Elavon, a unit of U.S. Bancorp, is taking a different approach to mobile card acceptance by using a wireless card reader that is as big as the phone it pairs with.

Many smartphone-based card readers for mobile merchants, including those that read EMV chip cards, connect physically to the phone as a sleeve or as a device that clips to the phone's headphone jack to send data to the device. Elavon's MobileMerchant instead relies on a separate keypad and card reader that connects to the phone using a Bluetooth wireless connection.

This difference makes it easier for the device, which Elavon has tested since January, to accept chip and PIN payments.

The device, made by Thyron Systems, can read EMV chip cards and includes a keypad that allows customers to type a PIN. The device has a separate reader for magnetic-stripe cards. After the device reads the card and accepts the user's PIN, it securely transmits the card data to an Elavon smartphone app on the paired phone.

MobileMerchant, which Elavon has tested since January (see story), also supports card-not-present transactions. Cardholder data is encrypted by the PIN pad so that no information is stored by the mobile device. It sends a transaction receipt to the customer by email or text message.

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