Square, the mobile payments company launched in 2009 by Twitter co-founder Jack Dorsey, is the name most often bandied about in tech circles these days when it comes to talk of credit-card swiping attachments made for iPhone. But Square was never alone on the mobile payments battlefront, and now it has a new competitor backed by a well-known brand name: Intuit.

Today Intuit is making its two-year-old premium GoPayment service free - a service which comes with a magnetic stripe reader attachment that hooks onto the iPhone, similar to the one Square offers.

 

Intuit GoPayment

Intuit's GoPayment's offering is a combination of a mobile application and, optionally, a magnetic stripe reader that attaches to the phone. Intuit no longer charges the $13/month fee or charges for the reader attachment (previously $219) - it's all free now*. But to make that possible, GoPayment takes a higher cut of the transactions with its new discount rate fee of 2.7% (before it was 1.7%). For key-entered and non-qualified transactions, the rate is 3.7%. In addition, $0.15 is charged per transaction. These fees are competitive with Square.

The above prices are what's available to low-volume customers - the same customers who may have been considering Square's reader instead. For high-volumne customers, there are different rates - a $12.95/month service fee; 1.7% for card swiped; 2.7% for key entered and 3.7% for non-qualified transactions, like corporate cards; and a $0.30 per transaction fee.

GoPayment also offers no long-term contracts, cancellation, gateway or set-up fees, it says. One account can enable up to 50 users and works on iPhone, iPad, Android, BlackBerry, plus some Palm and Nokia devices.

Merchants can accept a number of credit cards with the service, but additional fees apply when accepting cards other than Visa, MasterCard and Discover (like American Express or Diner's Club cards).

There is more than one type of hardware attachment available for use with GoPayment. Intuit partnered with Mophie for its iPhone reader, for example, the makers of iPhone battery-charging solutions like the Juice Pack. There are also Bluetooth-enabled readers and reader/printer combos available.

*One important note: GoPayment is only offering a free account and free reader to those who sign up by mid-February, after which prices may revert back, although Intuit isn't confiriming.

Square

Intuit's top-competitor (that is, if you go by what tech journalists like to write about) is Square, the startup launched by Twitter co-founder Jack Dorsey. Like GoPayment, Square includes both a mobile app and a credit card reading device - a small, square-shaped device whose shape gives the company its name.

Like GoPayment's (temporary) offer, the reader is free and there are no monthly service fees. The swiped transaction fee is 2.75%, a bit higher than Intuit's 2.7% but its per transaction fees are the same ($0.15/each). For keyed in transactions, the rate is 3.5% + $0.15.

Square says there are no gateway, monthly, early termination or hidden fees and you can accept an unlimited number of payments without restrictions on either transaction size or number of transactions. Square deposits your first $1,001 of sales per week into your bank account immediately. Any remaining amount is transferred after 30 days.

As a Square user, you can accept any U.S.-issued credit, debit, pre-paid, or gift card with a Visa, MasterCard, American Express or Discover logo.

Unlike GoPayments, Square is currently available for iPhone and Android only (select devices only) - not BlackBerry.

It should be noted, too, that Square is currently in a patent battle over the origins of its reader and the related patents. The company had previously run into a number of other issues, including production delays to compatibility issues with the iPhone 4.

Verifone PAYware Mobile

Like the above, Verifone's PAYware Mobile solution is a combination mobile app and optional reader hardware.

The service works on any iPhone (3G/3GS/4) device, iPad or iPod Touch, but only manual entry is supported on the iPhone 4, iPad and iPod. The company says it has plans to expand to BlackBerry, Windows Mobile and Android in the future.

The PAYware card encryption sleeve works on iPhone 3G/3GS only. This is PAYware's key selling point, as it touts the end-to-end encryption it offers, which meets the same security standards used by ATMs and Point-of-Sale terminals. Other vendors, it says, support SSL only, a software-based encryption method.

PAYWare also says the fees and fee structures will vary and doesn't list them on its site. Its rates will be based on risk criteria categorized into  "Qualified", "Mid-Qualified" and "Non-Qualified" tiers, as is standard. Rates will also vary depending on the type of business and whether or not a transaction is swiped or keyed in, also typical. In addition, gateway fees for access to the PAYware Connect gateway are charged, too.

You can get an idea of PAYware's fees, by checking out reseller's pricing plans, like this one, which lists setup fees, monthly fees, per transactions fees, etc.  For a more personalized quote, PAYware says t can go here for more info.

Typically though, a setup fee of $49 and monthly fees of $20 to $30 apply, as do per transaction fees, which are either taken as a straight amount or a percentage. The reader may be offered for free, depending on the contract length. It's usually sold for $139. The mobile application used along with the hardware is free.

PAYware accepts Visa, MasterCard, American Express and Discover credit and debit cards.

ROAMpay

ROAMpay, another mobile credit card device and app combo, is available for a number of phones, including the iPhone 3G/3GS/4, iPad, several Android devices, BlackBerry phones, select Nokia phones and many others. The Swiper hardware is available for several Android and Apple devices and BlackBerry.

Merchants can accept Visa, MasterCard and Discover credit and debit cards, and others.

To use ROAMpay, customers must contact their merchant account provider to see if they carry ROAMpay. If so, they will help you get signed up, which includes locating the appropriate hardware and downloading the $2.99 app from iTunes, if applicable. ROAMpay says this fee applies for any other phone that supports mobile apps, including Google Android devices and phones that offer Verizon Wireless's Get It Now service. With ROAMpay, your normal payment processing fees apply. You can also use ROAMpay on your PC or Mac.

If you don't have a merchant account, ROAMpay can connect you with its Payment Partners.

ROAMpay also promotes its security features - all payment info is double-encrypted as entered on the device and is never fully decrypted until it enters the payment gateway for processing by one of ROAM's payment platform partners. No sensitive data such as card numbers, magnetic stripe information or security codes are stored on the mobile device.