The basic piece of equipment most small retail operation will want is a terminal, that black box that sits next to the cash register and is connected to the card processor via phone line or Internet. Cards may be swiped or input manually and an optional debit PIN pad allows customers to enter their secret PIN for their debit card.
If you accept checks, you can also connect a check swipe reader that will scan the check through the check guarantee service of your choice and electronically deposits the funds into your account, saving trips to the bank. Connected to or part of the terminal is a receipt printer.
Instead of a terminal, you may elect to use a personal computer with a card swipe reader attached to it. Point-of-sale software installed on the computer will accept the input card and send it via internet or phone line for processing and authorization.
There are literally hundreds of POS systems available on the market, many industry-specific, such as for hotels or restaurants.
If you do not have or want a POS system, you can set up a “virtual terminal” on your PC by logging in to your credit card processor’s website and swiping or manually entering card information for authorization. Such sites usually also permit you to void, force and refund transactions or set up recurring transactions such as monthly health club memberships, automobile payments, etc.
Virtual processing usually also permits you to use you cell phone to get authorizations on the go, out in the field, and usually also offer a shopping cart that you can integrate into your company website for online purchases.
For businesses that deliver merchandise to customers, such as pizza shops, there is a new wireless terminal, most like a cell phone, that your drivers carry with them. At the customer’s home they swipe the customer’s card through this mobile terminal and get an authorization. This can represent a tremendous monthly savings over accepting orders over the phone at the store and manually keying in the customer’s credit card number. Remember, manually keyed-in cards are charged a higher Non-Qualified Rate because the fraud risk is higher when the card is not present and swiped. The mobile terminal does swipe the card and it is treated as a card-present transaction, at a much lower rate. Mobile terminals utilize Packet Radio Service or cell service and are very reliable. The driver carries a small printer on their belt to print receipts for the customer.
You can acquire equipment by outright purchase, or lease it. Each option has advantages, discuss them with your accountant. If you do lease, you don’t have to worry if the terminal breaks, just swap it for a new one. Some processors will provide you with a “free” terminal but you will usually end up paying higher transaction rates or other hidden fees. There is no free lunch.
James Hussher is a national Account Executive for Card Payment Solutions, a registered merchant services provider (MSP) for Wells Fargo and JPMorgan Chase banks. Contact James at http://creditcardmerchantnews.com, a site James maintains to inform his credit card merchant clients. Wherever you are in the USA, I offer a free analysis of your current merchant account statement. I will provide a report showing you exactly how much you are paying to accept cards in each tier, plus monthly fees; I will also propose the rates we can give you, for a clear side-by-side comparison.