As I mentioned recently, I had an unfortunate experience with iZettle which forced me to find an alternative way of taking card payments from my pupils. Up until the time when the problem became apparent I had been happy with iZettle, and although it turned out to be due to a misunderstanding at their end the experience highlighted just how much I have come to rely on being able to take payments from my pupils this way – and how much of a disaster it would be if I were to lose that facility. So in the two weeks it took iZettle to resolve the issue, I ordered – and began using – a PayPal Here card reader.
Regular readers (and maybe those who have been looking for their own solution to taking card payments) may remember that I had originally had a major issue with PayPal Here when the service first started. On paper, it seemed to be exactly what I was looking for, but – and once more it was down to the ineptitude of support staff – there was an issue with “reserves”, and I was told that any money I took using PayPal Here would be held “in reserve” for 30 days before I could access it. Some support staff denied that this was the case, but on balance more of them insisted that it was. This was ridiculous, and I sent the card reader back and went with iZettle.
PayPal’s ads for their PayPal Here service have never mentioned reserves. As I say, I am certain that the support staff who created the problem didn’t know what they were talking about, but I couldn’t take the chance. Ironically, the issue with reserves was still there when I bought the PayPal Here reader this time around, but this was spotted by the very helpful support agent I spoke with before I even mentioned it, and he had the reserve removed from my account within a day. I still do not know how the hell that came about, as I have been a PayPal user for many years, although it turned out that my PayPal Here account was already “live” from my initial experience back in 2013, and I reckon that had something to do with it.
So, anyway. Armed with a new PayPal Here reader and a reserve-free PayPal account I set to work.
The first thing I noticed was that the reader boots up faster than the iZettle ones I am used to. It also connects to the app more quickly. However, for the first week I was frustrated at having to log in to PayPal every time I used the reader – in these security-conscious times, long and convoluted passwords are essential, but they are a complete pain in the arse when you have to both remember them and then type them in on a smartphone keypad. Once I stopped seething over it and looked into it, it became clear that you can pair specific mobile devices with PayPal and then set up passcode log ins. In other words, if you have a password like “g0bBl3d3G00k*!966” you can turn it into a passcode like “6543” and log in quickly using that. If you lost your phone, you’d just un-pair it with your account and the passcode would be history. So now I can log in to the app in a few seconds, which is no problem at all (note that if you leave the reader on and the app running you stay logged in – I don’t do that, though, as I may not use the reader for hours – or even days – at a time sometimes).
The reader PayPal supplies is the v2.0 (the one I originally purchased back in 2013 was the v1.0). It can accept chip & pin, swipe, or contactless payments. In the UK, swipe cards went out with the Ark – or certainly after 2005, although America is still 10 years or more behind on this – which basically means that pretty much anyone over here who has a credit card, debit card, or “cheque guarantee” card has a chip & pin card. However, I was intrigued by the “contactless” facility, and when I looked into it I realised that most new chip & pin cards being issued by the major banks also have RFID or NFC built into them. I was anxious to try this out.
I checked the debit card of my first pupil who wanted to pay by card and noticed it had the contactless symbol on it. (that’s the one shown on the display in the image above), so after I’d entered the lesson fee into the app and touched “charge” I asked her to place the card over the reader. Four green lights immediately came on and the transaction was completed in the blink of an eye. Everyone else simply used the chip & pin slot at the bottom (one pupil had a contactless card, and we’ve tried it over several lessons and it doesn’t register – her card appears to be faulty).
I also have pupils paying using contactless via their smartphones – it turns out that an increasing number of young people move money around various accounts and access it from their phones. Being able to pay by holding their phone over the PayPal Here reader is very useful to them.
But now we come to the major advantage (from my perspective) over iZettle’s system. At the end of each day I open the PayPal Here app, go into my recent transactions history, and transfer however much of the balance that I want (i.e. all of it) into my bank account. It appears in my account within a few minutes, though the app says to allow 3-5 working days. In iZettle’s case – and I had pointed out my wishes in several customer satisfaction surveys that they should enable “faster payments” – it took at least one day for iZettle to approve the transaction, then a further couple of days for the money to appear in my account. And don’t forget we are talking about working days, not weekends, so any payments I took on a Friday would not be approved by iZettle until Monday evening, and they wouldn’t end up in my account until probably Tuesday sometime. Bank Holidays – including those in Sweden, where iZettle is based – delayed this even further, as did the periodic “we’re sorry, but…” emails reporting delays in transactions going through from iZettle. But with PayPal – and I’ve yet to try it over a Bank Holiday – a payment made by a pupil could easily be credited to my bank account within a few minutes if I transferred it immediately. Although I don’t actually need the money that quickly, this immediate transfer means I know exactly where I am at any time since no money is tied up in limbo.
I want to make it clear one more time: I was happy with iZettle, and if the problem I mentioned in that previous article hadn’t happened then I’d still be using them. But having now experienced and become used to PayPal Here, I think I’m going to be very happy using them.
How long do PayPal Here payments take to clear?
For all practical purposes, they’re instant.
When you take a card payment either by chip & PIN or contactless, funds are instantly transferred to your PayPal Here account. You can leave them there, or transfer them to your bank account whenever it suits you – either from the app or from PayPal on your computer.
The only minor issue is that you have to physically carry out the transfer to your bank – you’d need to be taking far more money per month using PayPal Here than an ADI could possibly achieve to have the facility for automatic transfers to your bank (something like 800 hours of lessons a month would do it!). The main point is that customers’ money is instantly available to you when you take a payment. I carry out the transfer usually at the end of each day, or every few days, as I remember to do it.
I did discover that if you do a signature transaction (the app asks the customer to sign on the touchscreen) then it takes a couple of days to clear. I found this out when I transferred some money from my prepaid MasterCard to my bank account via PayPal Here to test it out. It won’t affect your pupils.