In the old days, if your law office wanted to take credit cards, you would probably have to sign a years-long agreement with a credit card processor and pay exorbitant fees on each transaction. Heck, in even older days, you would have had to use one of those heavy metal machines that used carbon paper. (True story: I saw one of those in use at a restaurant the other day.)
Today? You can take payments online. You can use a reader the size of a nickel that plugs into your smartphone. Or if you're feeling super adventurous, you can try something really new, like Apple Pay or one of the other NFC (tap-your-phone) readers.
Here are a few options, from slightly more old-school to bleeding edge:
1. Online Credit Card Payment Services.
The big player here is PayPal, the gold standard in online payment processing. Amazon is the main rival, and has lower and simpler rates. Grasshopper has a comparison between the two (as well as the now-defunct Google Checkout).
Both will require you to integrate their service into your law firm's website, and both can be a bit clunky at times. But both are also trusted brand names, pretty much on the same level as your traditional brick and mortar banks and retail outlets.
2. Mobile Credit Card Readers.
Ever see the little white square-shaped credit card reader that sticks out of phones and tablets? That's Square. It's since been cloned by PayPal Here (a blue triangle), Amazon Local Register (a black rectangle), and others.
There are a ton of competitors in this field. All charge in the neighborhood of 3 percent for credit card processing. Keep an eye out for extra fees for manually entering credit card numbers (as you would do when a client gives you payment information over the phone) and holds on funds. (There were some complaints by lawyers about Square holding funds when it first launched -- complaints which have since dissipated.)
Digital Trends has a comparison of seven different readers for you to consider. We'd say that if you are signing up for an online payment service for your firm's website, it's probably best to stick with that company. Otherwise, take note of the fees (Amazon's seems to be the lowest), the user reviews (sorry Amazon), and the fine print before making your decision.
3. Apple Pay/NFC Payment Services.
These, quite frankly, aren't much of an option. In order to take Apple Pay, Google Wallet, or whatever "Isis Mobile Wallet" is now called (the app company that changed its name after the terrorist group overshadowed them -- nobody noticed), you need a Near Field Communications (NFC) reader for users to wave their phone in front of. These are typically attached to cash registers and point-of-sale systems, neither of which you're likely to have handy.
Plus, only the newest iPhones (6 and 6 Plus) have NFC capabilities. Most mid-range and flagship Android phones have had NFC for years, but nobody actually uses it at this point.
But take a look at the future, where your phone wirelessly passes disposable credit card numbers to merchants, keeping your credit card data safe:
Pretty neat, isn't it? In the meantime, if you've used one of the mobile or online services, and have an opinion, tweet us @FindLawLP.