For many years, businesses that provide mobile services such as lawn care or home repair relied on written checks or old-fashioned carbon-copies for credit card processing of payments. Recent technology advancements with smartphones and tablets have enabled many to use tiny card readers from vendors such as Square and PayPal Here to process payments immediately via Wi-Fi. Of course, the complaint now has become how easy it is to misplace the small reader that plugs into the mobile device. One company, Flint Mobile, has taken on the challenge to create a way to pay via mobile device without requiring any external hardware.
In a recent interview, Flint Mobile CEO Greg Goldfarb explained how the new Flint technology works and how it simplifies payments, invoicing and even loyalty programs for small businesses.
Goldfarb explained that Flint helps small businesses remain flexible in the market by allowing them to accept payments via mobile devices while also providing invoicing, workflow data and service status. The typical small business that uses Flint isn’t a retail establishment. Most work on-site for clients or provide services in-home or out of multiple offices. As Goldfarb said:
“What Flint does is that it makes it as simple as possible for those businesses to use their mobile devices to get paid, really any way they need to, by taking card payments on the spot using the camera on the phone instead of having to use an external device. We simplify accepting credit cards through your phone. You don’t need any sort of card reader, you just need the app to pull up on your phone and we securely use the phone to scan numbers off the card. So it makes it one step simpler.”
Flint’s app also allows small businesses to send invoices from the web or a mobile device, which also allows repeat customers to be billed and pay online. Having a paperless invoice and online or mobile payment system really cuts down on the paperwork while keeping all the data conveniently accessible via the web. In this way, invoices can be created and tracked from the mobile device or computer and users can send reminders to customers via email. Flint also provides simple ecommerce options by creating “buy now” buttons for a website or providing a way for customers to set up appointments via the business’ website, all of which integrate with the mobile app.
Goldfarb says the company’s mantra is “run your business from the palm of your hand,” and it seems the application allows small businesses to do just that from just about anywhere. The company also integrated with Apple Passbook to allow businesses to send coupons to loyal customers that can be used during the mobile transaction through a QR reader built into the Flint Mobile app.
For growing small businesses, the same app can be used by up to 10 people, allowing all payments to funnel back to one account, which helps keep track of sales and service accounts.
“You can have up to 10 secure logins per Flint account. … You can create one master Flint account and invite your team members to join while the owner of the business has control in terms of everything flows into one bank account. All team members can get started right away since there’s no hardware involved. Just set up a name and password and get the app. And the owner gets individual reporting and control over certain permissions … much like an administrator.”
On the backend, the app integrates seamlessly with QuickBooks online. The data collected while out and about automatically syncs with QuickBooks and provides customer and transaction data so that the team member or owner doesn’t have to worry about going back to the office to input data at the end of each day.
When asked about how Flint provided security from both a consumer and business standpoint, Goldfarb explained:
“Security is definitely a big consideration and it has been since day one. The overall solution is compliant with PCI guidelines. All data that is transmitted is encrypted and we actually don’t store credit card numbers or CVV codes or expiration dates. Those are used in real-time for processing. We partner with Vantiv merchant services, one of the biggest processors for banks and card services. We let them handle the card numbers. … The mobile app itself, whether it’s card scanning or via typing in a card number, none of this sensitive information is stored in the mobile app. Scanned images of the card numbers are never kept or stored on the phone. It’s definitely designed with security in mind.”
To help make suspicious customers feel more at ease, the consumer can see that the only part of the card that is scanned is around the card number itself—not the entire card. So it’s not a screenshot of the credit card. The app provides a message that explains this to the consumer. Not to mention, most small businesses that provide services create a level of trust with their customers that Flint hopes puts them at ease prior to giving payment. Goldfarb believes that Flint’s process is even more transparent and secure than handing your card to a waiter in a restaurant.
Goldfarb believes Flint stacks up very well against Square or PayPal Here or other mobile POS technologies. It’s cost-effective for small businesses in that it’s purely transaction-fee based. Flint charges the business 1.95 percent for debit transactions and 2.95 percent for credit card transactions. PayPal and Square charge 2.75 percent and 2.70 percent per swipe and 0.15 processing fee. The company has tens of thousands of users since its launch in 2011 and its iOS launch in late 2012.