In today's market, most business owners have realized that, in order to succeed and grow their businesses, they need to be able to accept credit cards. Fewer people carry cash, and most prefer the convenience of doing business with the swipe of a card. As a result, many stationary businesses, a number of mobile businesses, and the vast majority of e-commerce sites offer credit card machines or "terminals" for customer purchases.
The majority of businesses housed in a store or other stationary location use traditional credit card terminals. These are quite effective, and may be sold with or without receipt printers. A growing number of these stationary credit card swipe machines also allow people to use debit cards for purchases. Popular brands include Nurit, Hypercom, and Verifone credit card machines and such models as the Hypercom t7 Plus and the Nurit 2085.
Another option for some stationary businesses, and many mobile businesses, is that of using wireless credit card terminals. These are popular with taxi drivers or merchants who set up in temporary locations. Growing concerns over the theft of credit card numbers have also led some restaurateurs to allow their customers to swipe their own credit cards from their dining tables with these wireless credit card terminals.
Business owners considering the purchase of these terminals should ascertain that the selected terminals will be compatible with the merchant service or credit card processors they use, and that the service plans to continue supporting these terminals in the future are feasible for their business. Another very similar concept, a complete point of sale system, is also popular with retail stores, hotels, and restaurants.
Many online shopping sites provide virtual credit card terminals. A software application functions as a virtual credit card terminal, allowing business owners to connect with their merchant account providers via the Internet. These terminals can also be individualized for each company, resulting in the automation of recurrent charges or the calculation of taxes or discounts. Examples of such services include PayPal and Google Checkout services which in some ways act as free credit card machines when used for limited personal use.
Credit Card Machine Components
Typically, all credit card machines have several common features. These include a keypad, a magnetic stripe reader, and a display. Most stationary systems, some wireless systems, and many point of sale systems are also equipped with a receipt printer. Other credit card terminals may use remote receipt printers instead. External printers can be very helpful for businesses that issue multiple receipt copies. Different types of printers are available; dot matrix printers are very cheap, but rather slow. In contrast, thermal imaging printers are more expensive and require specialized thermal paper, but they are much faster and quieter than dot matrix printers.
With the exception of virtual credit card terminals, nearly all terminals feature a keypad. This allows users to enter numerical data. Basic keypads use a numeric keypad consisting of nine keys. Other, more elaborate card terminals may have forty or more keys, allowing business owners to program the terminal to perform certain mathematical functions. The keypad is especially helpful if the credit card cannot be swiped through the magnetic stripe reader. These magnetic stripe readers are designed to read the magnetized bar across the back of the credit card that contains the credit card owner's account information.
All credit card terminals also have some type of display. The basic model displays up to two full lines of text with twenty characters on each line. Some models, however, are capable of displaying up to four full lines. These also permit up to 20 characters on each line. Displays that have a built-in backlight offer the best visibility.
Business owners looking for more advanced credit card terminals might consider choosing a model with certain enhanced features. Some of these features include an external pad for PIN numbers, internal memory, a capacity for reading privately issued cards, and check processing capacities. Recent problems with PIN number theft and credit card fraud have led manufacturers of credit card terminals to design a system that allows customers to enter the PIN numbers for their debit cards in privacy. These external PIN pads typically feature a small display screen, a keypad with nine alphanumeric keys and other program keys.
Certain credit card terminals also allow retailers to scan and immediately validate personal checks. These are often used by larger department stores or retailers to instantly verify and obtain payment when a customer writes a check. This check processing feature nearly eradicates a business owner's risk of accepting a bad check. Another specialized feature offered by some terminals is the ability to read a proprietary card, such as a gift card or private merchandise card. This can be helpful for managing inventory or maintaining security.
Flash memory is the way in which software is stored and maintained or some terminals. This allows the software manufacturer to distribute security updates and other informational updates by downloading certain software patches or newer versions of a system's software. Without flash memory, updating the software for credit card terminals is much more difficult.
Usually, most businesses accept credit card transactions. Those that do not are often temporary businesses or very small enterprises. Credit card terminals greatly simplify information transaction and payment. Don't worry about copying credit cards with an old reader and issuing a duplicate receipt, then going back to the office and enter the data manually. Avoid the hassles and the potential security risks and invest in a credit card reader instead.