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Amazon goes bricks-and-mortar with its own mobile card reader

Amazon is releasing a mobile card reader. (Patrick Fallon/Bloomberg)
Placeholder while article actions load announced Wednesday that it may soon be coming to a register, food truck or farmers' market near you.

The online retailer has unveiled "Amazon Local Register," a physical credit card reader that plugs into a smartphone or tablet's headphone jack. Stores using the reader will be able to use the same payment-processing system that Amazon uses for its own transactions online. Those interested can sign up for the service starting Wednesday.

The reader works with roughly a dozen devices, including Apple's iPhone and iPad, the three most recent models of Samsung's Galaxy S line and Amazon's own Kindle Fire tablets. Support for Amazon's new Fire phone is "coming soon," the company said; other Android devices may work with the reader, but only a handful are officially supported.

The move puts Amazon — whose chief executive officer, Jeffrey P. Bezos, owns The Washington Post — in direct competition with other card readers.

The introduction of portable card readers has made it easier for small merchants such as those running food stands, kiosks or farmers market stalls, to move beyond cash-only policies. One of the most notable is Square, which boasts on its Web site that it has brought the ability to process credit cards to "millions of businesses" by way of its plug-in card reader and has expanded its offerings to include scheduling and other business software. Other companies such as eBay's PayPal division and Intuit have also released their own card readers for small businesses, charging the businesses a fee per transaction to process the credit card payments.

To give itself an edge in the market, Amazon announced that customers who sign up for its reader by the end of October will be charged a lower per-swipe fee — 1.75 percent — to use the device through January 2016. Otherwise, its fees are comparable to those of its competitors. In addition to the reader, Amazon is also offering small businesses software that tracks sales, applies discounts and calculates tax and tip.