Payline Mobile (CardPointe) Review
Looking for a free POS with a free card reader?
- Phone Number
- (888) 265-4565
- Date Established
- Chicago, IL
- Free virtual terminal
- Free sub-user accounts
- Low monthly fees
- Many features
- Transparent cost-plus pricing
- No early termination fees
- Simple POS features
Payline Mobile has always been a favorite of ours here at Merchant Maverick. And while quite a bit has changed recently behind the scenes at Payline, but I’m still excited about Payline Mobile and all of its potential.
Account holds and freezes are a lot more common in the mobile processing space because many of the major companies — including Square and PayPal — rely on a third-party processing model for their business. There aren’t a lot of merchant account providers out there that will offer mobile processing to low-volume merchants. Typically, merchant accounts cater to businesses handling at least $5,000/month, if not $10,000/month, in credit card sales.
Payline Mobile ticks all of the right boxes. While it’s not the absolute lowest pricing, you do get fair, transparent payment processing, and the kind of stability you can’t get even with Square. The one drawback is a $25 monthly minimum, which means if you aren’t regularly processing at least $1,000/month in credit cards, you will end up paying a small fee. (We’ll get into that in the Fees & Rates section of this review.)
Processing less than $1,000 per month?
If you do choose to use the Payline mobile service, you’ll get access to the CardPointe mobile app, made by CardConnect. You can check out our complete CardConnect review for more information about the total suite of products. I do want to draw attention to one key fact: When you check out the CardConnect site, you’ll see that it bills itself as “A First Data company.”
But wait, doesn’t First Data (read our review) also own Clover Go, another mobile solution?
You’re absolutely correct. First Data owns a lot of other companies — a lot of different payment processing solutions, for that matter –and it resells them to all of the smaller companies that use First Data as a back-end processor (including Payline Data). If you go through Payline, you’ll actually have a choice of using CardPointe and Clover Go for your mobile processing. This review is focused on CardPointe, but if you want to know the specifics of the Clover Go app, we recommend checking out our Clover Go review. Your contract terms from Payline will be the same either way, but if you do prefer Clover Go, you’ll find slightly different pricing for the hardware as well as an additional monthly fee mandated by Clover. (Again, check out the Fees & Rates section of this review for more information about that).
But let’s get back on topic. CardPointe. I admit I was not familiar with the app at all. I was worried initially that the app might be too bare-bones, with nothing original to differentiate it from the competition or provide any kind of value. After all, the Clover suite is First Data’s flagship product. So how would a secondary product match up? Why is it even necessary?
To be honest, I don’t think CardPointe as a mobile POS app offers anything unique or noteworthy. I don’t think it’s an improvement over a white-label ROAMpay app that Payline previously offered, either. You can’t get anything from CardPointe that you can’t get from at least 3 other mobile processing solutions.
What makes CardPointe a worthwhile choice for mobile merchants, in this case, is the fact that Payline Data is offering it as a mobile solution. Payline’s pricing, contract terms, and general business processes are competitive, fair, and transparent. I really like that Payline even supports low-volume merchants, because not many merchant accounts have a competitive pricing option for this segment of business owners.
Payline Mobile offers a lot of promise. It ticks all the major boxes (affordable, stable, with a decent mix of features). If you just want an mPOS (and maybe a virtual terminal thrown in), I don’t see any serious disadvantages to Payline. For that reason, I’m happy to say Payline Mobile earns a commendable 4.5 stars.
Are you using Payline’s mPOS product? Leave us a comment and let us know how you like it! (Make sure your comments meet our review guidelines.)
Table of Contents
Products & Services
This review is focused primarily on the CardPointe mobile processing app and Payline Data’s pricing and contract terms for using it. Check out our full Payline Data review for more information about the company’s other offerings. If you’d like to know more about the Clover Go app, check out our Clover Go review. (Note: We’ll talk a little in this review about how CardPointe’s pricing compares to Clover Go if you go through Payline, so check out the Rates & Fees section for more information about that.)
I’m not in love with CardPointe’s mobile POS app. I found the actual design of the mobile app to be a little bit odd, but it does have most of the standard features you would expect to find in a mid-range mobile POS app. Let’s start with the basics and work our way up to some of the more interesting aspects of the CardPointe platform.
The CardPointe app itself has two modes, Register and Virtual Terminal, plus a separate web portal. The separate modes for virtual terminal and register in the app confuse me a little bit because it seems redundant, but it might appeal to some merchants.
- Register Mode: With Register Mode enabled in the CardPointe app, you can access an item catalog, apply discounts, and so forth. The inventory features are pretty basic, but with the reporting tools, as well as the use of categories, you should be able to decently manage your inventory, as long as your needs aren’t particularly advanced. You can create items and discounts from within the app, which is an important feature to note.
- Virtual Terminal Mode: Triggering the VT mode will cut off access to the item catalog, including discount features. But if you don’t need those features and just want to enter the transaction amount and swipe a card, you can do that from the smartphone. (You could also just enter a quick-sale amount in the Register mode. So again. Redundant.)
- Web Portal: The CardPointe web dashboard offers detailed reporting as well as control of important features, including setting sub-user accounts and managing transactions. It also includes a virtual terminal so you can key in transactions from a computer.
As far as the CardPointe app’s capabilities, here’s what you can expect:
- Accept Magstripe Payments: If you go through Payline to get CardPointe, you’ll get the basic CardPointe magstripe reader. That does mean you are not able to accept chip card payments — if this is a deal-breaker for you, definitely look at Clover Go instead.
- Accept Cash: The app supports cash recording and shows the change due. This should be expected in just about any mobile app, to be honest.
- Accept International Cards: You can process cards from another country with Payline — just be aware that international cards have a higher interchange. Your markup will be the same regardless of the card type or place of origin.
- Voids & Refunds: The CardPointe app allows for both voids and refunds. You can also visit the transaction history to see other details and resend or reprint receipts.
- Email/Print Receipts: The CardPointe app can connect to a receipt printer (even a kitchen printer). But if you want to go paper-free, you can email receipts. The app does not support SMS (text message) receipts, however.
- Tipping: You can accept tips for cash and card transactions, and pre-set three amounts, either by dollar amount (ideal for small tickets) or percentage.
- Discounts: With CardPointe, you can set discounts by percentage or dollar amount, and specify whether the discount applies to the entire cart or a single product. I like this quite a bit, and I think a solid discount platform actually makes CardPointe worthwhile for merchants.
- Item Catalog: CardPointe allows you to create a catalog of items for quick reference. It supports name, image, price, as well as a description, taxable or tax-exempt, and SKU. However, it doesn’t support variants (or add-ons), so you’ll have to create separate items if you sell a product that comes in multiple colors or sizes or designs. I like that you can assign items to categories.
- Sub-Users: Running CardPointe on multiple devices? Good news: You can enable sub-user (sometimes called employee) accounts, and customize permissions so that certain people can only access certain features (such as the ability to create items in the catalog).
Nothing in CardPointe really wows me, to be honest. But it’s more functional than I thought it could be when I started my review, and that’s a good thing. I certainly think the app has everything a merchant could need to get started, though it’s missing advanced features. All in all, I think CardPointe is a solid offering, software wise. Not the best out there, but not the worst, either. But the real value comes from the payment processor, Payline Data.
Payline Mobile (CardPointe) Hardware
If you sign up for Payline Mobile with CardPointe, you’ll get the CardConnect Mobile Device for your mobile reader. It’s a basic magstripe reader that connects via 3.5mm headphone jack.
The CardPointe Mobile Device is certainly a dated reader, even if it’s serviceable. It’s a bit bulkier than I like, but it’s nice to see the little stabilizing bar. Since it’s not Bluetooth enabled, you’ll need a 3.5mm headphone to Lightning adapter to use it with a recent iPhone. Just be prepared to potentially deal with a weird floppy cord if you go that route.
I’m always a little disappointed when I see a mobile POS that doesn’t have a chip card reader. The CardPointe Mobile Device technically does have a chip card reader slot — but it’s not functional because the required updates haven’t been made to the software. I’m told that CardPointe plans to add support for chip cards in the near future, but there’s no stated timeline for that and I’ve seen companies take a year or more to push their chip-card support live.
If you’re curious, the CardConnect platform also supports credit card terminals that work with the virtual terminal and even the mobile app for a countertop processing solution, but we’re focusing on mobile here — which means a smartphone/tablet and a connected (portable) card reader.
Payline Data sells the CardConnect Mobile Device for $49, though you can certainly try to negotiate with a Payline representative if you’re worried about your cash flow. The bigger the volume you process, the more successful you’re likely to be in this matter.
If chip card acceptance is a deal-breaker for you, you might look instead at using Clover Go with the Payline Mobile plan. You can get Clover’s all-in-one mobile card reader (with magstripe, chip card, and contactless support) for $120 from Payline. That’s a bit of a steep price, but it’s Bluetooth enabled and accepts chip cards, which are the important bits.
Rates & Fees
Payline Mobile offers interchange-plus pricing for all of its merchants. That’s a departure from the flat-rate pricing most mobile solutions offer, but it’s not automatically a bad thing. We like the interchange-plus pricing model because it’s fair, consistent, and transparent. However, it does mean your processing costs aren’t 100% predictable because it depends on your overall volume, the average size of your transactions, as well as the type of cards you process.
Payline’s markup for transactions isn’t based on volume, and you don’t have tiered service plans where you pay more to get more. Instead, Payline breaks down its pricing according to how many card-present transactions vs card-not-present transactions you process. If you primarily deal with card-present, Payline will set you up with the Start Plan. If your processing volume is more than half card-not-present transactions, you’ll be put on Payline’s Connect Plan. Note that card-not-present transactions do include keyed-entries from CardPointe’s virtual terminal as well.
We’ll be focusing on the Start Plan here because that’s what you’ll most likely be charged if you’re running the CardPointe mPOs app.
Start Plan Pricing
- Interchange + 0.2% + $0.10 per transaction
- $10 monthly fee
Payline doesn’t openly disclose this on its website, but as part of your contract, you need to generate a minimum of $25 in processing fees. However, if you ask an account rep, they’ll tell you about this.
Very roughly speaking, that means you need to make about $1,000 per month in card transactions. If you don’t meet your $25 minimum, Payline will only charge you the difference (so if you generate $17.85 in fees in a month, Payline will bill you another $7.15).
However, precisely how much you need to process depends on the plan as well as your average ticket size — and that’s because unlike Square or PayPal Here, Payline Data charges a percentage plus a per-transaction fee. Per-transaction fees tend to be more costly for small-ticket merchants than merchants with a large average transaction size.
If you decide that you’d rather use Clover Go than CardConnect, you’ll have the exact same pricing, plus an additional $6/month fee. This is actually mandated by Clover, not First Data. But it will add to your monthly costs. And the Clover Go all-in-one reader (which supports magstripe, chip card, and contactless/NFC transactions) will sell for $120, versus the $49 for the CardPointe Mobile Device reader.
Apart from the monthly fee(s) and the required $25 minimum, you don’t need to worry about any other regular costs with Payline Mobile. No PCI compliance fees, no statement fees, nothing like that. And again, this is an actual merchant account, not a third-party setup. You’re going to get the same stability as another merchant account, but without having to process $5K or $10K per month. It sounds almost too good to be true — but Payline has the reputation to back it up.
Contract Length & Early Termination Fee
When you sign up for a mobile plan with Payline Data, you’ll get the same terms as you would get with any other Payline agreement: a month-to-month contract and no early termination fees. If you do want to cancel your account, all you have to do is give Payline a call and they’ll take care of it.
A couple more pieces of information to note:
- You don’t have to pay any PCI compliance fees with Payline Mobile, but you’re still going to have to fill out the standard self-assessment on an annual basis. This might be a minor annoyance to some, but again: You don’t have to pay any PCI compliance fees, which can sometimes cost you more than $100/year with merchant accounts.
- High-risk businesses are still better off looking elsewhere. While Payline Data can work with a lot of industries, this particular mobile package is designed for low- and medium-risk businesses. If you already know you’re in a high-risk field, get yourself a high-risk merchant account and save yourself the hassle. Payline can also help you determine whether you need a high-risk account.
There’s no reason you should sign up for a multi-year contract or pay any sort of termination fee as a merchant, but especially not for a mobile processing solution. So, we’re pretty happy with Payline in this regard.
Sales & Advertising Transparency
We’ve found that Payline Data is easily one of the most reputable processors out there. You’ll see fair disclosure of everything, with no hidden fees, no misleading statements for contracts, etc. This is what we like to see. You can sign up for an account or go through one of Payline’s sales representatives. Overall, the vast majority of merchants report having very positive experiences with Payline, but when conflicts do happen, Payline is willing to own up and make the situation right.
The only niggling issue we have is the fact that Payline Mobile doesn’t mention the monthly minimum on its website. However, we were able to get that information directly from the company when we asked, and the sales reps do disclose it during the signup process. Where the occasional sales rep fails to disclose this, Payline is generally willing to accept the blame.
In addition, I’m loving Payline’s blog. The topics are good. The writing isn’t super in-depth, but it’s a solid starting point. There’s clearly some marketing spin going on, but the topics are things merchants are going to have questions about, and that’s worth taking note of, as is coverage of timely issues. What this tells me is that Payline cares about educating its merchants. Informed merchants lead to happy relationships with payment processors, so this is good to see.
If you do a bit of research into CardConnect, you will find a fair few complaints about CardConnect buying out other companies and merchants being charged expensive cancellation fees. If you go through Payline, those concerns won’t apply to you at all — CardConnect has its fingers in a lot of pies, including payment processing, but Payline will be the one overseeing your merchant account and providing service to you.
Customer Service & Technical Support
For the most part, you are going to deal with Payline’s internal customer support. We don’t see very many complaints about Payline’s customer service at all, and it stands to reason that mobile users will have a similar experience as other Payline users. The company offers your standard array of customer support: an email/ticket-based system, as well as phone support, a fairly comprehensive knowledge base, and for developers, documentation for the API.
If you’re using CardPointe as your mobile solution, you can contact Payline with technical questions as well as account-specific issues. However, you can also reach out to CardConnect via email, phone, or service ticket for help with technical issues as well. There’s also a fairly helpful knowledgebase that covers your standard technical issues, including how to set the app up.
We don’t have any data about how Payline’s mobile merchants feel about CardConnect’s customer support, but Payline’s in-house support is top-notch. Unfortunately, it seems like CardConnect’s customer support is a bit of a mixed bag. I would recommend going to Payline first and foremost with any issues.
Generally speaking, Payline Data has a positive reputation among merchants, with fair pricing, transparency, and great customer service. Merchants who are happy with the service specifically note that the reps are super helpful, which is always nice to hear.
In the off chance something goes wrong (it happens sometimes, even with the best of processors), Payline is quick to respond, to apologize, and to attempt to rectify the situation. That is A+ behavior to me. There are plenty of other processors who refuse to admit any wrongdoing, and worse yet, a handful of companies whose responses to complaints border on outright gaslighting. You won’t see any of that dodgy behavior with Payline, and that makes me very happy.
Comments about CardConnect are more of a mixed bag. And partly, that’s because CardConnect presents itself as a consumer-facing solution where merchants can sign up directly, and as a back-end option so that First Data resellers can offer CardConnect as a software solution to their customers. A lot of the complaints about CardConnect stem from CardConnect buying out a processor’s contract and changing the terms. That won’t apply to you if you sign up for Payline Mobile — Payline issues its own contract terms to merchants and offers CardConnect (and by extension CardPointe) as a value-added service.
The best source of information about the CardPointe app specifically (and not about CardConnect) is the app store reviews. The reviews in Google Play and iTunes are middling at best, but the reviews from each app store, combined, still total less than 100 at the time of writing this. We see some complaints about glitches (specifically a recent glitch with the iPhone X), which is a common issue with smaller software providers. Some of the negative reviews also stem from the same contract issues we’ve already talked about.
On its own, I probably wouldn’t rate CardPointe very highly — in part because CardConnect as a direct service provider for merchants has some problematic practices. The mobile app is functional, but it’s nothing outstanding or unique. But at the same time, Payline Mobile fills a niche in the payments industry that few others have managed to tap into yet. Most no-frills mPOS solutions are very basic with not much account stability. The ones that offer a lot of value (Square, PayPal Here) typically don’t offer stability, either. Payline will give you the best of both worlds — a fairly capable mPOS with competitive pricing, but one with a high degree of account stability. That’s the real value of Payline Mobile.
I feel comfortable recommending Payline Data to our merchants, with a very commendable rating of 4.5 stars out of 5. However, that comes with a couple of caveats: First, if you don’t plan to process credit cards on a regular, monthly basis, you might want to look at Square, which has no monthly fees or monthly minimums. And likewise, if you process less than $1,000/month in cards, Payline won’t the best, most cost-effective option because of the $25/monthly minimum.
However, if you do plan to process credit cards regularly, and your volume is enough to clear the monthly minimum with no problem, give Payline Mobile a shot. It’s certainly not an original solution but it makes up for the lack of creativity with solid features and performance.
Thanks for reading our Payline Mobile review! If you have experience with Payline and its skinned ROAMpay app, please check out our review submission guidelines and leave a comment!
To learn more about how we score our reviews, see our Mobile Credit Card Processing Rating Criteria.