AN ALL-too-familiar problem for Ms Elaine Sim when she sells snacks at roadshows is customers who pick out their favourite keropok, only to leave empty-handed when they realise she accepts only cash.
"They say they will come back after they withdraw money but, most of the time, we never see them again," said Ms Sim, who is the operations manager for snack manufacturer New Everyday Keropok.
To cater to those who prefer cards to cash, she has joined the first merchants to sign up for telco M1's latest mobile point-of- sale (POS) service, which was launched yesterday.
It includes a device the size of a deck of cards that can be plugged into the audio jack of smartphones or tablets running either Android or iOS. The device has a slot for cards with EMV (Europay, MasterCard and Visa) chips to be inserted into, and a sensor for cards using magnetic strips.
Once connected, merchants can use a linked M1 data plan to wirelessly accept payment from all credit and debit cards.
The service is targeted at traditionally cash-based small businesses such as pushcart vendors or kiosk owners who might not offer cashless options because of the cost.
It also enables them to do away with fixed-line POS systems.
"We want to bring the benefit of card payments historically enjoyed by larger retailers to Singapore's smaller, but no less enterprising, merchants and service providers," said Mr Willis Sim, the telco's chief product development and corporate solutions officer.
The initiative is a four-way partnership between M1, CIMB Bank, MasterCard and German financial tech provider Wirecard.
The service will cost merchants $5.35 a month - almost a tenth of the cost of a POS terminal, which can come to between $50 and $60 a month.
There is no requirement for a minimum monthly transaction or deposit. A fee of 2.95 per cent of the total cost will be charged per transaction.
Ms Ong Kai Ling, 34, who owns Steward's Little, a children's apparel kiosk at nex shopping mall in Serangoon, said she would be interested in using the device only if more customers asked to pay by credit card.
"If not many want to pay by credit card, then it would be an extra cost incurred," she said.
For engineer Kit Yee, 62, the option is something she would like smaller shops to offer. She said: "I prefer paying by credit card, as it earns me points to exchange for vouchers."
Mr Don Tok, 44, founder of bakery Cake Inspiration, said he plans to use the mobile POS device to allow clients who order customised cakes online to pay with a card upon delivery.
"This way, my drivers won't have to carry too much cash about," he said.