Marketing & Sales Series: Pt 4 ~ Mobile POS Payment Options for Your Customers


Square mobile device

Have you considered turning your smartphone or tablet into a cash register when you’re selling at the farmers market, making deliveries or otherwise interfacing with your customers? If you’re not already accepting EBT payments at the farmers market, do you know just how easy it is to set up?

Today, our Marketing & Sales series continues with a discussion of why a mobile point of sale (POS) system may be right for your operation, including recommendations on the best systems out there. Additionally, we discuss the CalFresh EBT program and ways you and your market can easily offer this type of payment system, and increase your customer base.

What is a mobile POS?

A mobile POS is a smartphone, tablet, or other wireless device that performs the functions of a cash register, anywhere there is a cellular or wireless internet connection. In just a few steps, a smartphone or tablet can be transformed into a mobile POS with a downloadable mobile app, and some simple hardware (a credit card reader, hand-held docking station or printer).

After setup, the POS system links to your bank account and can often also be an integrated component of your larger accounting and data management system. Either way, the cardholder’s information is encrypted and stored in a remote server, “the cloud”, so your customers’  privacy is protected and secure.

Benefits of mobile POS

Cost savings:

Man Buying Carrots at an Outdoor MarketTraditional POS systems often involve an up-front fee of around $3,000, with some running as high as $50,000. Additionally, you can expect to pay an annual software license fee per registrant and a yearly maintenance fee of 18-20 percent for upgrades. And, since costs are paid up front, chances are you’re stuck with the system you choose, even if you don’t like it.

Mobile POS systems, however, can be up and running for as little as $1,000 or less, with no upfront fees. Cost-savings also extend across the lifetime of the service – you pay a low monthly fee (which also includes instant software upgrades, support, back-up, and upgrades), and you can cancel at any time.

Easy integration of sales and marketing tools:

In this age of constant information, many of us have come to expect instant, anytime, anywhere access to the data that matters most to us. Cloud-based mobile POS systems make this a reality, giving you fingertip access to sales and inventory data. Other tools let you track sales volume by employee and manage inventory.

Ease of management:

Not only does mobile POS cut the costs involved in managing your systems, it is also easy to maintain itself.  All the software upgrades are as easy as updating your mobile application (or instant); system providers offer troubleshooting, and your applications and data are securely backed-up and stored in the cloud. No need to invest in additional service contracts or IT.

Drawbacks of mobile POS

Internet Downtime:

You’ll need a good cellular or internet connection to process transactions and manage your data. If you are worried about outages, then this type of POS may not be for you. The good news is that some providers are offering off-line services that let you sync transactions when you come back online.

Recommended mobile POS systems

PayAnywhereThis is one of the least expensive options available for mobile credit card reader apps. By giving you the basic features without setup costs, hidden fees, or minimum monthly payments, this is a good app if you’re looking for a low-cost, quick solution.

  • What’s included: The card reader and app are both free, and it doesn’t require a contract.
  • Fees: Charges a rate of 2.69 percent per card swipe.

SquareThis is one of the most recognizable and popular apps. The sleekness and small size of this app make it attractive and simple to use. It plugs right into the audio jack of your device. Funds are deposited directly into your back account following a transaction.

  • What’s included: The card reader and app are both free, and it doesn’t require a contract.
  • Fees: Charges a rate of 2.75 percent per card swipe.

PayAnywhere mobile device

PayPal HereWith this app and accompanying hardware, your customers can pay directly from their mobile PayPal accounts. Customers check in with your business on their mobile PayPal app and then transfer funds to your account to settle their bill.

  • What’s included: No additional setup costs or monthly fees, and it doesn’t require a contract.
  • Fees: Charges a rate of 2.7 percent of the final sale amount.

Intuit GoPaymentThis system is similar to Square, but it works with Androids, iPhones and other Apple products, as well as BlackBerry devices. If you estimate a higher number of transactions per month, this is a great option for your business. The app can also link to Quickbooks.

  • What’s included: The card reader and app are both free, and it doesn’t require a contract.
  • Fees: Charges a monthly fee of about $20, and a rate of 1.75 percent per card swipe.

MarketLink national EBT program: This machine is a mobile POS system and EBT processing system in one. See details below.

Now that we’ve discussed the many mobile POS systems that process credit cards, it is also important to mention a great program here in CA supporting SNAP access at the farmers market. The CalFresh EBT program supplies mobile EBT processing systems to farmers markets across the state and in turn helps vendors offer more flexible payment options to their customers. Read on to learn what this program is all about and how you can get your market involved.

CalFresh EBT Program

Since pioneering CA’s Point of Sale model at the Ecology Center’s Berkeley farmers market in 2003, the Farmers Market EBT Program has worked with markets statewide to identify the barriers to CalFresh EBT adoption and overcome them. Today they’ve established EBT payment programs at nearly 400 markets across the state. To find a market near you that accepts EBT, use this handy, interactive Farmers Market Finder map tool.

What is Electronic Benefit Transfer (EBT)?

Recipients of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), or CalFresh, are no longer issued paper Food Stamps. Instead, they are issued an EBT card where recipients can access their food benefits electronically by swiping their card at the point of sale.

EBT program at Ecology Center farmers market

EBT program at Ecology Center farmers market

In order to accept CalFresh EBT cards, farmers markets typically establish a central point of sale model, allowing the market to sell EBT scrip (a type of currency, in the form of paper or tokens, designed to be unique to each market) to customers at a central point in the market. The customer then spends their EBT scrip with any eligible food producer in the market and the market manager later redeems the scrip for cash or in place of a stall fee.

This system requires the farmers market manager or operator to become authorized as a SNAP retailer by the Federal Nutrition Services (FNS), and to implement and promote the EBT program.

How to accept EBT at your market?

If you’re a farmer or market manager that wants to start a CalFresh EBT program, check out the Simple Guide for Market Managers. It will walk you through the process, step-by-step.

The great thing about this program is that the California Department of Social Services (CDSS) will provide a free wireless POS terminal to process CalFresh EBT at your farmers market and will provide and maintain the equipment, and pay all associated fees. First, apply online to be authorized by the USDA to accept EBT cards. Processing of paperwork should take no more than 45 days.

MarketLink national EBT program (Mobile POS and EBT system in one)

Similarly to the CalFresh EBT program, MarketLink is a national program developed by the USDA and the National Association of Farmers Market Nutrition Program to also increase SNAP access at farmers markets. However, this program is a little bit different in that it’s a mobile platform that supports credit, debit, and SNAP transactions.

When you sign up, the program provides a free iPhone 5c, card reader, printer, data services from Mobile Market+, and a merchant account from WorldPay. It charges credit and debit card transactions at 1.79 percent + 15 cents per transaction and SNAP transactions at 15 cents per transaction. Sign up is expedited with USDA.

Get more information, see if you qualify and check out the step-by-step sign-up process.

Thank you to Caron Beesley at for her great insight into the value of mobile POS systems.

To view more resources on marketing and sales, visit our Marketing & Sales Toolkit. There, you’ll find easy-to-use info sheets, checklists, worksheets, and recommended resources. 

We’re continuing to expand the Marketing & Sales Toolkit, so stay tuned for more resources!

If you happened to miss them, check out our other features in the Marketing & Sales series:

If you have questions or words of wisdom about mobile point of sale systems, visit FarmsReach Conversations and post a question or comment!

If you have other great resources to share, get in touch. We’d love to hear from you.

One Thought on “Marketing & Sales Series: Pt 4 ~ Mobile POS Payment Options for Your Customers

  1. “The great thing about this program is that the California Department of Social Services (CDSS) will provide a free wireless POS terminal to process CalFresh EBT at your farmers market and will provide and maintain the equipment, and pay all associated fees.”

    Thank you, Eva, for such a great article. I do want to make a gentle correction, and put in a plug for the FREE CalFresh EBT POS machines. These wireless terminals are not just for use at farmers’ markets, but you are also able to use them if you have an on-farm stand or a CSA. Farmers’ markets have done a very good job at outreach & coordinating EBT/SNAP sales, but the real opportunity for growth here is for farmers that have a CSA or do on-farm sales. To me, that’s the beauty of it! You might not apply for one of the free POS machines if the market(s) you sell at already have a system in place for accepting EBT. But what about your other direct sales channels? It’s free and there are no transaction fees! Numbers vary, but from what I’ve seen, it seems to average out at about a 20% increase in sales when you accept EBT.

    We just did a blog post about this on our website:

    There’s a great toolkit put out by Petaluma Bounty/Foodies Project:

    Also, Dianne Padilla-Bates at CA Dept of Social Services really wants to help you with the paperwork – so contact her first! She’s listed in both of these resources I’ve mentioned.

    And at California Institute for Rural Studies, we’re working on go-alongs for an awareness campaign – handouts & posters that consumers can share with their favorite farmer to encourage them to sign up! Can you imagine if every farmer in California were able to accept EBT? So much more variety and access for EBT/SNAP shoppers, and so many more customers and dollars for farmers. It truly is a win-win!


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Post Navigation