Payment Basics: Mobile payments

Sure, we love to talk about it. Check out our webpage at and our blog post dispelling four common myths here. We’ve been a proud omni-channel payments provider with a mobile option for some time now, but let’s get back to basics.

In this installment of Payment Basics, we explore exactly what makes a mobile payment… or a payment mobile.

A mobile payment, sometimes known as mPOS, is more generally understood as any payment service (like a transaction) that is performed using a mobile device (like a smartphone or a tablet). These payment services must be regulated by financial institutions to fall under the technical definition, so they typically will involve bank accounts and credit cards. Keep in mind, however, that virtual currencies can make this a bit nebulous. When we talk about it at Forte, we don’t include virtual currency in our understanding of mobile payments quite yet (although we make room for the thought).

Things like digital wallets can also fall under this definition, but we like to keep those a little bit separate, as well. For our purposes, mobile payments refer more specifically to payment transactions processed on a mobile device.

A digital wallet, for example, can refer to a wide range of portable payment-related capabilities, including storing rewards cards and identification items. But a digital wallet can also include payment-specific capabilities. For instance, our Checkout product allows merchants to store data for repeat customers; this is a digital wallet, or e-wallet, functionality.

Checkout can also work on mobile devices, which means it can accept mobile payments. So while it contains elements of the digital wallet, it also has mobile payment capabilities. This is an example of how the term “mobile payments” actually refers to the transaction capabilities for us, rather than the endless possibilities of payment services on mobile devices.

Mobile payments with Forte allow a merchant to accept both credit card and eCheck payments on their mobile device. This is a bit atypical, as most providers only offer credit card processing via use of a dongle and app.

The dongle and app combination is pretty standard when it comes to services that fall under our particular mobile payments definition. The app enables a mobile device to become a payment processing terminal. Once a merchant signs up for mobile payments, they can download the app on whichever device(s) they wish to accept payments from. The dongle, or card-reader attachment, is any device which attaches to the mobile device and enables the swiping of physical credit cards. This dongle will communicate with the app and automatically read and enter the card information for payment processing. The app may prompt the merchant to swipe, or it may initiate the transaction; it depends on the design. Most apps require signatures, just like a traditional physical POS.

Forte opted for a pretty serious card-reader attachment. Called the iDynamo, ours comes stocked with more robust and powerful encryption and protection features. The recent card breaches are no joke, and we didn’t feel like messing around when it comes to safety. You can read more about it on our mobile payments page at

Most mobile payments products include some variation of dongle, app, and processing services. But search under the broad term, and you’re likely to find that digital wallets and wallet-like products pop up. So, in a way, this Payment Basics post explains precisely what Forte means by mobile payments, but not necessarily what everyone means. Whew!

Hopefully that didn’t serve to only further complicate matters. If you ever have any questions about mobile payments, what we offer, and what it means – don’t hesitate to reach out. You can comment below, chat live on our website, give us a call, tweet us, whatever! We can’t wait to help.

Photo credit: Rupert Ganzer



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