How you do business with your customers will affect the best way to accept their card payments. There are two main differences in how you accept card payments: card-present environments and card-not-present environments. Exactly as the names suggest, payments can be made with and without a card being physically present and swiped or inserted into a card reader.
Card present payment methods
In card present environments, you accept credit and debit cards in person. POS systems, credit card terminals and mobile card readers all accept card payments with a credit or debit card present. All card readers can accept magnetic stripe cards, but a reader that can also accept newer EMV chip cards as well is important for a growing business.
Point-of-sale (POS) system
A traditional POS system is a complete checkout station that includes everything for physical transactions to take place. This includes software, a keypad or touchscreen, a card reader, a receipt printer, and occasionally other peripherals such as barcode scanners.
POS systems are best for businesses with a physical location, especially larger businesses that want to integrate their POS with other business software for inventory and accounting functions. Pricing varies according to the type of system, as there are generalized POS systems as well as optimized versions designed for specific business environments such as, for example, coffee shops.
Credit card terminal
A credit card terminal is a card reader that can be used connected to or alongside POS systems, or on their own. Most terminals have a built-in keypad for entering card PINs, as well as receipt printers. Countertop models that connect via dial-up or Ethernet and wireless models that connect via Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, GPRS and other mobile networks are both available.
Standalone credit card terminals without the full POS system are great for small businesses that don’t need a credit card processing system for anything except accepting payments. Wireless credit card terminals also offer a degree of mobility within a certain radius, which is convenient for businesses such as restaurants by enabling payment at different tables and around the building, for example. These terminals, while limited in additional features like POS capabilities, are one of the most affordable payment solutions.
Mobile credit card reader
Mobile card readers are portable devices that let you accept card payments on the go. These are becoming less popular, due to the growing popularity of using an app installed on a smartphone or tablet, along with a small dongle-like card reader that is typically either plugged into the headphone jack of the smartphone or tablet, or connected though Bluetooth. Either kind of mobile option can be used anywhere, as long as there is a network signal. This type of setup is best for a small business that primarily does business with customers on the go or at the customer’s location, such as a food cart or street vendor, a plumber or electrician, or a trade show attendee.
Card not present payment methods
Card not present environments allow you to accept credit and debit cards remotely. This is usually done online or over the phone. For these types of payments, the card doesn’t need to be scanned by a device, but rather the cardholder needs to enter the card information electronically.
For more information about how to accept credit cards or to sign up for a merchant account, please call (888) 924-2743 or go to Charge.com.