We're at the point where smartphones can do nearly anything with the right app. Actually, we reached that point a while ago. Now we've got apps fighting it out over lucrative niches, like accepting credit cards on the go.

PayAnywhere review

PayAnywhere is the latest combination of mobile credit card reader and smartphone app to enter the arena. With a transaction fee percentage that undercuts competitors like PayPal and the ubiquitous Square, it's looking to turn heads with food trucks, flea markets and more.

No need to be stylish

PayAnywhere's card reader is a black plastic attachment that sits at the top of your iPhone, iPad, Android or Blackberry device. Like competing readers, it connects via the headphone jack, leaving your phone's charging port free to access. Also, the reader provides enough clearance that most cell phone cases won't get in the way. We could attach it to our iPhone without removing its rubber shell.

PayAnywhere review

PayAnywhere's card reader isn't as compact as Square's or as cute as PayPal's but it gets the job done. It's designed to pivot slightly so you can access an iPhone's lock button. Luckily, the connection remains stiff enough that the reader doesn't slide around when accepting a card.

Undercut the competition

PayAnywhere review

PayAnywhere's most attractive feature isn't its nondescript reader, its those transaction fees that are just slightly less than the competition. For a swiped transaction, merchants pay 2.69 percent of their take to PayAnywhere. Compare that to 2.75 percent from Square and 2.7 percent from PayPal. It may not seem like much, but any modern hot dog impresario will tell you those fees add up.

For keyed-in transactions, PayAnywhere takes 3.49 percent plus a 19 cent fee. This caught us by surprise, but apparently it's the norm in this business. Square and PayPal charge 3.5 percent + 25 cents and 3.5 percent + 15 cents, respectively. Perhaps it's to motivate sellers to hurry up and order a card reader? It's mailed to you for free once you complete your merchant ID.

PayAnywhere also boasts that it has no startup cost or monthly fees, but neither do Square or PayPal. Actually, Square recently introduced the option to pay a flat $275 for swipes less than or equal to $400, which is a good option for high volume merchants. Currently, PayAnywhere doesn't offer anything like this.

Simple sign-up and support

PayAnywhere review

Signing up with PayAnywhere is simple and pretty quick. It requires basic contact information as well as a brief description of your merchandise, a monthly sales estimate, a bank account for deposits and either your social security number or tax ID.

When we initially played with the PayAnywhere app and didn't finish signing up, we received a call from a representative who asked if they could help us complete the process. Part of PayAnywhere's strategy is an emphasis on customer support. The company provides a 24-hour 1-800 number for technical questions. We made a few calls to test its reliability and never had to wait long. Compare that to Square, who only provides online support.

PayAnywhere's also does online chat support through its website. During daytime hours, it was reliable and responsive. However, we tried it twice late in the evening and the system failed to connect us to a representative. Phone support during these hours was just fine though.

A nice paper trail

PayAnywhere review

Just like the competition, the PayAnywhere app can accept signatures, calculate tips, email your customer a receipt, and can also connect wirelessly to a printer to produce a hard copy. As far as getting your money goes, the cash is deposited to your account in a competitive two business days.

Receipt emails arrive with a friendly subject line thanking the customer for their business. It includes a breakdown of their purchase with subtotal and tax, as well as a Google map location where the transaction occurred. That way you can remember when and where you bought that midnight taco.

Additionally, PayAnywhere's website provides analytics that can help business owners identify their most popular items in certain areas. The app will also warn you if you attempt to process a transaction that's identical to your last, to avoid charging a customer twice.

Security

PayAnywhere review

According to PayAnywhere, all transactions are encrypted and no credit card information is stored on your phone. That way if your phone were to be stolen, none of your customers would be at risk.

The PayAnywhere app also locks whenever your phone goes to sleep, and requires a five-digit PIN to unlock. While we appreciated the security, we found this a bit overzealous. It would be nice if there were an option to disable this, short of turning off sleep-mode on your phone, which kills battery life.

We liked

The overall cost-effectiveness of PayAnywhere is great. The reader is free and the transaction fees are the lowest ones out there, although just by a hair. The app is simple and doesn't ask much of the employee or customer who needs to use it, and the analytics PayAnywhere provides make it easy to turn a lemonade stand-style business into something much more savvy. Following that, we think PayAnywhere's 24-hour phone support puts it among the best in its field.

We didn't like

The online chat felt a little defunct, which was a bummer, since we often prefer that to waiting on a call. We also think their should be option to disable the PIN request everytime the phone goes to sleep. An option for a monthly transaction fee rather than a percentage of sales would be nice, but will only benefit high-volume clients.

Verdict

PayAnywhere is obviously built to be fiercely competitive with other card readers like Square. The company's hungry attitude makes it a solid choice for any small business where traditional credit card methods aren't an option. The chat service could use an overhaul and further payment options would be nice, but with such good phone support we really don't mind, especially since some other mobile payment companies don't even take calls.