9 Things Small Businesses Should Know About Amazon's New Mobile Payments Reader

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Better late than never. Amazon has finally taken its place in the cutthroat mobile payments race.

Aiming to take a swipe at Square, PayPal Here and Intuit GoPayment -- and the small businesses that use them -- the ecommerce titan today took the wraps off its first-ever (and recently leaked) mass-market credit card reader.

It’s called Amazon Local Register, a plain black rectangular plug-in device that allows merchants to accept credit and debit card payments right from their smartphones or tablets, and it comes out of the box with a few “limited time only” strategic perks designed to lure small business away from competitors.

Related: How You, the Local Business Owner, Can Take on Amazon

For a closer look, check out Amazon’s video promo-ing the new gadget:

Before you make the leap, here are nine essential things you should know about Amazon Local Register.

1. You can buy it online now or in stores next week. As of today, Amazon, of course, is already selling the reader in its online megastore. You can order it here. The company sweetened the deal with free two-day shipping.

Related: Why You Need to Start Accepting Mobile Payments Now

If you prefer to wait and see Local Register in person before buying it, you’ll have to wait until Tues., Aug. 19, when Amazon says it will go on sale at Staples stores nationwide. Expect to see the reader alongside rivals PayPal Here ($14.99), Square ($9.99) and Staples’ own Mobile Register Credit Card Reader ($14.99).

2. It’s basically free. Technically, Local Register retails for $10, but Amazon says it will credit people who buy it $10 back in their initial transaction fees. So, in your first couple of sales, you’ll recoup the cost of the reader.

3. The per-transaction fees are lower than Square’s and PayPal’s -- for now. As part of an introductory “limited time” offer, Amazon is offering those who sign up for Amazon Local Register by Oct. 31 a special 1.75 percent fee per swiped credit or debit card transaction. There are no monthly fees or long-term contracts and no charges for international payment cards, refunds or chargebacks.

Related: Bitcoin in 10 Years: 4 Predictions From SecondMarket's Barry Silbert

The discounted rate lasts through Jan. 1, 2016, when users will begin paying 2.5 percent per transaction. That’s still less than the going rates. Square currently charges 2.75 percent per swiped transaction and PayPal Here charges 2.7 percent. Intuit GoPayment (which costs a steep $27.99 for the reader itself) charges 2.4 percent per swiped transaction as part of its pay-as-you-go plan, plus an additional 25-cent fee. For its $19.95 monthly payment plan, Intuit charges 1.75 percent per swiped transaction, also with an additional 25 cent fee.

Transactions manually keyed-in to Amazon Local Register’s on-screen user interface aren’t included in the promotional deal. You’ll have to pay 2.75 percent per transaction for those starting now, again lower than the competition. Per-manual transaction fees at Square and PayPal Here are currently 3.5 percent, plus an additional 15 cents. Intuit GoPayment charges 3.4 percent per keyed-in transaction per its pay-as-you-go plan, plus an additional 25 cents. For Intuit’s $19.95 per month plan, the charges per keyed-in transaction are 3.15 percent, also with an added 25-cent fee.

Check this grid out for more information on Amazon’s transaction fees.

4. Users will have access to Amazon customer support. If something goes awry with a transaction or you have a question about the technology, Amazon’s customer support team has your back, by phone and by email.

Related: Square Scoops Up Fancy Food Delivery Startup 'Caviar'

Those who use the reader on their Kindle Fire HDX tablets will also be privy to a “Mayday” button that will put them in touch with an “Amazon tech advisor” 24/7/365 for free.

5. It tracks your sales and identifies trends. With Amazon’s reader companion app, you can instantly tap into detailed reports on your sales over specific ranges of time, peak sales times, tips and taxes projections and more.

6. It’s relatively easy to start using. Once you purchase the reader, it should take a few quick minutes to set it up. First, you’ll need to create an account via Amazon’s Local Register webpage. Next, download the free companion app on the mobile device you’ll use it on from Amazon Appstore, Apple App Store or Google Play.

Local Register works with Android and iOS devices and on Amazon’s Kindle Fire tablets. Oddly, though, it doesn’t yet work on Amazon’s new $199 Fire Phone. Amazon says the app is coming to its first smartphone “soon.” Once you have the reader and the app, and you’re a registered user, you can start accepting customer payments.  

Related: The Pros and Cons of Mobile Payment Services

7. Money from your transactions is deposited into your bank account the next business day. Well, generally. Amazon notes in a promo video that not all banks support next-day deposits. Also, it says in the fine print that next-day deposits require transfers by certain cutoff times (4 p.m. local time or 4 p.m. Pacific for Alaska and Hawaii) and are subject to reserves.

Also, you have to set up automatic daily transfers or manually transfer the funds yourself from your Amazon Payments account to your bank account by the cutoff time. So, there’s a bit of setup necessary on your part, but it’s pretty standard as mobile payments go.

Related: Crunching the Numbers on Mobile Payment Systems

8. It works in the U.S. only. Amazon Local Register can only be used to accept payments in the U.S., and a U.S. bank account is required for transferring funds from the Amazon Payments account to your bank account. You can, however, use it to accept international payment cards.  

9. It’s designed not to swivel. Amazon is touting its new reader as a “stabilized” unit that limits swivel for easier (less wiggly?) swipe-and-go transactions.

Related: PayPal Joins Mobile-Pay Apps Already There

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