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Three Ways your Business Can Benefit from an Online Virtual Terminal

Updated on May 8, 2015

If yours is like many other businesses, at some point in your history you decided that you needed to be able to accept credit cards. The process may have been long and drawn out - finding a merchant account provider, proving your credit worthiness to your bank, buying or renting the necessary equipment, and getting the whole system set up for your specific business needs. Now that it's completed, you probably don't want to do it again. But if your current system doesn't include a virtual terminal and all the advantages that come with it, you could be missing out on substantial savings (of both time and money) and a host of features that stand-alone terminals or point of sale (POS) systems just don't offer.

A virtual terminal is an online payment solution that authorizes payments for businesses, whether they take the majority of their orders in person, online, over the phone, or by mail. It is the equivalent of a physical POS terminal located in most retail outlets, but with a considerable number of additional features. Most importantly for you and your customers' security, having a virtual terminal protects credit card information by encrypting sensitive information while maintaining ease-of-use. Almost all businesses can benefit from the added features of a virtual terminal:

Integration

The true power of the best virtual terminal solutions is how they integrate with the rest of your business. If your business relies on a point-of-sale system, a physical terminal, or an online shopping cart, a virtual terminal can connect to any or all of them, and bring them together seamlessly. Even more importantly, it can integrate directly with your existing accounting software (like QuickBooks or Sage solutions) and offer the following benefits:

- No more manual entry between your card acceptance routine and your back-end accounting process.
- Full transaction information on every card processed, meaning lower fees and fewer chargebacks.
- Support for recurring payments from customers with standing orders or subscriptions.
- Faster and more complete customer information in your back-end system.

An integrated system makes sense for every type of business, regardless of size, market segment or current accounting and credit card solutions in place.

Money and time savings

If the "integration" angle doesn't sell it for you, then hopefully the time and money saving features will mean more. First and foremost, using an integrated online virtual terminal is a time saver. No more manually entering credit card into two systems. No more reconciling invoices and payments after-the-fact. No more taking an order in your storefront and walking the card to a physical terminal in your office. No more accessing multiple systems to get a complete report on your customers. Pulling together your systems will save you time in even more ways once you start using it in your day-to-day business operations.

In addition to the money saved in person-hours and increased productivity, the true monatary savings from an integrated virtual terminal comes from decreased credit card processing fees. Using stand-alone terminals used to be the only way to qualify a card at the lowest interchange rates available. However, times have changed; newer technology allows merchants to qualify cards at the lowest possible interchange levels, even if none of your cards are swiped. The same integration that consolidates your workflow also lets you send additional customer and order data along with the credit card information, giving you the lowest rates possible for a card-not-present transaction. Another convenient result of submitting and collecting customer data in this manner is that it greatly reduces the chance of successful chargebacks against your business, once again saving you money.

More and better business information

Standard credit card processing solutions offer you a lot of data, but not always a lot of ways to easily use that data, or incorporate it with the rest of your customer information. With an integrated virtual terminal, however, all of your customer data, from orders to invoices to credit card history is consolidated, searchable and available in a variety of report formats. They also allow real-time reporting and research of transaction data, where stand-alone terminals and POS solutions often don't make this information available until the next day, after the batch processes. The high-level integration also automatically protects customer data while still letting you use it in reports (via PCI-compliant truncation and tokenization), giving you the most flexible and powerful reporting options available.

In conclusion

Credit card processing technology can be complicated and time-consuming to install and begin using, and it's best to do it right the first time. But even if that ship has sailed and you have a solution that you've been using for a few years, there are enough advantages in an integrated virtual terminal to consider making the switch. The process may not be as complicated or difficult as you think, and the advantages far outweigh the potential problems.

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