Square introduces hands-free payments

Regulars rejoice! Leave your phone in your pocket when you pay with Square's latest version of Card Case. A look at the Card Case carrier's face is all a business needs to transact.

Regina Sinsky
Regina Hope Sinsky writes about startups. She studied journalism at the College of Charleston and spent several years in television writing and production. After moving to the Bay Area she decided all the best stories came from startups, so she jumped into tech writing. Regina specializes in interviews with interesting people doing nonobvious things with technology.
Regina Sinsky
2 min read

Mobile payment startup and PayPal competitor Square has a new way to pay that doesn't involve lifting a finger. Or even taking out your phone. You simply walk in to a business, place your order, collect your purchase, and walk out.

Today, Square released a version of Card Case, the app that acts as a mobile bar tab, that is driven by the concept of a business recognizing its frequent shoppers. In just a moment, you will have a vision of Sam the bartender from the sitcom "Cheers" using a Square-enabled iPad.

Card Case displays a picture of the mobile card carrier for people running a register to use as identification. Squareup.com

The first version of Card Case worked the old fashioned way: You had to open the app on your phone to start a tab at the store. Then you had to say your name to the person working the register to pay. But since Card Case has your picture displayed there on the app (something you do when setting up your Card Case, along with entering your payment information) all you need to do now is be visible. Your picture and tab show up on the business's register, typically an iPad.

Card Case technology uses geo fencing, which is based on GPS. It sets up a virtual perimeter around a location. When you get within 100 meters of the Card Case business, your tab automatically opens on your phone. Walk in to the business, order, and go. It closes when you leave the geo-fenced perimeter. The system then emails you a receipt. Here's a look at the new version of Card Case in action.

Other new Card Case features include an enhanced directory of merchants with "Featured" or "Nearby" spots. There's also more information available on the merchants offering Card Case. You can see menus, directions, business phone numbers, and business Twitter feeds.

Square's business model originally focused on merchants and making receiving payments as transparent and simple as possible. Today's features indicate the startup is also paying attention to consumers.

"We realized that unless we brought ease to the consumer side of the counter, payments were still going to be about the transaction itself," says Megan Quinn, director of products at Square.

The company declined to say how many Card Case customers are out there but said more than 20,000 merchants have joined during the past eight weeks across the United States. Founded in 2009, Square is currently processing more than $2 billion in payments a year, according to a company spokesperson.