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Processing credit cards isn t just for retail stores anymore. With smartphones, tablets and other internet-enabled devices being used more and more, it s no wonder that you can now use your phone to process credit cards. There are a number of great mobile credit card processing services and devices, but what do you need to get started?

A Business

With only a few exceptions, if you want to accept credit card payments, you need to prove that you re a business. The good news is that mobile payment solutions are specifically designed with small businesses in mind, so whether you work with in-home plumbing, delivery, trade shows or even selling Girl Scout cookies, mobile payments is a great way to go. Mobile credit card processing is the perfect solution for small businesses because it is portable, versatile, and has a significantly lower entry-level cost than other options.

Merchant Account

A merchant account is basically a glorified bank account that lets your business accept card payments. To accept credit cards online or with your phone, you ll need a good merchant account. You can apply for a merchant account at most banks, but there are also several specialty providers. For more details, refer to our reviews of credit card processing services, or our articles on merchant accounts. Several of the mobile credit card processing services will either provide a merchant account for you, or work with a number of providers. There are additional per-transaction fees associated with merchant accounts, so shop around to find the best rates.

Payment Gateway

A payment gateway is the e-commerce service that actually processes the credit card transactions (think of it as the virtual point-of-sale terminal). While all retailers need a merchant account, only e-commerce (and m-commerce) businesses need a payment gateway. The payment gateway facilitates the actual transaction, and as such requires a certain level of security. Most mobile credit card processing solutions utilize an integrated payment gateway or will work with a number of online payment gateways like Authorize.net or PayPal.

Phone

If you already have a popular device (iPhone, iPad, Droid, Palm Pre  whatever), chances are you can find a mobile payment solution that will work with it. But there are also mCommerce (mobile commerce) solutions that will work with just about any phone that can get online (often they also must support Java ME). Some of the great benefits of using your own phone is that you don t have to pay for (not to mention carry around) additional hardware. Furthermore, because you aren t locked into a five- year contract on hardware, you can update your payment system as often as you update your phone.

Card Reader

A portable card reader isn t necessary because you can manually key in credit card #s, but there are several reasons you ll want to take advantage of them. Not only is the transaction so much quicker (and fool-proof accurate), but you can take advantage of lower per-transaction percentage fees because the bank can verify the card. There are a number of Bluetooth card readers and even Bluetooth printers (for receipts) that are very portable, and can save you time and in the long run, money.

If you re looking for an ending with the cheesy last thing you need to start accepting credit cards (you know, something like  the desire to succeed  or  a financial advisor to help you with all the money you ll be making ), I m sorry, it s not here.

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