5 things to consider before choosing a payment terminal

5 Things to Consider Before Choosing a Payment Terminal

Companies can increase their sales by expanding the payment methods they accept. Implementing a terminal allows customers to make purchases using their debit and credit cards, or any alternative methods of payment.

Payment terminals are typically basic card readers that accept debit and credit cards and send the data via the internet or phone line to finalize purchases. This solution is easy to use as it often consists of a pin pad, screen, receipt printer, and slot to swipe or insert a card.

On the other hand, POS terminals are payment solutions that allow companies to accept other payment methods, such as cash, gift cards, and checks. These systems can also be integrated with other software to track sales, inventory, and demand trends.

Determining which type of payment terminal has the right capabilities for an establishment to drive sales and increase customer satisfaction will be a vital step to enhancing profits.

Types of Payment Terminals

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There are several types of payment terminals available for businesses in every industry. Each kind offers unique advantages and disadvantages that companies should consider before implementation. The four standard terminals include-


Also known as the traditional terminal, this is the most commonly used card processor and requires an internet or phone connection. Depending on the make and model, traditional terminals can range from under $100 to over $300, providing an option for every company budget.

A significant advantage countertop terminals provide businesses is the ability to process payments from debit, credit, and gift cards. They also allow users to manually input their card numbers in the case of a malfunction or forgotten card.

However, traditional processors have limited mobility and need to be set in an area available to all departments. These features make countertop terminals ideal for retail stores and businesses that have designated check-out centers. Typical industries that use this transaction service include-

  • Medical offices
  • Restaurants
  • Salons
  • Boutiques


Mobile, or wireless, terminals are great for traveling businesses because they do not require a direct connection to the internet or phone line. Instead, wireless solutions can connect to local WIFI or hotspots to process mobile payments. While slightly pricier than a traditional card reader, wireless terminals are relatively affordable, averaging around $200.

While its most significant advantage is mobility, wireless card readers have a higher risk of security breaches if they are connected to a public network. Therefore, companies should invest in a private internet connection to ensure data security.

Businesses that typically use mobile terminals include-

  • Food trucks
  • Sub-contractors
  • Event Venues

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Integrated POS hardware

For businesses that already have a POS system, software can be paired with the payment service hardware.

POS payment processing is generally more efficient than primary terminals because it stores all product and price information, eliminating the need for manual inputs. By utilizing a barcode scanner, the program instantly recognizes the item, variation, cost, and discounts. This automation handles risk management by reducing human error and ensuring all scans and payments are valid. Depending on the features and hardware offered, POS solutions usually range from around $400 to over a thousand dollars.

The downside to POS terminals is that the company usually does not have a say in what kind of card reader they'll receive. Software is already bundled with hardware, setting a strict, non-negotiable price, and set of terms. However, some providers offer packages in which the business can choose what devices they want included.

Businesses that handle large amounts of stock and transactions utilize POS systems because of their efficiency, tracking abilities, and automation. These organizations may include-

  • Grocery stores
  • Retailers
  • Restaurants


A virtual terminal is secured on a website, where customers manually input their payment information and the transaction is electronically processed. While this method is typically used by e-commerce businesses, physical stores can utilize virtual processors for when a customer forgets their card or orders over the phone.

This solution reduces paper waste and minimizes upfront costs, as it doesn't require additional hardware. Virtual solutions differ significantly in price and are usually based on a subscription fee or percentage rate.

Virtual terminals are not ideal as a lone solution for companies making physical transactions, as they cannot accept cash or checks, while credit card numbers have to be manually inputted into the system.

This terminal meets the needs of companies that solely fulfill their transactions online, such as-
  • Medical billing departments
  • E-commerce sites
  • Freelancers

Choosing the Right Terminal

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When determining which payment terminal will fulfill a company's needs, businesses should consider-

1. Daily Procedures

Management should evaluate the company's activities and processes to find what solution would promote their efficiency. For example, a food truck that is constantly traveling would require a wireless terminal for its mobility.

2. Established Technology

Unless the company is willing to do away with its previous system, existing hardware should be evaluated before trying to implement a new terminal. Many POS systems can integrate new terminals, but only if they have specific elements. Therefore, users should contact the provider to ask what their options are.

Businesses looking for terminals that accept more payment methods or allow for integration should contact their provider first before purchasing a new system. Many times, the equipment can be reprogrammed or updated to fit the company's needs.

3. Location

Understanding where the customers will purchase their items says a lot about what terminal is right for a company. A traditional terminal is ideal for a designated check-out center, whereas as a traveling freelancer would require a mobile service.

4. Typical Payment Methods

Based on the clientele, organizations should choose a terminal that accepts their customers' most common forms of payment. A grocery store with high traffic would require a POS system that accepts all payment methods. However, this might be unnecessary for a smaller restaurant with fewer transactions.

5. Budget

Terminals range in cost based on their features and transaction capabilities. Staying within the company's budget is step one to increasing profitability. If possible, businesses should prevent having to lease hardware as the interest on payments over the years end up costing exponentially more than the original purchasing price.

Different payment terminals come with unique functions, such as the ability to handle card processing, online payments, and orders over-the-phone. Depending on a company's needs, advanced POS systems or basic terminals can streamline transactions and improve customer service.