Get hardware smart: how to choose the best credit card reader and terminal

When it comes to credit card terminals available to process payments, there is seemingly endless choice. But which one is right for your business? Spending a few minutes to understand the landscape of the major types of card readers will arm savvy business owners with the intelligence needed to make informed choices best-suited to your business needs.

From legacy card readers to fully integrated point-of-sale (POS) systems, from smartphones to tablets, and everything in between, all roads lead to one destination: ringing-up sales. How you take credit cards and other payments is entirely up to you. Thankfully, you don’t have to reinvent the wheel, take a special class, or hire a high-priced consultant. When considering what card payment terminals and devices are best for your business, start with these simple questions:

  • How does my business operate? Where do I want and need to transact payments?
  • What types of payment options do my customers want?
  • Will accepting payments for my business be centralized, or decentralized?
  • Will the payments hardware be compatible with other systems I use?
  • Is it easy to update the credit card reader’s system software?
  • Am I ready to configure all of this myself? Or is it time to call a payments specialist?

All roads lead to checkout: credit card readers for businesses

Credit card machines and basic payment terminals

Credit card swipers and desktop terminals have been the standard for years. Workhorses of the past, “dummy terminals” were a fixture of retail for decades. In the modern age of EMV chip cards this technology continues to evolve.

Smart terminals to POS – Connect to any payments

These modern advanced systems support the full range of secure payment options including EMV chip cards and contactless technology to support mobile wallets. Smart terminals and integrated POS systems allow for sophisticated software integrations such as inventory management, accounting, and reporting.

Other payment processing hardware options

Your smartphone or tablet can easily become a checkout device with today’s mobile acceptance offerings. Solutions such as virtual terminal and dongle extensions can turn any internet-connected device into a point of sale device. Meet your customers where they shop with payment acceptance that moves with you.

Be smart about scale and service

As your business grows, your payments requirements will grow, too. The hardware that you use must be able to expand with you. You’ll need to know how scalable it is—can it connect to services that you don’t need today, but may need tomorrow? Whatever hardware and software you may choose, you’ll need to know that it comes with world-class support.

From the day-to-day of today’s payments to tackling challenges as your business grows, will your business have lock-down service that you know you can you rely on? When it’s time to take your business to the next level, you’ll need a payments partner you can trust to help you get there.

Why Midwest Pay?

Because when you work with Midwest Pay, you get a global leader in merchant services, integrated payments, and solutions. With industry-leading scale and an unmatched integrated technology platform, Midwest Pay offers clients a comprehensive suite of products and services globally, delivered through a single provider. The road to a seamless and secure payments experience starts with a conversation. Join the conversation with Midwest Pay today.

Choose Your Hardware: Payment Acceptance Options

“Dummy Terminals” a.k.a. Swipe Machines

The most basic and common hardware used in payments—the stand-alone credit card swipe terminal—still exists, but it is moving quickly toward obsolescence. Typical swipe machines and the “magstripe” credit cards that fed them were workhorses of retail commerce for decades. But their roots in 1970s-era technology left the entire system vulnerable to fraud. The introduction of chip cards and EMV standards has led the charge toward significant reductions of in-person (or “card-present”) fraud. With hardware costs plummeting and more secure options readily available, deploying swipe-only credit card terminals is no longer considered a retail best practice.

Smart Terminals

There’s a host of smart credit card terminals available in the marketplace today. Today’s smart credit card machines extend legacy card swiping functionality to include the much more secure EMV chip card acceptance. Smart terminals also support near field communications (NFC), the technology that drives today’s mobile wallets such as Apple Pay, Samsung Pay, Android Pay, and Google Pay. These contactless payments methods allow users to pay with credit card credentials stored on apps on their phones, simply by holding their smartphone in close proximity to your smart terminal.

Beyond that, smart terminals today connect to software and apps that support a range of other business functions: loyalty/rewards, reporting, inventory, and analytics, to name just a few.

Virtual Terminals

Virtual terminals turn any internet-connected device into a point-of-sale terminal, on-the-go. For example, 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. A virtual terminal can also limit the expense associated with hardware upgrades, as virtual terminals operate on your existing desktop, laptop, tablet, or other mobile device.

Virtual terminals were once confined to back-office operations, such as MOTO (mail order and telephone order). Today, virtual terminals are used to run an ever-growing range of business use cases.

Mobile Terminals and Mobile Acceptance

A mobile terminal is a smart terminal that is freed from the constraints of your checkout counter. A mobile terminal connects to a point-of-sale system via Bluetooth, allowing your staff to accept direct payments anywhere within range of your store’s wireless network.

For those who want even more freedom of movement, mobile payments options are all the rage. Driven by “dongle” attachments that connect to smartphones like iPhone or Android or tablets such as iPads, mobile acceptance sets your business free. Imagine being able to satisfy customers and transact business virtually everywhere—in or around your physical store, at a street fair, or tableside at your small outdoor café. Mobile acceptance allows you to create an entirely unique flow of transactions with your customers in a way that suits your business, and your dreams.

Integrated POS Systems

Think of point-of-sale (POS) systems as smart card terminals on steroids, uniquely designed for your type of business. For example, most restaurants today use more intelligent POS systems that integrate payments acceptance with a host of other restaurant operations functionality. From taking food orders to managing inventory, from linking to ordering systems to redeeming customer loyalty rewards, these systems seemingly do it all. Your payments processor can offer expert advice and help you implement the POS system best-suited for your growing business.

You are in business in order to follow your dreams, not to become an expert in payments. But in the absence of payments, your dreams are just that—dreams. In order to make them a reality, you need to get paid. Thankfully, you don’t need to become an expert in payments in order to set up your business for success. One-size-fits-all solutions just won’t do when it comes to your dreams. Choose devices and solutions that reflect how your business operates. Together with your payments partner, devise a total payments solution that allows for easy integration with your other internal systems. Build a solution that will scale as your business grows.

Whether you are ready to take the next huge step in your business journey and begin to accept payments, or if you are looking to upgrade your existing payments infrastructure, we can help. Contact one of our payments experts who can help you navigate equipment decisions, explain pricing such as per swipe and per transaction fees, stand with you to provide the best protection against fraud, and answer any questions you may have in clear, easy-to-understand language. You are the expert in your business. We’re experts in payments. Together, we can help you realize your dreams.