t be processed manually. On the customer side, there is an increasing wariness of manual credit card processing systems because they pose a security risk displaying, as they do, the customer’s credit card number on all copies of the dockets, which isn’t the case with electronic solutions.The process of handling a transaction using a mobile terminal is similar to a standalone EFTPOS transaction. The transaction details are entered, the customer’s card is swiped and, if required, a pin number is entered.

The transaction is encrypted and delivered, generally via a data network to the payment gateway, and processed in real time. The business gets immediate confirmation that the charge is accepted or declined, and if accepted the money will be deposited into the business’s bank account within a short period of time.The benefits to the business start with improved cash flow and reduced bad debts, but don’t end there.

These systems also offer a secure means of getting payment and the business doesn’t have to handle cash, which is a plus where there’s a risk of theft by employees or where large sums of cash need to be managed such as might be the case with market stall owners.The differences between mobile devices themselves is whether the terminal does the communicating or if a mobile phone or PDA is used instead, and what other extras are bundled with the terminal, such as a keypad and printer. Some terminals use the older GSM network and others use the newer specialist data network, GPRS.When you think of mobile EFTPOS, the system used by taxis might come to mind.

The Cabcharge mobile EFTPOS system is available to Australian taxi networks and is perhaps the quintessential example of mobile EFTPOS. The Cabcharge system uses a product designed by Cabcharge in conjunction with Ingenico and operates using the specialist data networks (GPRS) available from communication providers such as Telstra and Vodafone.The system can handle the Cabcharge charge card as well as debit and credit cards issued by financial institutions, and charge card issuers such as American Express and Diners Club. Cabcharge card transactions are processed via the Cabcharge host system, while all other transactions are passed through a third party payment gateway for approval. The combination allows taxi operators to accept payment from a customer using multiple card types, without the customer realising that different processing options are used for each. The Cabcharge EFTPOS solution (known as Fareway) is currently installed in some 16,000 cabs throughout Australia. 

Rental Mobile EFTPOS

Not all mobile businesses need a permanent solution, as Chris Dwyer discovered. Dwyer, managing director of eMatters, a secure payment gateway for e-commerce, found a market in short-term rental of mobile EFTPOS terminals.

His company has partnered with VeriFone to provide units for rental that incorporate a thermal printer and card reader for swipe cards, as well as a chip card reader that ensures they’re ready when chip cards become more popular in the future.Simplicity is a feature of this solution. “The units are designed to be easy enough for anyone to use,” Dwyer points out, “and the software is designed to keep communications costs low. Typically, a transaction will cost only around two cents in Telstra charges, comparing favourably against the high cost of having a phone line installed at a trade show, for example.”Bettina Mitchell, owner of Beech Sandals Australia, is a typical short-term user.

Upon signing up for a Yoga Expo in Sydney, she discovered the internet wasn’t available so she couldn’t run her usual transaction processing system. In its place, she took an eMatters mobile terminal and was pleased she did. “The alternative was to use a ‘click-clack machine’, but filling in vouchers is time consuming and clumsy and you have to reconcile them at the end of the day,” she says. “With the EFTPOS machine, the process was quick and easy, we knew immediately if a customer was approved or not, and the customer got a copy of the transaction too. It’s really how people expect to do business these days.” At the end of the show, she simply returned the rented terminal and reverted to her usual system.Many of the banks are players in the mobile EFTPOS market and, like most banks, Westpac offers a range of packaged mobile EFTPOS solutions.

The mobile handsets incorporate a PIN pad, printer, terminal, battery and the communications technology all in a single unit, and they operate with two levels of security: one layer securing the entire transaction message, and a second layer additionally securing the cardholder’s personal data. “These terminals probably operate on a higher level of security than most standard EFTPOS terminals,” says Leif Rubenis, EFTPOS product manager, merchant acquiring, for Westpac.The terminals are available for short and long-term use, and the range of customers using them, according to Rubenis, varies from market traders and tradespeople, to the police and companies without a spare phone line to support a fixed EFTPOS solution. Short-term rentals are attractive to businesses such as supermarkets offering items for sale on the floor of the supermarket, and charities operating fundraisers and other events involving donations or sales.“Mobile EFTPOS offers all the advantages of standalone or integrated EFTPOS but in a portable format,” Rubenis points out. “With it, you can take payments anywhere and the transaction is verified on the spot so, provided you follow due process, you’re guaranteed payment.”While many mobile handheld devices tend to have their communications built in, not all do. Card Access Services’ CASPAD (right) is one such device, with its tiny card reader securely linked to the owner’s mobile phone.

Active Image“The transaction is processed using the mobile phone or PDA for communications, and its keypad to enter the transaction details such as amounts and reference numbers. The CASPAD collects and encrypts the card data offering an end-to-end secure transaction. With an added printer, a receipt can be printed on the spot or it can be sent via SMS to the customer’s mobile phone,&r
dquo; explains Stelios Savva, general manager at Card Access Services.Another option from the same company is Mobepay, operated solely from a mobile phone without needing any hardware at all. All transaction details are entered using the phone’s keypad and receipts can be sent via SMS, making this a handy solution where the merchant doesn’t want to have to carry a special terminal. 

Technology Developments


While this technology is already available, other developments are on the horizon. Stelios sees mobile devices of the future including signature pads for capturing signatures on the spot, and biometric solutions like fingerprint scanning to authenticate the cardholder. He also confirms a general move is underway from magnetic cards to chip-based cards, very likely contact-less cards that are simply held near the reader for retrieval of card information. Products soon to be released from Card Access Services include small mobile readers incorporating a keypad and LCD screen with optional communications access and printer built in. These solutions can also double as a fixed line terminal or pinpad if required and provide a customised payment solution with built-in Smartcard functionality.Mobile credit card and EFTPOS solutions have a place in most mobile businesses as well as in places they are not currently used.

For example, in situations where customers are reluctant to hand over a credit card for processing, such as in a restaurant, a card reader can be taken to the table and the card swiped in the customer’s presence. The reader can be configured to interface with the restaurant’s other systems and the receipt printed at the counter as usual. Ingenico’s Pay@table solution is an example of this.Mobile card payment solutions are also suited to being embedded inside vending machines, not only for small priced items like food and beverages, but also for higher priced items such as books, DVDs, electronics, phones and prepaid phone cards.The current range of mobile EFTPOS solutions represent just a taste of what we’re likely to see in the future. These systems will support existing business selling models and offer new ways to deliver product and services free from the need to have a person in place to receive payment for them.   Mobile solutions like CASPAD make it easier to do more business on the move. 

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