How to Find the Best Terminal for Accepting Credit Card Payments


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Discover what to look for when researching options for the best card-present payment acceptance solutions for your business.

If you’ve begun the research process for a new payments provider, whether you currently have one or not, you’ll find that there are a lot of different ways you can go about setting up your business’s credit card payment processing methods. Understandably, that can feel daunting, but on the other hand, it also means that you have the freedom and opportunity to customize your credit card processing solutions to fit the needs of your growing business. In this article, we’re going to look at card-present payments specifically and how to carefully consider the options that are available.

Finding the best terminal for accepting credit card payment - illustration showing consumer at restaurant handing credit card to vendor holding credit card processor.

What are card-present payments?

If your business is currently accepting card-present payments or planning to at some point, that means customers are or will be coming to you to make an in-store purchase of your products or services. They’ll hand over their credit cards or swipe, tap and insert them at your check-out counter. In the payments industry, those transactions are known as card-present transactions. In other words, your customers are making purchases with their credit cards in-person.

If you should ever decide to change up or expand your business model, and you want to accept payments online through an eCommerce shop, those would be known as card-not-present transactions. You can learn more about setting up a successful eCommerce shop here.

What card-present payment terminal options are available?

This list certainly isn’t all-inclusive, but here are a few of the most commonly used card-present solutions available to you.

  • Countertop Terminals: At some point or another each one of us has swiped, dipped or tapped our credit cards at a store or restaurant, from terminals that generally look very similar to one another. These are the stand-alone countertop terminals that read customer credit and debit cards (with a PIN pad) once a sale is entered. These are great for retailers and restaurant owners.
  • Point-of-Sale Systems: It’s most likely that if you’ve come across a point-of-sale (POS) system, you’ve seen it in the form of a tablet attached to a cash drawer and receipt printer. These systems are more comprehensive in that they are usually loaded with a business management software that’s integrated with payment acceptance. POS systems can be useful for businesses like salons or healthcare offices that require features like appointment scheduling or staff planning.
  • Virtual Terminal: While Virtual Terminals can handle card-not-present transactions as well, they are useful for businesses who prefer to use a laptop or computer to run a transactions in-store. Often times Virtual Terminals come equipped with additional hardware for the actual acceptance of card-present credit card transactions, like a USB device, but this can be a fairly simple setup.
  • Mobile Devices: Great for businesses on-the-go, like food trucks and pop-up stands, mobile devices are a way to securely accept card-present transactions from anywhere. Even if you have a more permanent storefront, considering a mobile device to accept your customers’ cards outside of the store may be a good idea, in case you decide to set up shop at the occasional market or event.

What terminal should I be using to accept credit cards?

Before you even begin your research into finding the best terminal to accept your customers’ card-present transactions, you should think about your own business model and how you might want your payment acceptance to complement that. For example, do you own a restaurant? If you do, you might want to consider a terminal that allows for tip adjustments on each transaction, so closing is simple at the end of a busy night. If you run a doctor’s office and need a system that does more than accept payments, but also helps you with other business operations, then you might want to seek out a system that comes with a business management software.

The best terminal depends on exactly what you need as a business and how you plan to grow, however, when you’re looking through your options, there are four major elements that we feel are important to consider:

  • Security. The last thing you want to experience as a business is a data breach, especially one that stemmed from malware on your store’s terminals. You may be thinking that a data breach isn’t likely in your future, but even the smallest of businesses are at risk of getting their info hacked and stolen. Exposing data to vulnerabilities could be detrimental to the trust you worked so hard to build with your customers, which could result in the loss of business from returning customers. When looking for a terminal, security is the most important component to take seriously. Make sure the terminals you’re considering protect your transactions and customer data with solutions like PCI-validated point-to-point encryption and tokenization. Solutions like these provide a shield for data from the moment a card is accepted, through its full life-cycle. If you aren’t looking at a terminal that accepts EMV credit cards, you’re looking at the wrong terminal. EMV technology, also known as chip cards, has more-or-less become a requirement by the PCI Security Standards Council for businesses to implement if accepting credit cards. EMV prevents criminals from duplicating credit card data to be used in card-present transactions. Finding the best terminal security - gif with seew saw scale with large and small balls at either side moving up and down

For more information on protecting your point-of-sale from a data breach, click here.

  • Ease-of-Use. Outside of security, growing your business is probably the next most important thing to you, and that’s something you should be able to focus on. You don’t want to waste time fiddling with terminals that are difficult to use or cause frequent issues. Find a terminal that’s known for its reliability, that your whole team is comfortable with using. Finding the best terminal - gif of credit card and shield icon overlay with slider button moving to on and off position
  • Adaptability. Let’s be honest, aside from the constant desire to enhance the customer experience, the biggest driver for technological innovation in regards to the payments industry is crime. Unfortunate, but true. Payments providers have to be one step ahead of the game when it comes to preventing crime and protecting information. At the speed technology evolves, you need to find a provider that can keep up with the pace. While you’re busy running a business, it’s the job of your payments provider to make sure the solutions you’re using to accept your customer’s payments are up-to-date and secure.
  • Support. Another unfortunate truth: things break. Maybe your internet goes down or you forgot how to change a particular setting on your terminal. Make sure the payments provider that supports your terminal and any other hardware is reliable and accessible. Support that you can get access to 24/7 can be really important for some businesses, especially those that stay open late. Finding the best terminal - gif of number 24 with arrows moving in circular opposites around the number indicating 24 hour service

How do I get started with new payment terminals for my card-present transactions?

If you currently have a payments provider that processes your business’s payments, they will likely have solutions available to you that will take care of your card-present transactions. If those solutions don’t seem like the best fit for your business, it’s OK to step outside of your comfort zone and see what else is out there. Changing providers may seem like another daunting thought that you’d rather not think about, but if you find that right match, integrating payments into your business will be simple.

We hope this has given you enough of a starting point to understand how to begin your research for the right terminal, and we wish you luck! If you’d like to talk to us more about card-present solutions and what might be the best fit for you, fill out the quick form below and we’ll continue this conversation.

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