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Credit Card Machine Options for Small Business

Updated on February 13, 2017
Mophie Marketplace Credit Card Reader
Mophie Marketplace Credit Card Reader

© 2012 by Aurelio Locsin.

Because credit cards are convenient and allow immediate purchasing power, potential customers of your business are likely to use them when they buy your retail goods or perform expensive transactions. To take advantage of this, your business needs an expensive credit card machine and merchant account. Fortunately, less costly alternatives are available.

PayPal Account

If you perform your transactions online, then PayPal lets you accept payments without requiring a merchant account or credit card machine. It costs you nothing to sign up, though each transaction charges a fee. Your customers can pay either with a credit card or directly from their checking account with some advance setup. In either case, they do not reveal their financial information, which increases transaction security. To set up this method, you have to sign up with PayPal and then implement the PayPal button on your website. Some merchant providers, such as Ebay, can provide the button automatically with your item listings.

Virtual Terminal

A virtual terminal displays an online form that either you or your customers can fill out. The information is then sent over the Internet to the payment processor. You can rent a virtual terminal, if you want one with a self-contained credit card swiper. Or your can use your own laptop or desktop, if you or your customer do not mind filling out the form through a keyboard. This latter method can be cumbersome and is best suited for low-volume, high-cost transactions such as with art purchases at a gallery or antiques at a swap meet. It may prove too slow otherwise, such as if you sell convenience foods at a store.

Smartphone Alternative

If you own a smartphone, then you already have the main component of a credit card reader. All you need for the external port is a small hardware attachment that can read credit card stripes. You can then download software that will process payments over the Internet. Depending on the company that you sign up with, you may need a merchant account and/or pay a flat fee or percentage for each transaction. The advantage of this method is that you can bring payment processing to the customer instead of waiting for him to come to you. This can be useful, for example, if you’re collecting payment at the door of an event or after a bidder wins an auction.

Tablet Terminal

As with the smartphone reader, you can a small hardware attachment and software to a tablet. (REFERENCE 6) But this tablet system can also include a cash drawer and other point-of-sale devices that turn your tablet into a cash register, so you can accept cash and checks as well as credit cards. The larger screen can also integrate reporting features so you can track sales on a graph, feature an inventory management system so you know if an item is in stock before finalizing the sale and control employee access so multiple workers can use the same terminal.


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    • joedolphin88 profile image


      7 years ago from north miami FL

      Amazing that today with Square you could literally have a swiper attached to your smart phone and complete a credit card transaction just like that. I hope you'll check out my tech article on a company called CellAllure they have a phone called the Lite S that is very impressive. Saw the square credit card swipe done on that phone.

    • MarleneB profile image

      Marlene Bertrand 

      8 years ago from USA

      I'm really fascinated by the credit card readers that can be attached to the cell phone. When I moved and had new carpet installed, the carpet installer had one of those cell phone terminals. He had just received it and I was his first customer to pay through his new system. I had never seen one until then. It's great because it is portable and it sent me an instant email and receipt. Yep! The world is changing.

    • alocsin profile imageAUTHOR

      Aurelio Locsin 

      9 years ago from Orange County, CA

      I agree, wheelinallover. If I were a small business just starting with product to sell, I couldn't afford these rates either.

    • wheelinallover profile image

      Dennis Thorgesen 

      9 years ago from Beatrice, Nebraska U.S.

      Alocsin, this was the least expensive we were able to find the others we talked to wanted even more. Some are $50 a month plus a transaction fee for every $100. We had one call in the other day which was $80 a month plus transaction fees. This particular one is connected to websites where someone else could receive the money if it wasn't in place. It would be worth it if you were receiving enough visitors then customers to make it worthwhile. It is all a matter of economics if you earn enough from a website it is worth it. All the fees can be written off also.

    • alocsin profile imageAUTHOR

      Aurelio Locsin 

      9 years ago from Orange County, CA

      Yikes, credit cards are expensive for the small business.

    • wheelinallover profile image

      Dennis Thorgesen 

      9 years ago from Beatrice, Nebraska U.S.

      As a corporation we have accepted credit cards on our site as well as used paypal and Alert pay. The most affordable to accept credit cards over the internet was $20.00 a month and .03 cents per $100 of each transaction. Due to the changes we have made we no longer accept credit cards, paypal or Alert pay. We can not offer a money back guarantee, and only give a satisfaction guarantee. We have too many man hours invested to deliver a usable product.

    • truthfornow profile image

      Marie Hurt 

      9 years ago from New Orleans, LA

      I use paypal right now. I am interested in this technology but have not been able to find a merchant account that doesn't charge high fees per month just to set it up. Wish merchant accounts were more affordable. My bank is really crazy high.

    • tillsontitan profile image

      Mary Craig 

      9 years ago from New York

      As always, good information. Technology will continue to take us in new directions as it gets smaller and easier to handle!

    • Brett.Tesol profile image

      Brett C 

      9 years ago from Asia

      Just love the smart phone reader! What a great idea, will share this with a friend who is opening up an English school ... great option.

      Shared, up and VERY useful

    • Peggy W profile image

      Peggy Woods 

      9 years ago from Houston, Texas

      Hi alocsin,

      It is amazing how small some of these hand held devices have become! Naturally those of us getting payments from HubPages are all familiar with PayPal but it can be used in so many other ways which I have yet to personally do. Technology certainly keeps changing. Thanks for keeping us updated. Up, interesting and useful votes.

    • alocsin profile imageAUTHOR

      Aurelio Locsin 

      9 years ago from Orange County, CA

      Yes, justateacher, I use PayPal a lot -- just be careful about the hidden fees. Pick the right options to minimize or eliminate them.

    • alocsin profile imageAUTHOR

      Aurelio Locsin 

      9 years ago from Orange County, CA

      It's amazing, Pedrn44, how technology has brought down the cost of these things.

    • alocsin profile imageAUTHOR

      Aurelio Locsin 

      9 years ago from Orange County, CA

      It's rather amazing, Tammyswallow. Everyone from people at garage sales to those at swap meets can accept credit cards now.

    • Deborah Brooks profile image

      Deborah Brooks Langford 

      9 years ago from Brownsville,TX

      pay pal is great i use it all the time.. and I user credit cards wish I didn't when i see the bill at the end of the month

      great hub


    • MsDora profile image

      Dora Weithers 

      9 years ago from The Caribbean

      Thanks for the introduction to these payment options. Paypal is the only one among those you mentioned that I knew about. Now I'll have an idea when someone talks about a virtual or a tablet terminal.

    • rajan jolly profile image

      Rajan Singh Jolly 

      9 years ago from From Mumbai, presently in Jalandhar, INDIA.

      Aurelio this is useful info. Though my business presently does not necessitate use of these options, the fact that a number of cheaper options are available is heartening. Voted up and useful. Bookmarked.

    • mary615 profile image

      Mary Hyatt 

      9 years ago from Florida

      I just can't keep up with all the latest technology. This is a very informative Hub. I love reading about this kind of stuff even if I don't have any use for it. I voted this UP, etc.

    • Nell Rose profile image

      Nell Rose 

      9 years ago from England

      Hi, just goes to show how fast technology is going, great hub and really helpful, cheers nell

    • justateacher profile image

      LaDena Campbell 

      9 years ago from Somewhere Over The Rainbow - Near Oz...

      I will have to check into the paypal would be a great way for parents to donate to my tutoring business! Thanks for the info!

    • teaches12345 profile image

      Dianna Mendez 

      9 years ago

      The wasy we do business just keeps getting more technological and simpler. Paypal seems to be the forerunner of this new tech and payment options. The cost is reasonable is seems and may push more business owners to using this method of transaction. Good topic and well covered.

    • pedrn44 profile image


      9 years ago from Greenfield, Wisconsin

      very useful information, alocsin. When I had my business I had a credit card terminal (quite large machine) and a merchant account. Some of these ideas sound so much more manageable and less expensive as well. My terminal cost me $600 used and I can't seem to get rid of it now!! Voted up and useful.

    • Ruchira profile image


      9 years ago from United States

      informative hub, alocsin.

      Technology sure is growing with a wink of an eye ;)

      voted up and sharing!

    • tammyswallow profile image


      9 years ago from North Carolina

      This is great. I didn't realize these had become portable. Great timing, I was looking into these for craft shows. What a big help. Awesome!

    • thelyricwriter profile image

      Richard Ricky Hale 

      9 years ago from West Virginia

      Voted up, useful, and interesting. Very well written article Alocsin. I have heard of this before and it shows how far technology has came. You have listed many positive features and advantages Alocsin. You can't beat the savings. As you said, card machines are very costly. It saves you money and time. Another great informed article my friend. Well done. Hope you have a great day and see you around.

    • alipuckett profile image


      9 years ago

      Yes! I've heard about Paypal's virtual terminal, and it looks like a great deal. Thanks for the extra info!


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