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New Square Terminal gussies up the drab credit card reader

The battery-powered device could bring pay-at-your-table service to more US restaurants.

At the Privé salon near Manhattan's Central Park, where workers were already testing out the new Square Terminal.
Ben Fox Rubin/CNET

Square wants to refresh the often unloved credit card reader.

The payments company on Thursday introduced its newest piece of hardware, Square Terminal, a card reader that looks more modern than the typical worn-out, bulky-plastic terminal you may find at a local corner store. It's mobile, thanks to a rechargeable battery, has a large touchscreen and even has a built-in printer for receipts. It also can accept payments via magstripe cards, chip cards and contactless cards or phones.

"It's more smartphone, less calculator from 1985," said Square's head of hardware, Jesse Dorogusker. He spoke at a Privé salon in Manhattan, which, along with about 60 other retailers, has been beta testing the new device.

Though Square Terminal isn't a device consumers will buy, it should make their lives a little easier in a handful of ways. Since Terminal is battery-powered, it's more mobile than older, plug-in readers. That opens the possibility for more restaurants to allow their waiters to take payments right at the table -- a practice that's still rare in the US.

Also, the reader's ability to take contactless payments, like from an Apple Watch or Samsung phone, should help grow adoption for those new types of payments. Newer terminals from Square rivals Ingenico and Verifone can handle contactless payments, too.

For Square, Terminal should help the company expand into more mom-and-pop stores, bakeries, salons and restaurants, helping it continue to grow its business. For its latest quarter, Square reported a 48 percent jump in revenue, to $814.9 million, thanks to more transactions through its machines, but it still posted a loss.

Square Terminal is available only in the US for now and costs $399. For new sellers, Square will throw in a promotional $300 credit to cover their transaction fees. It goes on sale Thursday on Square's website. The new device joins the countertop $999 Square Register, smaller $49 Bluetooth card reader, and free magstripe reader. Square doesn't charge monthly fees for its devices, instead taking a commission for each transaction.

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