In the financial services industry in the last few years, we’ve seen several small business card issuers launching a branded line of payment products. American Express led the way with OPEN, followed by Chase and Capital One with Ink and Spark (respectively). These sub-brands allow the issuers not only to bundle card features and benefits specific to small business owners (SBOs), but also to expand the portfolio in new and interesting ways.

Case in point: Spark Pay. Capital One has developed a mobile payment app with a card reader that can be used on most mobile devices to accept and process card payments from anywhere. The idea is nothing new. Square was the first to introduce a combo mobile card reader and app. Since it arrived on the scene, issuers – including Bank of America and U.S. Bank – began offering similar services.

But Capital One might be the only issuer using the same sub-brand for its payment reader as it does for its payment products. By calling it “Spark Pay,” the bank elevates its overall sub-brand offering and shows that Capital One’s more than a small business payment provider: it’s a complete small business banking solution.

Another area that differentiates Spark Pay is pricing. Capital One’s two tier pricing plan gives customers a choice between flat rates per swipe (with no monthly fee) or discounted swipe rates with a $9.95 monthly fee. This model is similar to what Intuit offers with its GoPayment mobile reader, but Capital One’s monthly fee is lower. In addition, its sign-up offer promotes waived fees on the first $1,000 in transactions.

The form and function of mobile payment readers across the market are largely the same, and they also share the same core benefit: giving small business owners easier access to electronic payments. Through branding its product, offering it as part of a larger suite and pricing it aggressively, Capital One differentiates Spark Pay from its competition. It’s a smart way to turn what could be a standard offering into something that stands out.

Direct mail communication (screenshot) sourced from Competiscan’s “This week in Credit Cards” (for the week of 7/15/2013).