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What Is A QR Code Payment? Everything You Need To Know About Scan To Pay Methods

    Shannon Vissers
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You’ve certainly seen them and probably used them: QR codes (short for “Quick Response” code) are those funky-looking square barcodes that seem to be cropping up everywhere. More and more businesses are using these multipurpose 2D codes, both to provide customers with information and to collect customers’ information. QR code payment technology—sometimes called “Scan to pay”—is also growing in popularity as a socially distanced way to collect mobile payments at businesses, and especially at restaurants.

If you haven’t yet considered implementing a QR code payment system at your business, you really should. QR code payments are quickly becoming the norm, and they are easy to get started with. Some POS systems have built-in QR payment acceptance, but you can also accept QR code payments without a POS. Accepting a QR code payment can be as easy as printing a code that’s scannable with a QR code payment app most of your customers already have on their phone.

Keep reading to learn more about QR code payments and how to offer your customers a “Pay with QR code” option.

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What Is A QR Code Payment? 

A QR code payment is a transaction your customer completes by scanning a two-dimensional barcode using their phone’s camera. Upon scanning, the customer is prompted to open a website or app through which they complete their payment, using a credit card or mobile wallet such as PayPal or Apple Pay.

Why You Should Offer Customers A “Pay With QR Code” Option

Though the technology has been around for a while —QR codes were invented in 1994—this payment method really took off during COVID. Why is that? QR codes provide a touch-free, socially distanced way for customers to order and pay at a business, even in cases when businesses are physically closed. QR codes let customers do things like browse your menu and pay for their meal using their own devices, without the need to hand over a credit card or wait for their server to notice them. Scan to pay can also work in retail settings, allowing window-shoppers to easily order products online even when your storefront is closed.

Even looking beyond the pandemic, customers increasingly want to pay using their own mobile devices, thanks to the ease and convenience of mobile payments. In general, the more payment options you offer your customers, the better. For businesses, QR code payments also eliminate certain overhead costs: since the transaction is completed entirely online, you don’t need a POS system or even an employee present to facilitate the transaction. Because QR codes open up a website on the customer’s phone, they also present opportunities for marketing and customer relationship management—for example, you can collect the customer’s email address along with their payment.

6 Best QR Code Payment Systems & Scan To Pay Apps

The best QR code payment system for your business depends on your industry, POS needs, and other factors. Some of these QR code payment app options are POS apps, while others such as Venmo can be used without a POS. Read on to learn about the top QR code payment systems.

1. Clover

Clover POS



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Best All-In-One POS System

Clover is a popular Android-based POS system that combines sleek POS hardware with payment processing in one easy package. Clover has several hardware options–including Clover Station, Clover Mini, and Clover Flex— and can be used in many different industries. Clover is an especially popular POS option for quick-serve and fast-casual dining. Now, Clover has a few ways businesses can accept QR code payments.

Restaurants using Clover Dining can allow customers to scan a QR code on their receipt to pay on their iPhone using Apple Pay. One downside is that Clover charges card-not-present rates for QR code Apple Pay transactions— a hefty 3.5% + $0.10. Clover fees for monthly service are $39.95 or $69.95/month, depending on the plan, with the option of a month-to-month contract if you purchase from Clover directly.

Clover also recently introduced an integration with PayPal and Venmo. To accept a PayPal or Venmo payment on a Clover POS, the merchant simply displays a QR code on their screen, which customers can scan to pay with their PayPal or Venmo app. This integration opens up Clover QR code payments to industries other than restaurants. Clover merchants can talk to their Clover service provider to discuss how to add PayPal and Venmo QR code payment acceptance.

Pros

  • Apple Pay QR code payments for restaurants
  • Venmo & PayPal QR code payments for any business
  • All-in-one POS system
  • Month-to-month pricing

Cons

  • Card-not-present transaction fees for QR code payments with Clover Dining (3.5% + $0.10)
  • Customer must have Apple Pay, Venmo, or PayPal for QR code payment

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2. Square

Square POS



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Best For Versatility

Square is such a powerhouse in the POS and mobile payments worlds that it’s hard to think of something this system can’t do. You can use Square to take payments at your brick-and-mortar business, on the go, or online, with many different hardware options and add-ons. Square can be used for just about any industry and any size business, though it’s especially popular with quick-serve restaurants, small retailers, mobile businesses, and service-based businesses (such as hairstylists).

Like PayPal Here, Square has no monthly fee; you only pay a flat 2.6% + $0.10 on in-person credit card transactions, and 2.9% + $0.30 per QR code transaction and other Square online payments.

There are several different ways to use Square to accept QR codes at your business. When completing any transaction on the Square POS app, the customer can scan a QR code on your POS device and pay on their own phone—and also add a tip, if they like. You can also print out QR codes on receipts or for a larger display.

Note that QR codes in checkout (when the customer pays by scanning the QR code on your POS screen) are not supported on Square Terminal at this time. However, Square Register or Square Stand (for iPad) will both display scannable QR codes, as will smartphones running the Square POS app.

Pros

  • No monthly fee
  • Multiple ways to accept QR code payments
  • Works for both mobile and brick-and-mortar businesses in any industry
  • Customer doesn’t need to have any particular app installed

Cons

  • QR codes charged online processing rate of 2.9% + $0.30

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3. Toast

Toast POS



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Best For Modern Restaurant Ordering 

Toast is an Android POS system designed expressly for restaurants. This tech-forward system is an excellent choice for any type of restaurant business that wants to modernize its ordering system. In addition to built-in QR code payment acceptance, Toast has many other digital ordering and payment options, including tableside ordering devices for servers, online ordering with curbside pickup, delivery management, and mobile ordering with the Toast Takeout app. Toast also makes it easy for your sit-down restaurant patrons to both order and pay from their own phones with Scan to pay.

To complete a QR code payment in Toast with Scan to pay, your customer scans a printed QR code on their receipt and is then directed to complete their payment online or within the Toast Takeout app (if they have it installed). iPhone users also have the option to pay with Apple Pay. If you have Toast Loyalty, customers will also be prompted to sign up for rewards when they check out with Scan to pay.

Scan to pay transactions are charged at Toast’s card-not-present rate: 3.5% + $0.15 for Visa, Mastercard, and Discover, and 3.89% + $0.15 for AMEX. The monthly cost to use Toast ranges from $0 to $272/month for one device. and contracts may be as long as 3 years.

Pros

  • POS system designed specifically for restaurants
  • Built-in Scan to pay system doesn’t need any third-party app integrations
  • Built-in loyalty integration
  • Advanced digital ordering features

Cons

  • Card-not-present transaction fees charged for QR code payments (3.5% + $0.15)
  • Long-term processing contract

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4. Venmo

Venmo



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Best For Getting Started With QR Code Payments

PayPal-owned Venmo is a household name in peer-to-peer payments. In 2017, Venmo introduced QR code payments that made it easier for friends to pay each other. But what many people still don’t know is that businesses can also accept Venmo payments using QR codes.

Certain POS systems, such as PayPal Here and Clover, allow you to accept in-person Venmo payments directly from your point of sale. If your POS supports Venmo, the customer can scan a QR code on your POS and pay from their own Venmo app. Another way to accept Venmo at your business is by setting up a Venmo Business Profile. When you set up a Venmo Business Profile, you’ll be issued a QR code for your business that customers can scan to pay you, either from a screen or a print-out. However, if Venmo isn’t integrated with your POS, your Venmo QR code transactions will be separate from your point of sale.

Although Venmo QR code payments may not integrate with your POS, Venmo can be a good way to get started with QR code payments at your business. Venmo can also be useful for new businesses that don’t have a full POS system yet, and you can get shoutouts in customers’ Venmo feeds every time they shop via QR code (if their account is set to public).

The fee to accept a Venmo QR code payment through a Venmo Business Profile is just 1.9% + $0.10, though the fee will likely be higher if you accept Venmo through your POS. There is no monthly fee to accept Venmo payments through a Business Profile.

Read The Complete Guide To Using Venmo For Business: Fees, Features, & How To Get Started to learn more about accepting Venmo at your business.

Pros

  • Accept Venmo payments in-person
  • Can be used to accept QR code payments without a POS
  • QR code processing as low as 1.9% + $0.10
  • Free marketing in customers’ Venmo feeds
  • Integrates with PayPal Here and Clover POS

Cons

  • Customer needs to have Venmo app
  • Limited POS integration options

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5. PayPal Here

PayPal Zettle



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Best For Accepting PayPal & Venmo In-Person

As of August 2, 2021, PayPal has changed its pricing for online payment processing, affecting new and existing merchants. The new rates are complicated and not easy to summarize, so we recommend reading our article on PayPal's pricing to understand how the new prices will affect your business.

PayPal’s mobile POS app, PayPal Here, can be used to accept in-person PayPal and Venmo QR code payments at your business. The app also has some other good things going for it, including automatic syncing with your business PayPal account, making PayPal Here an ideal mobile POS for PayPal sellers who also sell in person. However, you don’t have to be a PayPal seller to benefit from PayPal Here’s convenient and easy-to-use POS. It’s also free to use, with no monthly software fee: you just pay a flat 2.7% fee on all transactions, including both credit cards and QR code payments.

As far as hardware, the app works on iPhones, iPads, and select Android smartphones and tablets. This means you can use it as a mobile POS for on-the-go credit card processing and QR code payments or as part of a countertop POS solution. By itself, PayPal Here is a pretty basic mobile POS. But if you need a more complete POS solution with industry-specific features, you can use PayPal Here processing with Vend POS for retail or Lavu POS for restaurants. 

To have your customer pay with a QR code, simply enter the amount due on your PayPal Here app and select “QR code.” Your customer then opens the Venmo or PayPal app on their phone, scans the code, and payment is processed. The downside is that the customer will need to have their own PayPal and Venmo accounts (and apps) in order to scan for mobile payment.

Pros

  • Accept in-person PayPal and Venmo payments
  • Reasonable fee for QR code payments (2.7%)
  • No monthly fee
  • Syncs with your PayPal business account

Cons

  • Basic mobile POS not ideal for larger businesses
  • Customer needs PayPal or Venmo to make QR payment

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6. Upserve

Upserve POS



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Best For Flat Fees On All Transactions

Like Toast, Upserve by Lightspeed is a tablet-based POS designed specifically for restaurants. Also like Toast, Upserve has built-in payment processing that includes support for QR code payments. Guests can pay for their meal from their smartphone by scanning a QR code from either a printed receipt or an Upserve Tableside payments device.

Upserve does not support Apple Pay or Google Wallet with Scan and pay; however, Upserve has the benefit of a very reasonable transaction rate for QR code payments. Upserve charges a flat 2.49% + $0.15 on all transactions, including QR codes, credit card and NFC payments, and even online orders.

Upserve can be used at any size and type of restaurant establishment, from coffee houses to fine dining. There are versions for iPad and Android tablets, and the system includes restaurant management features, such as recipe costing, vendor management, labor reporting, and more. Monthly software pricing ranges from $59 to $359/month for one terminal, and the typical processing contract is 3 years.

Pros

  • Built-in QR code payments with no third-party app needed
  • Option to scan QR code from printed receipt or tableside device screen
  • Affordable Scan and pay pricing (2.49% + $0.15)

Cons

  • Can’t accept mobile wallets with QR code payments
  • Long-term processing contract

Get Started with Upserve POS

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Is “Scan To Pay” Better Than “Tap To Pay”?

QR code payments, or Scan to pay, are different from Tap to pay, or NFC payments. Tapped payments (NFC) use “Near Field Communication” in which a mobile device or NFC credit card must be held closely—within about an inch—to an NFC scanner. These two payment forms do have certain things in common, though, as they are both technically contactless, and both can use mobile wallets such as Apple Pay.

Advantages Of Scan To Pay:

  • You don’t need POS hardware to complete the transaction (if QR code is printed)
  • Customers can maintain a greater distance when paying
  • Transactions are more private since they are completed on the customer’s own device
  • Can save restaurants time since a server is not needed to run payments

Advantages Of Tap To Pay:

  • Usually has a lower processing fee—tapped payments are usually the same as the swiped credit card rate, while QR code payments are often charged at a higher card-not-present rate
  • Much quicker for counter-service, smaller retail transactions, and line-busting
  • Can take payments from Apple Watch and other NFC-capable devices
  • Doesn’t require a phone (if the customer has a contactless credit card)

With either type of payment, your customer may need to have a particular mobile app installed, such as PayPal, Venmo, or Samsung Pay. However, Tap to pay can also accept contactless NFC credit cards in the event that a customer doesn’t have a phone or doesn’t use a mobile wallet.

Finally, it’s important to note that businesses can offer both QR codes and NFC payment acceptance—you don’t have to use one or the other. And most modern credit card terminals are already equipped with NFC acceptance.

5 Questions To Ask Yourself Before Adding A “Pay With QR Code” Option

The answers to these questions will help you determine if QR code payments are right for your business, and how you might go about implementing this tech.

  1. Do you want to switch POS systems or would you rather integrate QR code payments into your current POS?
  2. How much does your current POS charge for QR code payments?
  3. How would you incorporate QR codes into your current business model or ordering system?
  4. Do you operate a fast-based business, or do you run a sit-down restaurant or service-based business where customers can take a few moments to complete a payment on their phone (preferably while seated)?
  5. Are there situations in which you could use a QR code to take orders/payments when your physical storefront is closed?

Which QR Payment Setup Is Right For Me?

QR code payments bridge mobile payments and online payments to offer a unique way for customers to pay on their own devices. Now that you know more about QR code payment technology and implementation, hopefully, you have a better sense of whether a QR code payment system is right for you, and which kind of system you need. No matter the type of business you have, it’s good to offer customers at least some alternative payment options. To learn more about accepting alternative payments at your business, read What Are Alternative Payments? 10 Alternative Payment Methods To Know About.

In Summary: 6 Best QR Code Payment Systems & Scan To Pay Apps

  1. Clover POS: Best for users wanting an all-in-one POS system.
  2. Square POS: Best for versatility.
  3. Toast POS: Best for modern restaurant ordering.
  4. Venmo: Best for getting started with QR code payments.
  5. PayPal Zettle: Best for accepting PayPal & Venmo in-person.
  6. Upserve POS: Best for flat fees on all transactions.
Shannon Vissers

Shannon Vissers

Expert Analyst & Reviewer at Merchant Maverick
The former editor-in-chief of SteelOrbis, Shannon has been researching and writing about small business software and financing since 2015. Her retail and personal finance expertise has been cited in numerous publications, including Reader's Digest, MSN, Yahoo Finance, and GOBankingRates . She has also published articles for LIVESTRONG.COM, eHow, Life'd, and other websites. Shannon attended San Diego State University, graduating in 2005 with a BA in English.
Shannon Vissers
View Shannon Vissers's professional experience on LinkedIn.

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