Merchant equipment are the things businesses need to take credit card payments from their customers. Generally, equipment means a device to swipe or insert credit cards. We’ll go through the pieces of merchant equipment and help you figure out what you need.
This equipment you will use to swipe a customer’s credit card. Generally this is a small device that sits on your countertop and connects to your cash register. The main providers of this equipment are Verifone and Ingenico. You cannot buy directly from these suppliers but you can buy from your merchant account provider or at an online store. Your merchant account provider will generally want to lease this equipment to you because they make more money. Our suggestion is that you buy the equipment online and ask your merchant account provider to program the equipment. The merchant account provider will give you software that gets loaded into the memory of the credit card machine.
If you’re a business with a fixed location, your merchant equipment will likely be a cash register with a credit card terminal. You can of course use a mobile payments system and all the Square payments gear that we explain below. But generally if you’re in one or several fixed locations you’ll want credit card terminals and cash registers that bolt or fasten down strongly to your counter top. To get an idea of the types of merchant equipment available you can ask some of the retail or commercial businesses that you frequent. Ask them how they like their credit card terminals and equipment. You’ll want to explain that you’re shopping around yourself for equipment and a payment processor. Otherwise if you suddenly start asking questions you might sound a little creepy and like you’re up to something no good. But hey! It’s a great way to learn what’s going on in the retail business! Let’s get started learning about merchant equipment. We’ll start with credit card terminals.
You might think getting a credit card terminal is easy. It is. But there are some complicating factors. Terminals have undergone a lot of change in just the last few years. And there’s more change underway. So you’ll want to get the latest credit card terminal. But you may or may not want to purchase the terminal. You’ll likely want to lease the terminal from your payment processor. This is so that you’ll get the latest technology and not be stuck with something that becomes obsolete. What is the latest tech? So glad you asked.
EMV is a chip card. A chip in embedded in your customer’s credit card encrypts the information from the card. This information travels through all the way to the credit card network, the cusotmer’s bank and back to you. Previously you only had to swipe the customers credit card. Now with EMV the customer inserts their card, waits for the encryption to happen, and removes their card when the transaction is complete. This takes much more time than the simple swipe. But the good news is that EMV is more secure. It’s been a standard requirement in Europe for a while and now it has come to the United States. Your terminal must be EMV enabled.
NFC or near field communications has been around for a little while. This how Apple iPay works. Google Pay works in a similar manner. And there are also other payment systems that work in a similar fashion. You’ll have people want to pay you with their iPhone. It just makes sense and more sense than whipping out a credit card. So you need to make sure that your terminal is NFC enabled.
Despite that EMV and NFC are rolled out into the hands of consumers, there are still swipe credit cards hanging on. You’ll need to get a terminal that handles swipe credit cards as well.
After making sure that you’re getting EMV, NFC and swipe all in one terminal, your next decision is wireless or fixed terminals. Wireless terminals are great if you’re at a restaurant in Canada. The waiter or waitress brings a wireless terminal to your table and lets you pay. This is called pay at table. You’ll also see it on airplanes in the US and other places when you order and pay for an in-flight meal. Most of us don’t run a restaurant or an airline so in general you won’t need a wireless terminal.
A fixed terminal bolts onto your counter and it is hard wired into your cash register and into a data line that connects to your payment processor. You’ll see this arrangement at any major retailer that you go to such as Walmart, Starbucks and etc. The good thing about this configuration is that the terminals are secure. You won’t need to be concerned with losing a terminal or having one of them walk away without your knowledge. You will need to install the terminals or have them installed for you. Typically your payment processor will take care of this for you. If the payment processor does not do the installation themselves then they will send an experienced installer to do it for you.
If you’re a business at a farmers market, at a kiosk in a mall, in a tourist location or a concert, you’ll want to consider mobile payments equipment. Mobile payments are payment services like Square Payments, PayPal mobile payments and other providers. Your customer hands you their credit card and you insert it or swipe it on your smartphone or iPad. Sometimes you’ll also hand your iPad to your customer and they will swipe their card for you. Mobile payments are easy. There’s some equipment you’ll want to consider to make mobile payments even easier.
You’ll need several credit card readers. Credit card readers are small devices that plug into your iPad or smartphone. They’ve very small and very cheap. Thank goodness! You’ll pay under $20 for each one. The dongles work with your payment processor. So you can’t buy just any credit card reader. You’ll need to get the ones that are approved or certified by your payment processor.
Generally it’s a good idea to have several of them in case you lose one or one of them fails. Here is a picture of what they look like.
If you’re doing mobile payments you’ll want an iPad or a tablet computer of some sort. iPad is what is typically used by a lot of small businesses. The iPad accepts the credit credit card reader one of its slots on the side of the computer. You’ll swipe or insert the credit card into the reader. What’s great about using an iPad for mobile payments is that it offers a nice big screen to show to your customer. This is much better than pulling a smartphone out of your pocket.
An iPad Stand holds your iPad in an upright position. You’ll be able to sit your iPad on a counter or flat area. This makes the iPad appear like a cash register. The iPad stands are typically white in color and look very clean and professional. They cost anywhere from $100 to $300. You’ll want to check prices and shop around a little to get the best price.
If you’re not planning to use an iPad stand then you may want an iPad cover. A cover will protect your iPad so that you can handle it and pass it around to customers. There is a slot or a hole for the card reader to be inserted into the cover. The cover is useful if you have a very portable retail operation. If you’re selling from a hot dog stand, for example, you won’t have a room to put an iPad stand on a counter. You’ll keep your iPad in it’s cover behind the hot dog cart. You may also be selling at farmers market from your truck or car. You won’t have space for an iPad stand. But you’ll want to protect your iPad. The iPad cover does the trick nicely. It’s around $50 or so but be sure to check prices.
Paper receipt printers automatically print our a receipt for your customer when you swipe or insert their credit card into the credit card reader. Once the purchase transaction has been approved the printer prints out a receipt. The receipt is on thermal paper. This means it uses heat to print the receipt and not ink. The paper receipt printer gives a more professional image. More importantly, it gives your customer a receipt that they can use to get a refund. Sometimes when you’ve been selling all day at a busy farmers market or other event you won’t be able to remember who you sold to. If someone asks for a refund you can ask them for a receipt to confirm their purchase. The receipt is also advertising of a sort for you. Some paper receipt printers allow you to put customized logos, coupons and such on the receipt. You can also show your telephone number and website. The paper receipt printers are not big. They are easy to setup with either a bluetooth wireless connection or a USB connection to your iPad or smartphone. They can be a little expensive. You’ll want to check prices but we see them for around $200 to $400.
Bar code readers are useful when you have many products that you’re selling. You’ll scan your product and the amount will automatically be entered into your smartphone or iPad. If you only have a few items where you can remember the price you won’t need a bar code reader. Or if you don’t get many customers you won’t need a bar code reader. But if you have 20 products or more you’ll want to consider a bar code reader. Bar code readers are a few hundred dollars and you’ll want to shop around. Setting them up is easy. You’ll apply bar codes to your products and program in the prices. The bar code reader attaches to your iPad with a USB cable or bluetooth wireless. Make sure that the bar code reader works with the payment processor that you’re using: Square Payments or an alternative to Square such as PayPal.
One of the last pieces of merchant equipment to consider is a cash drawer. If you use Square Payment or some other alternative to Square you’ll mainly be taking a credit card payment. But sometimes customers will want to pay you in cash or pay part cash and part credit card payment. So for these times a cash drawer comes in handy. You’ll need to get a cash drawer that works with your paper receipt printer and your payment provider. Setting this up can get a little tricky and we’ll write a more detailed guide on how to set this up.