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Published September 14, 2012, 11:35 PM

It's hip to pay square: New app that lets users pay for items with their phone

Handful of Fargo-Moorhead businesses accepting Pay with Square
MOORHEAD – Matt Hansen doesn’t like to carry his wallet when he’s out biking. And thanks to the Pay with Square app on his iPhone, he doesn’t have to – even if he wants a cup of coffee along the way.

MOORHEAD – Matt Hansen doesn’t like to carry his wallet when he’s out biking. And thanks to the Pay with Square app on his iPhone, he doesn’t have to – even if he wants a cup of coffee along the way.

When he’s in range of the Moxie Java coffee shop in Moorhead, Pay with Square lets the store’s iPad know that Hansen’s around. He walks in, places his order, the barista can see Hansen’s picture and name on the shop’s iPad, and then charge the order to his account.

“I just tell them my name and go,” said the 21-year-old Concordia College students. “So it’s kind of cool.”

There’s no receipt to sign, and the user can discreetly include a tip (or not) via the app if they want. It’s all digital and wireless.

A handful of businesses in the Fargo-Moorhead area accept Pay with Square, one of several services that could change the way we make everyday transactions.

Google, for example has a mobile payment app dubbed Google Wallet. It only works on Android phones with a near field chip (NRC). But, if your phone is NRC-equipped, you just tap your device to a reader at the checkout and enter your PIN. Other options for paying wirelessly include PayPal Mobile and LevelUp.

Hansen said he finds that he actually goes to Moxie Java more because he can use the app. That’s good news for Nancy Nerland, who owns the Moxie stores on Broadway in Fargo and Fourth Street in Moorhead.

“Well, who wouldn’t want more business?” she chuckled.

She said the service is “caching on” with customers

“Well, think about it. How many times do you forget your wallet or your purse?” she said. “(But) people never forget their phone.”

Pay with Square was developed by a company called Square. Square is also known for its small, square-shaped reader and accompanying service that allows businesses to process credit cards with an Android, iPhone or iPad. Square launched Pay with Square, previously called Card Case, in May 2011.

Like Nerland’s shops, Shari Wise’s First & Deli restaurant in downtown Fargo accepts Pay with Square. One of her regular customers came in as a traditional payer and left with her iPhone set up with PWS.

“(Her) kids all knew about it,” Wise said. “They were college-age kids, and they all said, ‘Mom, it takes two seconds,’ and they did it for her.”

“She loved it,” Wise said.

Wise seems to like it, too.

“The credit card processing is faster than our old line,” she said. “It’s instant, and they’re through the line.”

Plus there’s an advertising benefit. When a user opens the PWS app, it displays a list of businesses in the area that, like Wise, accept PWS.

“All the people that have that application, when they come into the area, I pop up on their phone,” Wise said. “So that has to be a benefit. People that are traveling, people that stay at the HoDo (Hotel Donaldson in downtown Fargo), I mean, all they have to do is turn their phone on, and my restaurant shows up as being able to accept that.”

Wise hasn’t seen a great volume of use of PWS in the weeks since accepting it, but she expects it to catch on and grow.

“They won’t have to carry their credit card. They’ll really just have to carry their phone,” she said. “I don’t think the younger generation is so fearful of the security.”

The Rising Bread Co. is one of at least three stores in the West Acres mall that accept Pay with Square. The other two are Cinamen Roll Co./Coolbird Creamery and Lighthouse Coffee. Not surprisingly, Rising Bread Co. manger Jeremy Leichtenberg said it’s more “the younger crowd that uses it.”

And Wise said, “The people that have used it seem to be techie” folks who are “into their technology.”

How the public takes to services like Pay with Square remains to be seen, but the app has a strong ally in the mobile payment game. In August, Square announced a partnership with java behemoth Starbuck. Beginning in the fall, customers will be able to use Pay with Square at an estimated 7,000 Starbucks shops, said Square spokeswoman Lindsay Wiese.

Square will process Starbucks U.S. credit and debit card transactions. Also, according to a Square statement, “Starbucks will invest $25 million in Square,” and “Starbucks chairman, president and CEO Howard Schultz will join Square’s Board of Directors.”

Fargo Moxie Java manager Tabitha Moerke is a fan of Pay with Square.

“I love it. It’s so easy,” she said. It’s faster than traditional payment “because all you’re doing is just pressing ‘Yes.’ ”

It’s anyone’s guess where technology will take shopping in the future. Moerke predicted that people will be able to order the same way they’re now paying with PWS.

“So you’ll be coming around the corner, and your order will be in our till,” he said.

Readers can reach Forum reporter Shane Mercer at (701) 451-5734

Area stores accepting Pay with Square mobile payments:

• Moxie Java

115 4th St, Moorhead

• Moxie Java

111 Broadway, Fargo

• First and Deli

520 1st Ave. N., Fargo

• Cinamen Roll Co./Coolbird Creamery

West Acres Shopping Center

3902 13th Ave. S., Fargo

• Lighthouse Coffee

West Acres Shopping Center

3902 13th Ave. S., Fargo

• Rising Bread Co.

West Acres Shopping Center

3902 13th Ave. S., Fargo