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Credit Card Machine Options for Small Business
© 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.
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.
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.
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.
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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