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Expo Notes: Flint looks to simplify iOS credit card readers

Square helped pioneer the idea of iOS-device-as-credit-card-reader by making the process easy and affordable for small business owners. Now comes Flint hopes to follow in its predecessor's footsteps while being even easier and cheaper to use.

During a demo at Macworld/iWorld this week, Flint certainly came across as easy to use. It doesn't have the dongle that other iOS-based systems require, instead using your iPhone or iPad's camera to scan the credit card number like it would a barcode. That means merchants can start taking payments within minutes of signing up for Flint's service and downloading the free iOS app.

Company officials stress that the process is secure. For one thing, only the card number is scanned--no other information on the card is including in the image. The number is sent to Flint's payment server, processed for payment, and then immediately discarded.

The process is also relatively cheap. Square, in its most basic level used by small merchants, charges 2.75 percent of the bill per card swipe. Flint charges 1.95 percent of debit card bills--and 2.95 percent for credit cards--plus a 20-cent swipe fee.

Two other highlights: Flint allows Yelp-style social media marketing, letting a merchant's customers rate the transaction and post the review to Facebook. And merchants can review individual transactions online instead of--as is often the case--downloading a spreadsheet of the day's transactions and searching from there.

Marcelino Gaming, Flint's customer service manager, says the package is designed to remove even the lowest barriers to iOS-based credit commerce: "It's aimed anywhere from garage sales up to electrical contractors."

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