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Retailers now have a way to accept credit and debit card payments that eliminates the need to swipe plastic cards. A test is currently underway at 15 Dallas-area stores using the Cartwheel Register App, with which retailers can use the cameras on their own cell phones to detect and scan digits off a customer’s plastic card.

“This operates on a cloud-based platform that facilitates the exchange of payment card information,” says William Cervin, CEO of Tantrum Street, the technology company that developed Cartwheel Register. “It does not require any special hardware or specific phones.”

The application is geared primarily for small businesses that want to eliminate the need for a dedicated POS terminal. Retailers do not need an existing payment enterprise system to move transactions. In addition to reading payment card numbers, the system can be adapted to handle retailers’ gift cards as well, Cervin says.

Using cell phones provides additional mobility of payment to retailers who want to complete transactions in the aisle or at locations where there are no dedicated phone lines.

PCI compliance
The application was designed to appeal to a broad base of retailers. The Dallas pilot, expected to run between eight and 10 weeks, involves a range of retail types, including a caterer, a bakery, a gift shop, a food store and a nail salon.

The application, expected to be available in Apple’s App Store in early 2014 and with future availability on Android and Windows Phone platforms, connects wirelessly to cash drawers and remote printers and allows retailers to search and access cloud-based receipts from any registered device.

Once the product is rolled out, retailers will pay a guaranteed flat per-transaction fee that is competitive with card-present fees that retailers pay using traditional POS terminals, Cervin says.

Utilizing smartphones eliminates concerns about unreliable or insecure card swipe devices used in mobile payments. Cartwheel is compliant with payment card industry standards, as Tantrum holds and controls the data and therefore assumes the PCI compliance requirements.

In addition, Cervin says Cartwheel will be able to handle Europay MasterCard Visa cards when they become common in the United States as mag-stripes are not involved in the payment transaction.

Digital wallet integration
While the system is primarily being marketed to smaller retailers that do not have existing enterprise systems, it can also be adapted for larger retail chains by using middleware product developed by Tantrum Street.

Although the majority of the transactions in the Dallas test are with customers using traditional plastic cards, the Cartwheel Register system can also work with card information stored in digital wallets on customer smartphones, such as Tantrum Street’s Skip Wallet.

Skip Wallet lets consumers load credit, debit, reward card and gift card information into a digital wallet. That information can then be read off the customer’s phone by the Cartwheel Register system using the retailer’s phone. Even if consumers don’t have their phone or wallet with them, they can make a payment by providing their Skip Wallet pay name and personal identification number.

Skip Wallet is also a member of Good Returns, a social enterprise network that tackles global issues like poverty. Skip Wallet users select micro-donations to be added to every transaction; the donations are used to create microfinance loans to fund entrepreneurs and social programs in the United States, Mexico, the Dominican Republic and Haiti.