March 29, 2012, 11:03 AM

Square gives its mobile wallet a makeover

The move is part of the start-up’s strategy to break into consumer mobile payments. 

Lead Photo

Pay With Square lets consumers open a virtual tab and pay at local merchants without taking out their wallet or smartphone.

Square Inc’s mobile wallet app for consumers used to be called Card Case. Today, it’s called Pay with Square. The new name, along with a few other enhancements, is part of a new strategy by mobile payment start-up Square to get more consumers to pay at merchants using its Internet-hosted or cloud-based payment app.  

Square, which launched in 2009, has long offered the former Card Case, but until now was better known for its services that enable merchants to accept card-based payments with a card reader that attaches to devices using Google Inc.’s Android mobile operating system or Apple Inc.’s iPhone, iPod Touch or iPad devices. Now, Square is hoping to break further into the consumer side of mobile payments with the revamped Pay with Square.

Here’s how Pay with Square works: Consumers download the app and register and link a payment card to it. Next, they search Square’s directory of merchants to find stores or eateries they are interested in. They select the merchant they’d like to visit, load a photo of themselves and then open a virtual “tab” that lets them pay with their name. Once in the store, the consumer—without having to show the GPS-enabled smartphone she’s carrying—directs the merchant to put the purchase on her tab. The consumer’s name and photo automatically appear on the merchant’s register, the merchant confirms the consumer’s identity and the goods purchased are charged to the payment card tied to the consumer’s Square mobile wallet.

“Simply walk in and say your name at the counter,” Square’s web site says. “Pay without ever touching your wallet or phone.”

Square says it uses background GPS briefly when users are near a business they have opted in to, to automatically open the tab the consumer has created at that merchant. In addition to scrolling through the Square directory to find merchants, users can also check out featured businesses or view a map to see places near them at any given moment. The mobile wallet also now allows users to share merchants with friends via Twitter, text message and e-mail.

Pay with Square works on versions of Apple’s iPhone 3G and higher as well as on the Samsung Galaxy, HTC EVO 3D, Google Nexus S and Motorola Photon 4G handsets, which operate on Google’s Android smartphone platform.

Square was originally known for its mobile payment acceptance capabilities for merchants. That offering provides merchants with a mobile payment app and tiny card reader accessory that attaches to the audio jack of a device. The vendor also offers an iPad app designed to double as a cash register replacement, enabling employees to wander stores with tablets that they can use to complete sales on the spot. The iPad app also lets merchants create a custom inventory to organize the items they sell by names, prices and photos; access analytics; create loyalty programs; and more. Square charges merchants a 2.75% per card-present transaction and 3.5% plus a 15 cents per transaction fee for each payment where a card is not swiped.

Square’s updated mobile wallet comes on the heels of Google Wallet’s recent partnership with the Pinkberry Frozen Yogurt chain. Pinkberry customers can now tap their Google Wallet-enabled devices on an NFC (Near Field Communication) reader to quickly make their purchase, redeem coupons and receive discounts. Google Wallet is now live in 69 Pinkberry locations in the U.S.

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