A look across the land of credit card terminals and systems
When it comes to considering what your hardware needs, here’s a deer look at the categories of devices.
The most basic and common hardware used in payments—the stand-alone swipe terminal moves toward obsolescence with the introduction of chip cards and EMV standards. Typical swipe machines also limit your business to here-and-now functionality. Beyond basic software upgrades, there’s no connection to the bigger world of payments applications so readily available today. These terminals also don’t usually help you accept payments beyond basic card transactions. And, their more manual nature allows for more “human error” that cause you more work, versus smarter terminals and integrated point-of-sale (POS) options.
There’s a host of smart credit card terminals available in the marketplace today. Most providers periodically launch new generation equipment. Today’s smart terminals go beyond simple card, including chip card acceptance, they also support near field communication that drives most of the major mobile wallets. Beyond that, smart terminals today generally offer the flexibility of adding apps that support a range of your other business operating needs, including loyalty/rewards, reporting and analytics and a host of others.
Virtual terminals—mobile acceptance
Virtual terminals essentially turn any internet-connected device into an on-the-go point of sale terminal. If you pack and ship product to customers from your store-room after hours, you can enter credit card information that’s been shared with you as you ship product. Today’s virtual terminal offerings generally come with a host of available solutions designed to protect card-not-present transactions, including tokenization. A virtual terminal can also limit the expense associated with hardware upgrades and the like. Similarly, mobile acceptance options, like those driven by dongle attachments to smartphones or tablets, allow your business to be more mobile—at a street fair, for example, or tableside at your small outdoor café.
Think of POS systems as smart terminals that are often uniquely designed for specific industry types. For example, most restaurants today use more intelligent payments hardware systems that integrate payments acceptance with all the other functionality that they need. From ordering, to food inventory management, to customer loyalty and rewards, these systems go beyond smart terminals on the integration front—connecting your payments to the deepest range of business operating functionality. In most cases, integrated POS systems offer you many payment processing options that have already been integrated with them.
We live in an app-driven world today. Software can connect you to a universe of solutions for your business. The device, terminal or POS system you choose should reflect how your business operates, as well as the types of payments you want to accept and the back-end systems that you want your payments to connect to. Generally, it’s better to have more integration and scalability. You want your payments to work for your business today and tomorrow.