Card Payments without Wi-Fi for Community Organizations and Sports Clubs

How to take card payments with no WiFi and no mobile phone

for Little Leagues, Football and Soccer Clubs, Festivals, and more

Square Reader

Everyone knows you can take payments on your phone. Mobile businesses, especially tradespeople, now use their phones with the Square Point of Sale card and tap readers.

But what about community organizations that are operating in a place with no WiFi and don’t have a phone with a data plan for their organization. Lots of them think they can’t take mobile payments. But they can, for around $10 a month.

Jericho Concession Stand

That’s the situation that Jericho Little League in Vancouver was facing.  It had operated a little concession for years out of a public park building, with customers paying cash, just like the old days. But JLL thought it was missing out on some revenue to support their programs because people carry cash so much less than they used to. They wanted people to be able to use cards for chips (pun intended) and hotdogs, but they also wanted to sell some bigger-ticket clothing and equipment in the park.

One option would have been to use the data plan from a club official or board member, but then that person would have to be around all the time and it might accidentally use up their data.

So here’s what Jericho Little League did to allow card payments at the park. It took in $8500 in card payments in just a couple of months of the season. That’s lots of hoodies and hot dogs!

Jericho’s All-star teams also used WeVu for slow-mo swing analysis so they could share phone-recorded video among the coaches and players and make comments on the videos.

Step by step guide to setting up mobile Point-of-Sale with no Wi-Fi and no phone

What you’ll need

  • Actually, you’ll need a smartphone, but the good news is that you can use any old phone that is unlocked and can serve as a wireless hotspot (even one with a cracked screen). Your organization surely has a member who can donate one.
  • The cheapest, no-contract, prepaid mobile phone service that allows data to be purchased in chunks.
    • In the USA we recommend US Mobile. Order their starter kit online for 4 bucks and then get a monthly data plan of 1GB for only $11. Don’t bother getting any talk or text unless you need it.
    • In Canada, it’ll cost more than south of the border, but Koodo mobile prepaid is pretty good. You have to go to a Koodo or a dealer to buy a SIM card for $10 which you’ll get back in credit. Then get the $15/month plan and add a 1GB booster for another $30. The good news is the 1GB data doesn’t expire so you might be able to use it for months. (Just make sure the phone isn’t updating ANYTHING – see below).
  • A Square account and a card reader. You can get all the details at https://squareup.com or https://squareup.ca. You can buy what you need at most electronics retailers or order it online. You’ll have to have an organization bank account so Square can put your funds in there! You could also examine some of the alternatives to Square.
  • Optional but really useful: An inexpensive or donated old tablet/iPad if you want things to be a bit easier for the staff and volunteers making the sales. Your organization can ask for a donation or can pick up a perfectly good Android tablet for around $100 like the Asus Zenpad 8 or the Lenovo Tab 10.
  • A stand for the phone or the tablet. Phone stands can cost under $10. For a tablet stand, you’ll want one that has swivel and tilt so it can be spun around to show the customers. There are some inexpensive ones, but make sure the stand is heavy enough that it stays put.

 

How to get started if you’re using a tablet along with the phone hotspot

  1. Get the Square Point of Sale App from the App Store or Google Play. Install it on the phone and the tablet. We recommend doing this at someone’s home using WiFi so you don’t use the phone data. When you’ve got the app, sign in.
  2. Get everything charged up. Ideally, you’ll have power accessible and you can plug in the phone and the tablet (if using) and the square card reader. But even if you don’t, you’ll just need to have a place to store the phone and tablet and reader where they can be charged overnight. Jericho Little League had an equipment storeroom next to the concession where they had the charging set up for the tablet and card reader. They left the phone plugged in and hidden in the concession.
  3. Put the SIM card into the phone. Turn it on and make sure you have 3G or LTE network service indicated in the top bar and that you can browse to a webpage. Then turn on the WiFi Hotspot on the phone.
    1. Most Android phones let you do this from the notifications bar you can swipe open from the top.
      1. You’ll need to long-press Hotspot. (Or find it in Settings-Network & Internet-Hotspot & Tethering)
      2. Find something like ‘Set up Wi-Fi hotspot’. It’s best if you don’t name the Hotspot with your organization’s name because then people will notice it. It’s probably best to leave it with the default name which is likely the model of the phone.
      3. Enter a ‘Wi-Fi Password’ that you record somewhere for your organization, but don’t share it widely, otherwise your data might get used.
    2. On an iPhone:
      1. Open Settings and select Cellular or Mobile Data
      2. Tap Personal Hotspot and set it to On
      3. It’s best if you don’t name the Hotspot with your organization’s name because then people will notice it. It’s probably best to leave it with the default name which is likely the model of the phone.
      4. Tap ‘Wi-Fi Password’ and enter one that you record somewhere for your organization, but don’t share it widely, otherwise your data might get used.
  4. Important! Go into the settings and turn off the updating of apps and the phone operating system. You don’t want it using up your data plan.
    1. For iPhone, disable app updates using this guide. And disable iOS updates using this one.
    2. On Android, disable apps and system updates using this guide.
  5. Set up the tablet. Put it on the stand you bought. It’s best to set up the tablet with a PIN that is only known to a few people and the people who will be setting up for sales each day.
    1. First, connect it to your phone Wi-Fi hotspot. You’ll just go to your WiFi settings on the tablet, find the hotspot name from above (probably the phone model), and enter the password. Make sure you get the usual Wi-Fi bars and can get to a simple web page on the tablet browser.
    2. Turn on bluetooth from the settings menu. Put the charged-up card reader withing a few feet of the tablet.
    3. Open the Square Point of Sale app on the tablet. Go to Settings – Card Readers. Tap the Connect a reader button. Follow the instructions there, which will get you to use the little teeny button on the side of the card reader.
  6. Now test the reader. In the tablet POS app, on the main menu choose Checkout. There should be a tab or a button called “Keypad”. Choose it and enter something like $1. That’ll go into a blue bar that says “Charge $1.00”. Tap that. Then you can use the card reader by inserting a card or tapping a card or a phone that has Apple Pay or Google Pay. It should work!
  7. Go to Transactions on the app and see that you’ve made the transaction. If you want to try refunding that dollar transaction you can, following the guide here.
  8. At the end of each day the equipment has to be returned to the charging location.

Good luck!

 

Next Steps

Once you’ve got the setup working, you’ll want to add your items to Square so that your staff and volunteers can easily tap on squares on a grid to choose the items the customer is buying. It’s cool – you can add pictures and sort items into categories like clothing or food. You can do that in the app or on a computer. Again, it’s best to do this at home or in an office using real Wi-Fi so you don’t use up your phone data plan. But Jericho did a little bit on the fly during the season and it didn’t use much data.

Here is a Word doc with instructions you can give to the people who’ll be setting up and making sales. You can edit it a bit to fit your context.

Things to consider

Some organizations use Square for both card and cash transactions so they can track revenue and inventory. You should consider whether you do it for cash as well or just card transactions.

You might want to examine some of the alternatives to Square.

You’ll have to figure out the best setup for charging to keep the equipment secure. It may be that someone has to take them home at night and return them or pass them on to the next people working.