24 Apr 2023
Tap and go: Portable customer payment options for small businesses

Tap and go: Portable customer payment options for small businesses

This article was originally published in September 2021 and has been updated.

  • Accept customer payments anywhere that has internet access
  • Get a compact device with minimal outlay and setup time
  • Access extra features to help you manage your business

When it comes to customer payments, the world has changed. Cash is no longer king, and business owners aren’t tied to their shopfront or office. Contactless payments have become the norm.

As we become more flexible in the way we work, mobile payment systems have increased in popularity. Customers are also driving change.

Digital wallets like Apple Pay and Samsung Pay are replacing physical cards. Phones are fast becoming the default payment gateway, driving the need for mobile technology. A significant 94 per cent of Australians own a smartphone1, which is often the all-in-one tool for researching, online shopping and in-store payments.

Why go mobile?

A portable payment system could be a good fit if your business is mobile or just starting out. There’s minimal outlay and most providers give you the option to scale up as your business grows.

Close up of woman in store making contactless payment at sales desk holding credit card to reader

If you already have a smartphone or tablet, you’re half way there. When you sign up with a mobile payment company, they’ll usually give you a reader that’s connected to an app, powered by the technology in your device.

Once you’re set up, you can accept card payments from anywhere you can access Wi-Fi or a 3G/4G/5G network. Customers simply tap their card or phone on the reader to pay2.

Portable payment systems can be used in a multitude of places:

  • On the road
  • Market stalls
  • Job sites
  • Food trucks
  • Trade shows
  • Home deliveries
  • Dining tables

The technology is so accessible, even The Big Issue street vendors are equipped with mobile payment devices3.

Choosing your technology

So, what is the best portable card payment machine for small business?

Choosing a payment system comes down to how your business operates, your existing technology, and your budget and security needs.

Most mobile payment systems take up very little room, so they’re great for small spaces like a market stall. There’s no need for a bulky cash register and a point of sale terminal. Bricks and mortar businesses will have more flexibility and may prefer a larger, full-featured setup.

To get started you’ll need a payment gateway, accessed through a reader connected to your phone. Some providers offer a card reader free of charge, with additional readers available at an added cost.

Many systems come with handy features for small businesses4, including:

  • The ability to capture signatures on your phone or tablet
  • Barcode scanning
  • Integration with your eCommerce platform
  • Tools to email or SMS receipts
  • Access to sales data and reports
  • Marketing tools to promote your business
  • Calendars to schedule customer appointments
  • Inbuilt security features and offerings including data encryption, alerts to suspicious behaviour and dispute management support

Selecting your provider

Choosing a mobile payment provider is no different to finding a phone or internet network. It’s a matter of defining your business needs and choosing a service within your budget and security requirements.

It could also come down to service. A payment system is the lifeblood of your business, so do you need 24/7 support or are business hours adequate? What is their security offering, and do they comply with Australian security standards? Before you sign a contract, check customer reviews for pros and cons and speak to business owners in your industry.

Customer at coffee shop pays smiling waitress with card

Here’s a brief overview of two mobile payment providers.


The Square system comes in a variety of options, from a minimalist pocket-sized reader to a full-featured terminal. Square meets Australian security standards and has a number of security features including encryption and monitoring to keep payments secure and customer data safe. See how it works

PayPal Here

PayPal has expanded into mobile payments with a compact hand-held system. If you already use PayPal for your eCommerce site, you may appreciate the ability to see all your sales in one familiar interface. PayPal boasts compliance with the highest security standards and offers end-to-end encryption, while it’s chip and PIN technology is backed by risk and fraud management systems. See how it works

There are many more providers to choose from, so it’s best to do your research. Once you’ve narrowed down a shortlist, check their websites to ensure your phone or tablet is compatible. Then once you’re set up, you can accept customer payments wherever your business takes you.

Protecting your business

If something were to happen and your business couldn’t operate on site, a mobile payment facility may be an important part of your business continuity plan. It could help keep the payments coming in, until you’re back up and running.

When it comes to calculating your small business insurance, remember to include your business technology and hardware in your sum insured.

QBE’s Small Business Insurance^ is available direct to over 800 small business occupations including trades and construction, hospitality, retail and professional services. If you know what you need and are ready to buy, you can get a quote for QBE Small Business Insurance today.

If your business risks are a little complex or you’d prefer an expert to take care of your insurance needs on your behalf, you may prefer to contact a broker. If you don’t have a reliable recommendation, the National Insurance Broker Association (NIBA)* can help you find an accredited broker.

Related article: Using a broker versus going direct

Buy QBE Small Business Insurance or get a quote

1 Trends and developments in telecommunications 2021-22 – ACMA
2 Mobile and contactless payment options – Digital Ready
3 Working For Home: A Big Return To Street Selling For The Big Issue Vendors – The Big Issue
4 Mobile and contactless payment options: Why use mobile processing? Digital Ready

^ QBE Small Business Insurance Policy Wording (QM9264)

* The brokers on this site are not employees or agents of QBE, but are independent entities, QBE is not responsible for any advice provided to you by any broker on this site. Any such advice is the responsibility of the broker concerned.

The advice in this article is general in nature and has been prepared without taking into account your objectives, financial situation or needs. You must decide whether or not it is appropriate, in light of your own circumstances, to act on this advice.

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