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Square begins taking orders for free credit card reader

May 11, 2010 |  4:40 pm

SquareSquare, the small gadget that can enable a cellphone to accept credit card payments, launched Tuesday, with applications for the iPhone, iPod Touch and Android. The app for the iPad became available a month ago at the launch of Apple's tablet computer.

The newest start-up from Twitter creator Jack Dorsey has begun taking orders for the plastic credit card-swiping gizmo on its website.

Each user can claim one Square device free of charge. The gadget is plugged into the headphone jack on a supported device and interfaces with the companion software.

In the meantime, anyone can sign up for an account and begin using the Square app as a payment terminal. Users can manually type in credit card numbers. Transaction fees are reduced when swiping a card through the attached Square accessory because the company can prove to financial institutions that a physical card was present during the sale.

The Times has been beta-testing Square for a few months. We met with Dorsey in New York recently, and he gave us the final prototype of the gadget, which, in addition to being more reliable at reading cards, is white instead of black.

Dorsey sees Craigslist as a major audience for his new service. But many consumers -- from friends looking to exchange cash after dinner to Girl Scouts selling cookies -- will appreciate the cashless payments and receipts dashboard, he said. (He despises paper receipts.)

Square users can list their Twitter handles on receipts -- not surprising considering the mastermind behind the microblogging network is at the help of the financial start-up. Expect more social features in the future -- though perhaps not on par with Blippy or Swipely -- because, as Dorsey said on the phone recently, "We see payments as inherently social."

-- Mark Milian

Photo credit: Tony Pierce / Los Angeles Times