Going Mobile

Credit card transactions are no longer confined to bricks-and-mortar businesses.

Marc Gardner is at the forefront of revolutionizing credit card payments. The founder of North American Bancard in Troy, which processed $12 billion in electronic transactions in 2011, unveiled a mobile payment application that, in its first year, has signed up close to 1 million customers.

Called Pay Anywhere, the small, half-circle-shaped device attaches to most smart phones and electronic tablets. After an app is downloaded and an account is set up, the company mails the card reader device at no charge. Given its mobility, the payment apparatus opens up credit card processing at virtually any location & artists selling paintings on a beach, technicians making house calls, or a repairman servicing a commercial boiler.

Pay Anywhere charges a flat fee of 19 cents per transaction, plus 2.69 percent and 3.49 percent in service costs for swiped and keyed entries, respectively.

“We have nearly 20 years of credit card processing experience, so individuals or businesses using Pay Anywhere get paid right away,” says Gardner, president and CEO of North American Bancard. “There are no monthly fees. It’s a pay-as-you-go platform.”

Other features include customized e-mail receipts, real-time sales tracking and reporting, and the ability to set default tax and tip percentages. There are inventory and coupon management offerings, as well as a feature that calculates local sales taxes via GPS.

The device is the latest in a string of Gardner’s entrepreneurial endeavors. While pursuing an economics degree at the University of Wisconsin in Madison, he sold knock-off designer watches and convinced his father and one of his father’s fraternity brothers to undertake a real estate venture. Four neighboring homes were purchased on fraternity row and Gardner oversaw the renovations, which included the addition of basement apartments.

“Marc had taken a real estate course, and obviously my son learned a lot,” says Larry Gardner, president of Lawrence Gardner Associates, a managerial financial consulting firm in Troy. “He made the homes nicer residences, upgraded the washers and dryers, and added a hot tub on one of the porches.”

Following graduation, Marc Gardner sold the homes for a profit, paid back his investors, and moved to Chicago to work for a credit card processing firm. In 1992, he returned home and started a similar business, at first renting an office that adjoined his father’s firm.

“The rule of thumb was I could only walk into his office if his mother (an interior designer) wanted him to be home for dinner,” Larry recalls. “He could walk into my office at any time for advice. He paid the rent on his own. Marc has a gift for taking an idea and implementing it, and then surrounding himself with talented people.”

Today, North American Bancard operates from a signature office building. The firm has more than 450 employees and 3,500 independent agents, and services some 125,000 merchants nationwide.

“As we launched Pay Anywhere, the trick was to understand how to go from B2B to B2C,” Marc says. “So we put together focus groups, conducted surveys, and looked at usability studies. The right preparation is the key to the launch of any business.” db