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Square processing $3 million in mobile payments every day

by Phil Hornshaw

Mobile payment service Square seems to be exploding in popularity.

The startup hasn’t been around for too long, but it has recently picked up some steam with the release of a credit card reader for Apple’s (AAPL) iOS devices. Using the little device that plugs into iPhones and iPads, users can actually scan credit cards and process payments using Square’s mobile app.

Apparently, that service is pretty great, because Square has shipped 500,000 of those little credit card readers. It also has processed 1 million transactions so far in May and is clearing $3 million in payments every single day, according to TechCrunch. Apple has even endorsed Square by selling the $9.95 credit card reader in its stores.

Square recently pulled in $27.5 million in funding and investments from Visa (V), as well, and did $66 million in payment volume in the first quarter of 2011. At this rate, Square is on pace to do $1 billion in payment volume within the year. It’s also planning to add new services and expand its usefulness, starting with updates to its mobile apps.

Already, Square offers apps for iPhone, iPad and Android that are compatible with its credit card reader, which plugs into the headphone jack of those devices. Basically, that service allows businesses to accept credit card payments, even if they don’t have the traditional terminals necessary to do so. The iPad app has been revamped recently to offer better ways of organizing sale items for retailers and ways of inputting variations on those items, and a refined user experience.

Square is also rolling out a new service called Square Register, according to TechCrunch. The service will allow retailers to basically replace their cash registers altogether by using iPads in point-of-sale transactions. Register carries all the same functionality that used to come with Square – namely, the ability to accept credit card payments for businesses by just using a mobile device – but Register also has a companion app that helps increase communication between retailers and their customers.

With the older version of Square, once a transaction was complete, retailers could send along receipts to their customers either by email or SMS message. Register allows business owners to send a link to download an app to their customers as well, called Square Card Case, which basically stores loyalty cards for the businesses that use Square. That encourages users to become repeat customers, showing information about the businesses, other businesses that accept Square, and what customers are buying at those businesses, on top of all the useful info like orders and receipts.

Square Card Case also has one other cool function for repeat customers: those users will actually be able to put forward transactions as they’re heading out to a store, using a “use tab” function that lets Square basically skip using their credit card altogether. Square prepares the information when you’re within two blocks of the business, allowing you to just tell the retailer you buy from frequently your name, and leaving Square to do the rest of the work. Since you’re a repeat customer, your info is all on file with Square anyway – the merchant processes the transaction using your name and info and you receive a push notification when your credit card is charged. Meanwhile, Square Register and Square Card Case provide all kinds of analytics-type information to retailers, letting them know purchase habits so they can make smart business decisions.

Square Card Case will only be available for the iPhone, and it’s not yet available to the general public. About 50 retailers are using the service right now, but Square expects Register to become the norm for its users pretty quickly. Judging by how many transactions the company is processing right now, that seems entirely likely.