Virtual terminals make it easy to accept credit card payments online

With virtual terminal, accepting credit cards without traditional payment processing hardware is as easy as connecting to the internet.

Accept payments, virtually everywhere

In business, we all need to get paid. Virtual terminals make credit card processing easy. This overview looks at how virtual terminals work, why they are useful, how to get them, and other issues commonly faced by merchants seeking to expand their payment acceptance options. Is there anyone who doesn’t want more ways to get paid?

How do virtual terminals work?

A virtual terminal is exactly what it sounds like—it’s a credit card terminal, without the actual terminal. With virtual terminals, accepting credit cards is as easy as connecting to the internet. Virtual terminals are easily accessed via standard web browsers; no additional hardware is required. You enter the sale amount, swipe or key-in a card number, and wait for an authorization. The difference is that the payment information is captured via a computer.

Each virtual terminal will have its own user interface, but you can expect a form with fields to fill in with information about the sale. Typically, this includes at minimum the customer name, transaction amount, the card number with expiration date, and the card’s security code. After you’ve swiped the card or entered the sale information, you submit the payment for authorization. The payment information is then transferred through the authorization network and back to your web browser with a response. 

Feature sets for virtual terminals are infinitely flexible. Common features include the ability to print or email a receipt to the customer, while the transaction reporting tool that many payment processors provide.

Recurring transactions

If your virtual terminal supports recurring transactions, you can skip entering the card information and go straight to processing the payment. Simply select the customer from your list of saved cardholders and their card information will auto-populate the form. You may also be able to schedule recurring payments that don’t require manual input. Set the amount, frequency, (weekly, bi-monthly, etc.), the number of payments or desired duration, and watch the payments roll in.

Automated clearinghouse (ACH) payments

Virtual terminals are also a perfect merchant solution for processing automated clearinghouse (ACH) payments. Just like a virtual terminal processes credit card payments without the terminal, an ACH payment is just like a check, without the paper. ACH payments can be used for one-time or recurring transactions. ACH payments differ in two key ways from regular credit card transactions. Because they are treated like checks, ACH payments typically process in batch and so are often not reflected in real time. ACH payment funds can therefore take longer to be available in your account. On the plus side, credit card processing rates are significantly less than standard rates; ACH payments are not processed by the major card networks and thus are not subject to interchange fees.

Retail merchants can realize significant administrative savings processing incoming ACH payments via virtual terminal applications. ACH credit functions (such as vendor payments or issuing payroll via direct deposit) can also be managed via virtual terminals.

Virtual terminal credit card readers

With a card reader, you can also swipe a credit or debit card rather than key-entering a card number to initiate a payment. Doing so means getting a better interchange rate, since transactions that are keyed are usually considered card-not-present (CNP) transactions, which are processed at a higher rate. 

Credit card readers come in a variety of styles and have some differences in functionality depending on the type. They typically connect to the computer via USB cord and are small in size, adding to the convenience virtual terminal offers. You can easily stick a card reader in your laptop case, or briefcase to take payments on the go.

Security features are important because merchants have a responsibility to meet PCI standards. That means you’re responsible for maintaining secure systems and handling cardholder data safely and securely. But you should also consider having card data encryption technology so that whether you key enter or swipe the card, the data you enter is instantly encrypted and protected from theft throughout the entire transaction.

Why a virtual terminal is useful to merchants

Virtual terminals solve problems routinely faced by retail merchants. Like when you’re away from your brick and mortar location. You don’t have to turn down sales, or try to perform an offline transaction by writing down the customer’s payment info and processing it later—that’s inefficient and presents security risks.

Another common use case is as a backup option in case any of your payment hardware or software malfunctions. If your point of sale system is down, simply log into the virtual terminal for business to continue as usual until the equipment can be reset, repaired, or replaced.

Many merchants will take payments over the phone but don’t have a web-based eCommerce solution to process the transaction. With a virtual terminal, you can easily accept MOTO (mail order/telephone order) payments. Some solutions even provide a hosted webpage for online sales. The website looks like your business website, but is actually hosted by your payment processor’s virtual terminal. 

Virtual terminal can also help solve the high processing cost of business-to-business (B2B) transactions that can add up if they are not submitted with track 2 and 3 data. B2B transactions are often tied to solutions based on a card-not-present (eCommerce) platform. Virtual terminals are useful in this case because of their ability to facilitate secure recurring payments with the information collected in track 2 and 3 data, lowering the credit card processing rate.

Industries likely to process payments with virtual terminals

When it comes to card processing, certain business models are more apt to use a virtual terminal solution than others:


How to get a virtual card payment terminal

To use a virtual terminal you need to obtain a merchant account with a payment processor. Many processors offer virtual terminal services as an add-on to a main processing account, so you don’t have to have a separate merchant ID and account for your virtual transactions. Another advantage of having one provider for both your traditional and virtual transactions is that all of your transactions occur within one account and are consolidated on one monthly statement. This simplifies the payment and reconciliation process for your business, allowing you to focus on what you love.

When choosing a virtual terminal provider, be sure to look at the whole picture including services, fees, and customer support. For help identifying a quality provider to meet your processing needs, use this credit card processing report card

Virtual Terminal Plus

Vantiv, now Worldpay is a leading provider of credit card processing services offering a virtual terminal suite, Virtual Terminal Plus. Virtual Terminal Plus allows you to accept credit, debit, and recurring payments. Virtual Terminal Plus protects card data per PCI requirements with support of Level 2 and Level 3 payments, which lowers processing costs. You can manage transactions easily, efficiently, and cost-effectively, without a dedicated credit card acceptance device. Plus, it comes with convenient and comprehensive customer data reporting, too.

Virtual Terminal Plus is:

  • Efficient—see all merchant services fees at a glance
  • Convenient—accessible anywhere via popular web browsers
  • Simple—with an intuitive, easy-to-use web interface
  • Secure—payment data is stored on our PCI compliant server platform

With Virtual Terminal Plus, you can:

  • Easily generate refunds and reversals
  • Manage recurring payments and schedules
  • Administer and authenticate multiple users
  • Create recurring payment schedules
  • Customize user fields to capture additional customer transaction details
  • Conduct searches for historical transaction info
  • Automatically generate end-of-day batch settlements 
  • Protect card data per PCI DSS requirements
  • Support Level 2 and Level 3 payments (for B2B and government customers)

Do you have questions about virtual terminals? Our payments experts have answers. Are you ready to consider Virtual Terminal Plus? Give us a call to request a free quote. Call today.