The options available for merchants of any scale to process credit cards have been growing at a rapid pace. In fact many service providers in the industry have been tripping over themselves in their attempt to keep pace with innovations and also carve out their niche to give the appearance of being a better deal than their competitors. Essentially, there is little difference between the majority of services offered on the mobile market, but the small differences may be significant enough to make one or another of the options a better fit for any particular merchant.
An important point to mention here is that the industry and products are changing. This is a snapshot of offerings as they are available in May, 2012. The broad strokes are likely to remain intact for a while, but it never hurts to double check the industry trends. Also, because the big, bad Visa and MasterCard corporations adjust their Interchange rates and fees every six months or so, pricing may fluctuate over time.
"Mobile" payments used to be relegated to the likes of PayPal, which meant processing from your computer at relatively high rates or perhaps using a phone service that required calling in and using touch tone entry of the card number, also at high rates. Other PC based solutions existed that allowed for card swipers to be attached to a laptop, and these usually required service providers that had merchants hooked on long-term contracts. And there were high-priced mobile terminals that were built around cell phone chips that came with expensive monthly fees.
Technological Revolution Drives the Mobile Processing Industry
Then the smartphone began opening up the realm of mobile computing. With many phones and tablets on the market today being more powerful than the laptops of just a few years ago, it makes sense that this power would be harnessed to do more work for every aspect of business. Innovative companies like SquareUp were strong out of the gate with a product that merchants were hungry for. Online pioneers like PayPal have been slow to catch up, while numerous processing companies have stepped in to fill the gap between the expensive mobile processing solutions and traditional lower-cost merchant services contracts.