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Wireless vs Mobile Credit Card Machines: Differences Explained

In the past, cash or checks were the only methods to use to make payments to any business or person. Now, credit and debit cards are the customer's preferred method of payment. Until the introduction of mobile (or cell phone) credit card processing methods, wireless terminals have been the only way to accept credit cards while out of the office. However, today's technology takes accepting credit cards to whole new level.

Since both are wireless and mobile, the differences between a wireless processing terminal and a mobile payment solution can be confusing. Generally, the bigger handheld unit, or terminal, is referred to as the wireless processing device, which can be used either as a stationary terminal or a remote terminal. The cell phone is primarily considered a mobile processing device.


Since the customer does not need to buy a high-priced machine, mobile payment solutions are cheaper than wireless terminals. However, most mobile payment systems do charge an equipment fee for the small credit card reader that attaches to the mobile phone. Still, wireless terminals are much more expensive, ranging from $600-$800 per piece. If you need to buy wireless terminals for your employees as well, the wireless solution can become quite costly.

Most cell phones that also work as processing solutions run anywhere from $80-$300. This does not include the price for the phone service or the credit card company fees. Nevertheless, the cost of a cell phone even with the extra fees is cheaper than using a wireless payment solution.

Whether wireless or mobile, businesses must use a credit card processing company. Many credit card processors charge an initial set-up fee, a monthly fee, and a fee per transaction. The basic difference really comes down to the cost and the convenience of what works best with your type of business.

Finding the right solution to fit your budget only takes a bit of research. Look for credit card processing companies that don't charge high fees per transaction and that don't require you to sign long-term contracts. It is also important to make sure that the card processing company is compatible with the most popular phones and offers the best features for your specific kind of business.


Both wireless and mobile payment solutions have made getting paid much more convenient. Processing credit cards from your phone is more intuitive and easier to use than learning the procedures of operating a wireless machine. Cell phones require the simple task of downloading an app in order to work properly. The credit card reader for a mobile phone is very small and plugs directly into the cell phone, making it more expedient than lugging around a bigger and heavier wireless terminal. In addition, when using a mobile cell phone, you can not only process credit cards, but also send invoices and receipts to customers as well as access your merchant accounts.

For mobile phone users, the individual apps use passwords for protection and in case your phone is lost or stolen the PCI have additional safety measures in place. This means that it is set up to the demands of the Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard (PCI DSS), which was created by the Payment Card Industry Security Standards Council to reduce fraud and strengthen the protection of your customer's data.

Both wireless terminal and the mobile cell phone adhere to PCI Compliance rules and use SSL encryption to ensure the safety of your customer's information. In addition, phones do not store customer's information.

On the other hand, a wireless terminal works on a GPRS or CDMA wireless network. This means that you can use a wireless terminal where there is no phone signal. Also, along with the ability to process credit and debit cards on the spot, you can accept checks. Wireless machines offer more ways to pay, as its features include a magnetic stripe reader, PIN pad, keypad, and display screen.

Some terminals also come with an integrated receipt printer and can run free web-based transaction reports. These elements make the wireless extremely efficient and user-friendly. No doubt that the wireless terminal would be beneficial for transient businesses, mall kiosks, and taxi cabs, to name a few.

Both the wireless and mobile payment solutions are advantageous to small business owners by expanding their reach far beyond what they normally could. For instance, being able to process credit cards out in the field:

Whichever device you choose, being able to accept sales anywhere you are, at any given time, will improve the expansion of your customer base.