Card Readers for iPad Point of Sale Systems

If you’re planning on implementing an iPad- or smartphone-based point of sale system, you’ll likely want to add a credit card swiper to instantly and secure charge your customers’ cards. Some point of sale systems are sold with credit card readers included free of charge; in other cases, you will have to purchase a reader independently or as part of a hardware bundle. Each point of sale system supports a single card reader, so it’s important to understand the differences between each one when choosing your system.

Here’s a look at a few of the major players in credit-card swipers for mobile point of sale systems.

Name Square PayPal Here Magtek iDynamo GoPayment
POS System Square PayPal Instore, Shopkeep, Breadcrumb, Revel GoPayment
Plug-in jack Audio Audio Dock connector Audio
Cost Included with POS system Included with POS system Starts at $95, or included with POS system Included with POS system
Devices supported iOS and Android devices iOS and Android devices iOS devices iOS and Android devices

Many of the available credit card readers are proprietary hardware; they can only be used to support a specific POS solution and only recognize swipes from their associated iPad apps. iDynamo is one major exception: This reader can be used with numerous iPad POS systems, including Instore, Shopkeep, and Breadcrumb. Instore provides an iDynamo card reader free of charge when you open an account, though others may charge a fee for the hardware: Shopkeep, for instance, includes the iDynamo reader as part of its $1,099 hardware bundle.

Another factor that’s important to consider is whether your reader plugs into the tablet’s dock connector or its audio headphone jack. Square, PayPal Here, and GoPayment all plug into the headphone jack, while the iDynamo plugs into the device’s dock connector.

The readers that utilize an audio jack work by converting the credit card numbers into sound waves, which are then deciphered by the app. However, this type of system can be a security risk: InformationWeek found that an audio jack-based reader could easily be used to skim credit cards and capture customers’ numbers. Anecdotal user reviews have also shown audio jack readers to perform poorly, which can cause frustration for employees and customers at checkout.

In contrast, readers such as iDynamo, which use your tablet’s dock connector, encrypt data before transferring it, ensuring that customers’ information cannot be accessed by unauthorized users. Such readers are also more reliable swipers, outperforming audo-jack swipers in comparison tests.

Additionally, consider which tablet platform you plan on using. If you are using an iPad or iPhone, any of the card reader options are available; however, if you choose to base your POS system on an Android platform, you will not have a full range of choices for your card reader.

In general, pin-connector swipers have proven to be more reliable and secure than audio-jack swipers. Particularly if you run a business that has high traffic and need a reliable tool to help you handle credit card orders, you will likely want to purchase a point of sale system that uses a pin-connector card reader.

Update:

Square recently released a stand that comes equipped with a built-in pin-connector card reader. The stand works with iPad 2 and 3 and costs $299.

Magtek also offers the uDynamo, an audio jack card reader that works with a variety of mobile and non-mobile devices, including Mac and PC computers.