If you’re applying for a merchant account, you’re probably wondering whether or not you need a terminal, and if you do need a terminal, which terminal is right for you. There are a number of terminals on the market today, and finding the one that is right for you is a simple matter of addressing your specific needs.

The first question is whether or not you need a terminal. If you have a business that requires face-to-face contact with your customers, such as a retail shop or a restaurant, a terminal is probably a good idea. Terminals are generally used in “card present” situations. This means that more than 50 percent of the time, a credit card is actually present at the time of the sale.

With a credit card terminal, you simply swipe the credit card through the machine or enter the numbers on the terminal keypad and the transaction is processed. Oftentimes, two receipts will print directly from the terminal. One copy is for the customer to keep, the other copy the customer signs and you, the merchant, keep.

It is also possible to use a terminal in a “card not present” situation. For example, if you were to take mail order or Internet orders, you can simply key the credit card information into the terminal. Many online businesses prefer to use a terminal in this manner, although it is usually advisable to use software or Internet programs in this type of scenario.

The cost of a terminal can range anywhere from $99 to more than $1000. How much you pay for a terminal will depend on the age of the model you are purchasing, what features are offered and whether or not a printer is included.

Now that you know whether or not you need a terminal, it’s time to look at what kinds of terminals are available to you.

If you need more than one merchant account in your terminal, there are some terminals that can accommodate this need, with some terminals being able to hold up to 9 merchant accounts. If multiple businesses are sharing one terminal, this type of equipment may be of great value to you.

The majority of terminals dial out through a phone line with a transaction time of about 10 seconds. The line that the terminal dials out through can be a shared line and you can have other devices such as a modem or a fax machine hooked up to the same line. However, it is important that this line does not have call waiting or transactions may become disturbed during processing.

The newer terminals are using IP connections in lieu of phone lines. If your business has DSL or high-speed Internet access, it is best to use this type of terminal so you can save money on an extra phone line and increase your transaction times to an average of 2-3 seconds per transaction.

If a phone line or Internet connection isn’t available, you may want to opt for a wireless terminal. This type of terminal does not need a phone line and can communicate wirelessly much like your cell phone or your wireless PDA. With this type of terminal, you can process your transactions anytime, anywhere, without the need for a phone line or an Internet connection.

If a wireless terminal isn’t a viable option but you still need to be able to accept transactions where a phone or Internet connection isn’t available, a terminal with store and forward capabilities may be your best bet. This will allow you to enter the information into the terminal, but the terminal won’t actually dial out for authorization until later that day when you have access to a phone line or Internet connection.

If you want to accept ATM cards through your terminal, you’ll need a PIN pad. A PIN pad will allow your customers to use their ATM cards to pay for your goods or services. If you don’t have a PIN pad, you’ll still be able to accept debit cards, but you’ll need to run it as a check card.

When you decide which type of terminal is best for your business needs, research the price. You will want to make a purchase instead of a lease, as leasing will cost you more money in the long run. If a company tries charging you an absurd amount of money for your terminal or tries pushing you into a lease, take your business elsewhere. You shouldn’t pay more for a terminal than what it’s worth and you shouldn’t be pushed into a lease commitment either.

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