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Credit Card Machine Buyers Guide

Credit Card Terminals and Their Features

Credit card terminals come in three main varieties (with printers or not): traditional, wireless, and software-based (virtual). Most of these terminals have similar functions, as well as basic features.


These are the terminals that are “plugged in.” They come with a reader for magnetic stripes, a keypad for necessary information, and a display. A printer is usually needed, and some come with printers built in. However, it is possible to purchase printers separately. Many business owners prefer the ease of having only one piece of terminal equipment, but buying separately will not increase or decrease your cost by a significant amount.

You need to decide how large you prefer your keypads and displays. If you have a keypad with more keys, it is possible to have each function assigned its own keys. Additionally, a larger keypad can be easier to use. Larger displays naturally allow you to see more at once. They are denoted by lines of texts and number of columns: a display 5x10 shows 5 lines of text, 10 columns wide. Most newer terminals come with backlit displays that make it easier to see in conditions of low light.


All wireless terminals have printers built in, as the main advantage to them is that they work without the need for a corded power source. These terminals are especially helpful to businesses that do not make use of counter space: seasonal or traveling businesses with temporary setups, taxi drivers, and businesses with large lots. For most permanent location businesses, however, the expense of wireless terminals is not cost-efficient.

When choosing wireless terminals you should consider battery life, weight, durability, shock resistance (in case of dropping), and range. All of these factors should answer the individual needs of your business.


Virtual credit card terminals are the ultimate expression of our rapidly shrinking world and expanding business capabilities. This type of terminal is very convenient for businesses that do a great deal of business over the Internet or over the phone. In some cases a bank or acquirer will flag your merchant account as a "High Risk Merchant Service". This means you will need a specialized company or service provider that deals only with high risk merchants. Special terminal software allows you to type in the account number and purchase information, and the authorization is handled by the merchant account provider’s software.

It is possible to combine terminal types, especially if your business has a permanent location (use a traditional terminal) and also sells merchandise online (virtual terminal).

Other features desirable for credit card terminals

Acceptance of debit cards is one of the most desirable features of any credit card terminal. This requires a way for customers to enter their personal identification numbers (PIN). You can use a terminal that allows customers to swipe their own cards and enter their PINs on the keypad, or you can choose models that come with separate PIN pads. These separate pads allow you to keep the terminal behind the counter, but still give customers the ability to type in their own code.

Many credit card terminals are also equipped with the ability to accept and issue gift cards. This is a desirable characteristic that you should check for if your business makes use of gift cards (re-loadable or not). Other alternate forms of payment, such as use of an ATM card or an electronic bank transfer (EBT) can also be found on terminals. Not all credit card terminals offer these options, however, so you should carefully consider how often these transactions occur and buy terminals that best support your customers’ needs.

Address verification is a feature that cuts down on fraud. Avoiding fraud is important, as it affects your business as well as the victim. Customers are not usually held liable for fraudulent purchases, and this can result in chargebacks on merchandise bought from your business. Most terminals are equipped with address verification, which allows you to compare the customer’s ID with the credit card’s billing address.

Terminals that run with the help of internal software (most of them now) can make use of flash memory. In such terminals, it is very easy to install updates. This can help increase your terminal’s operating life.

Finally, reliability is a feature that most credit card terminals possess. You can get between two and four million transactions out of a credit card terminal before it begins to wear out. Many terminals come with one-year warranties; though you probably won’t need it, a warranty is not a bad idea, just in case you happen to have a faulty unit.

*Note that any credit card terminal is compatible with any merchant account. Your account provider may try to push its terminal on you, but rest assured that if you do not like the terminals offered by your provider that you can purchase elsewhere and still have all the same transaction power.


PLEASE NOTE: Each credit card terminal we sell at comes with a FREE merchant account...but only if you need one. Apply Now for a free merchant account.

If you choose to process with us. You will be processing your credit cards and checks through our partner Applied-Merchant. They are nationally recognized and have a reputation for having the lowest rates with the best service "after the sale". Thats why after searching for the best processor, we chose Applied-Merchant.

If you decide to buy from us and process through Applied-Merchant. Your terminal(s) will come pre-programmed and ready to go. Plus, each terminal will come with a LIFE TIME SUPPLY of free receipt paper so you dont have to worry about it.

Apply for a Merchant Account

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