These free mobile apps turn phones into point-of-sale terminals — with some limitations

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Photo by Mika Baumeister on Unsplash.

  • It has never been cheaper or easier for businesses to accept credit and debit card payments from customers.
  • These free apps in South Africa allow merchants to process card payments and only pay transaction fees.
  • They have some limitations, but are a good option for micro or informal businesses that want to accept cards.
  • Here are some options currently available on local app stores – and how much you can expect to pay in transaction fees.
  • For more stories, go to www.BusinessInsider.co.za.

South Africa has recently seen a flood of affordable POS machines targeting small businesses. The most popular are cost-effective wireless devices imported from overseas that allow businesses to accept credit and debit cards.

But it is now possible to accept card payments without a card reading device, using what the industry calls Software Point of Sale, or SoftPOS. By simply downloading free fintech apps onto a compatible smartphone, merchants can accept tap-to-pay card transactions.

A handful of free mobile apps in South Africa enable this functionality, and at least two major banks purchase this technology as part of their merchant offerings.

Unlike card-reading devices, these apps, available in the Google Play Store and Apple’s App Store, do not require any upfront payment for the device. Merchants download the app to a compatible phone, register and, once registered, can accept cash card payments from customers. SoftPOS providers make money by charging merchants a transaction fee for each sale, which varies between 2.15% and 2.75%, depending on the institution.

There are, however, some caveats and limitations that are not present in entry-level mPOS devices. Although SoftPOS saves small businesses from paying an upfront fee for the device – which these days can be as low as R100 – the merchant must have a Near Field Communication (NFC) compatible smartphone. This, generally, is not present on entry-level phones.

Shoppers will also need to have cards with pay-per-touch functionality – and if they feel uncomfortable tapping a card on a merchant’s smartphone or want to insert their chip, merchants will need to anyway have a more traditional card reading device. As an alternative, however, many SoftPOS apps have QR code functionality.

Even so, for small businesses looking to expand their POS machines into stores, or for some niche informal business cases, SoftPOS options can be beneficial.

Here are four SoftPOS apps currently available in South African app stores.

Nedbank PocketPOS

Nedbank PocketPOS offers a payment gateway app for Android and iOS that does not require a card reader. The app allows customers to use contactless cards on compatible phones to process payments or scan a MasterPass QR code. Although Nedbank also sells a device, which costs R1,199 to non-Nedbank customers, merchants are free to use the app on their own.

Transaction fees: 2.75%

Telkom Pay mPOS

Telkom’s financial services arm recently launched point-of-sale options that include a wireless card-reading device and a free app that supports tap-to-pay functionality. If this is not an option for customers, the app can generate a QR code.

Transaction fee: 2.5%

Zapper Merchant

Zapper originally made a name for itself as a QR code payment option in the style of its competitor SnapScan. The company’s merchant app now also includes the option to accept tap-to-pay credit card transactions, as well as traditional scan-to-pay methods.

Transaction fees: 2.9%

HelloPay

HelloPay has a SoftPOS app available in addition to its selection of more traditional POS devices. The app allows NFC-enabled Android devices to accept contactless card payments and only pay a per-transaction fee.

Transaction fee: 2.15% (debit card); 2.5% (credit card)

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