Credit Card Processing

Text to Pay: Accepting Payments by SMS Text

by

April 06, 2020

Non-profits organizations and for-profit businesses alike can take advantage of this easy payment method by understanding the fundamentals of text payments and working with a company that can support the service.

By now, you’ve probably seen announcements asking for donations through text messages. Various charitable organizations like the Red Cross have made donating easy – just text a particular word to a short (usually 5-digit) number to make a $10 donation. The amounts and other variables can be adjusted for different purchases or donations.

But you don’t have to be a non-profit to use text to pay.


How It Works

Sending and accepting payments by text is straightforward. Customers can text the number assigned to your business by the text payment company. As with all SMS text messages, the message must be 160 characters or less.

For Customers

The process of sending a payment via text is the same as sending any other text message. They’ll send the information to a specific number. For some services, the payment gets added to the customer’s phone bill. In other cases, the customer will have an account with a text message payments company, and will add their credit card, debit card, or bank account and pay using one of those methods.

For Businesses and Charities

When you decide to accept payments by text, you’ll work with a company that will provide you with a phone number for customers to text, and a dashboard for you to manage texts and payments. Some services allow you to program canned responses so you can more quickly answer common questions or confirm details with customers. Additionally, by using transaction reporting and analytics, you may be able to encourage repeat visits and sign up customers for loyalty programs, or send promotional materials. The screenshots from Sonar, below, show examples of effectively marketing to customers through the messaging service.

Sonar SMS text example

As you can see, it’s possible to engage customers with text and images to increase sales and encourage repeat business.

Benefits to Businesses

Many customers indicate a preference for texting over phone calls. If your target market is familiar with and prefers texting, it could give you an edge over businesses that they have to call to place orders, book appointments, or make payments.

Some services may also allow you to offer discounts for repeat purchases, building loyalty.

Text to Pay Companies

To accept payments by text from your customers, you’ll need an account with a processing company that enables SMS text payments. Fortunately, there are several options already, with more appearing as the service becomes more popular.

Rhombus, powered by Stripe, is a Washington DC-based company that focuses specifically on text payments. The company sets up businesses and non-profits with a specific Rhombus number that customers can text. When making a purchase or a donation, customers simply text your number with the amount of the payment and a description of the purchase. For example, a customer purchasing a $12 pizza by text would send, “$12.00 large pizza.” Customers will receive a confirmation text and an email receipt.

Read our full Rhombus Review.


Payment Savvy, a payment technologies company based in Texas, offers pay by text with reminders when bills are due. Customers can provide their mobile number to your business to receive alerts when it’s time to pay. Customers can pay directly from their phones by text using their credit or debit card.

Sonar, another customer text messaging company powered by Stripe, provides a dedicated phone number so customers can text you with questions about products/services, place orders, and pay for purchases without having to make a call or visit your store. Sonar claims that the process of integrating text payments through your Stripe account is very easy, only requiring minimal code.

Do you use a different pay-by-text company? Let us know in the comments!

Costs for Text Payments

There is no cost to customers beyond the transaction amount.

Costs for businesses and non-profit organizations vary depending on the company and plan levels you choose. Some companies charge a monthly fee for the text services as well as a percentage and transaction fee for each payment you accept. Be sure to consider all costs when determining the right SMS text payment system for your business.

Have you accepted payments by text at your business or charity? What do you like and dislike about it? Let us know in the comments!

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Ben Dwyer

BY Ben Dwyer

Ben Dwyer began his career in the processing industry in 2003 on the sales floor for a Connecticut‐based processor. As he learned more about the inner‐workings of the industry, rampant unethical practices, and lack of assistance available to businesses, he cut ties with his employer and started a blog where he could post accurate information about credit card processing. As the blog gained in popularity, Ben began directly assisting merchants in their search for a processor. Ben believes in empowering businesses by providing access to fair, competitive pricing, accurate information, and continued support. His dedication to transparency and education has made CardFellow a staunch small business advocate in the credit card processing industry.

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2 COMMENTS

  1. from Bill D Saucier, on June 8, 2017

    I need a list of companies that specifically provide the following…

    Text to Pay Companies

    To accept payments by text from your customers, you’ll need an account with a processing company that enables SMS text payments. Fortunately, there are several options already, with more appearing as the service becomes more popular.

    • from Ellen, on June 12, 2017

      Hi Bill,
      As noted in the article, major players so far include Sonar, Payment Savvy, and Rhombus. Sonar and Rhombus are both powered by Stripe.