Square taps tech-happy Aussie market

Lilly Vitorovich

(Australian Associated Press)

Square – the mobile payments business set up by Twitter founder Jack Dorsey – has chosen Australia as the first market outside the US to launch its new contactless card reader.

Australia’s high uptake of “tap and go” payments and love of smartphones was a key factor in Square bringing the latest version of its compact payments device Down Under – the first time the wireless reader has been used outside the United States.

Ben Pfisterer, country manager Australia for Square, says the reader – connected by wifi and powered by battery – is aimed at small to medium sized businesses.

Payment innovation is “quite developed” in Australia, Mr Pfisterer told AAP, and uptake of bank cards and credit cards is high.

An additional attraction of Australia was the prevalence of microchip-equipped cards and the popularity of contactless payment using systems such as Visa’s payWave and Mastercard’s PayPass.

“Australia is one of the most advanced payment markets in the world,” Mr Pfisterer said.

“Australians love contactless, up to 80 per cent of transactions done on Visa or Mastercard are done on contactless cards,” Mr Pfisterer said.

Square – co-founded by Twitter co-founder and chief executive Mr Dorsey in 2009 – is hoping its contactless card reader will be a successful follow-up to its original device, which launched in Australia in March.

The first Square reader is a palm-sized device that plugs into the headphone jack of a mobile phone or tablet.

Mr Pfisterer declined to provide any specific figures for Australian uptake, citing US disclosure rules, but said thousands of businesses have started using the product.

Square is popular with cafes and tourist operations such as paddleboard hire businesses, and is being targeted to regional communities too, he said.

Square’s chip card reader has grown the payment market in Australia, which is dominated by bank-owned card terminals.

“We did a survey recently and 80 per cent of the people that use Square weren’t using a traditional card terminal,” Mr Pfisterer said.

The other 20 per cent switched mainly because of portability and cost, he said.

Square’s original chip card reader was launched in the US seven years ago, followed by Canada and Japan.

The San Franciso-based company has changed tack with the latest version, which was launched in the US late last year, primarily because of Australia’s “very, very high” internet and smartphone penetration, Mr Pfisterer said.

“Australians love technology, they love gadgets, there’s a market for it,” he said.

The new reader will retail for $59 online and in a handful of stores from Tuesday – nearly three times more than the original reader, which sells for $19.

Once the reader’s app is downloaded, businesses can take payment using tap-and-go cards and mobile wallets such as Apple Pay and Android Pay, with Square charging a fee of 1.9 per cent on each transaction.


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