Which Point of Sale Solution is Right For You?

Which Point of Sale solution is right for your your business?

We’ve come a long way baby.  In the world of merchant processing, the Point of Sale Solution options available now for merchants has evolved very quickly from the days of the old “knuckle buster” imprinter machines.  When I first started in this industry, a “terminal installation” consisted of screwing on the metal name plate to the manual imprinter.  Now, the options are seemingly endless and somewhat daunting for a new merchant.  How do you know what type of Point of Sale (POS) terminal is right for you?  Hopefully, this can help guide you a bit.

First of all, know your business.

Seems obvious, right?  But in order to chose the right terminal, you need to anticipate all possible situations and then decide how likely and how often those possible situations could occur.  Today we’ll cover the bricks and mortar merchants.

If you have a store front, it’s simple.  Choose the stand alone terminal option with the smallest footprint.  Your business is a small start up business with a store front where your customers will be coming in and making purchases in a card present environment.  A stand alone POS terminal will allow you to process all electronic transactions including credit and debit cards.  Gone are the days of the large, clunky 3 piece units that consisted of a printer, terminal and pinpad that took up a whole square foot of space (at least they should be, if the Acquirer you’ve chosen is still pushing these devices, perhaps it’s time to consider a new Acquirer… one who has the latest devices).

The stand alone terminals of today are sleek one piece units that encompass the printer, terminal and pinpad all in one.  The small footprint takes up little real estate on your counter top, about the size of what the old pinpads use to be and can easily be put under the counter when not in use.  The downfall, you’ll have to enter your transaction in twice.  Once on your cash register and once through the terminal.  Because these standalone units are not integrated to the cash register, you will need to balance both the cash register and the terminal at the end of the day.

If you’re a larger merchant with more volume going through you store, you may want to consider a semi-integrated solution.  Many of the large Acquirers now offer a semi integrated solution that enables merchants to only have to process the transaction once and settle their transactions together at the end of the day.  The cash register you choose will need to be compatible with the solution your Acquirer has integrated to so if this is a solution you’d like to consider, contact your Acquirer before purchasing your cash register.

Are you a restaurant? Or perhaps you have a large storefront like a garden centre.   Then having a standalone terminal plugged into your wall may not be the most customer friendly solution.  With the advent of Chip and Pin in the industry, having your customers walk up with you to the cash register could be inconvenient.  Consider a short range terminal.  These terminals operate much like the cordless telephone in your house by using Bluetooth technology.  There is a base where the terminal sits to charge and a unit that can be taken to the tables.  Typically, these short range units have about one hundred feet radius of range.

Or do you make deliveries?  While the short range will work in the restaurant, unless your only customers are your neighbours, you’ll need to get a device with a little more range.  Consider a wireless terminal.  These terminals operate using a cellular network and can typically be used anywhere where there is cellular coverage.

That covers your card present options.

Starting a business can be scary.  And while you may have a product and you may have a sales strategy, what you also need a means of accepting payments from your customers.

An online or mail order/ telephone order merchant business is the easiest and the most cost effective business to start.  There little overhead.  You don’t need to rent space for a store front and likely, if you’re just starting out, you won’t need to hire any employees.  But now that you’re ready to start accepting payments for all the goods and services you provide, what is the simplest and most cost effective way to do so?

The simplest merchant processing option is a Telephone Interactive Voice Response System, or an IVR.  Most major Acquirers will have this solution available to their merchants.  Basically, what it does is it allows merchants to process transactions over the phone.  You are provided with a 1-800 number which can be accessed anywhere in Canada.  Once you have a transaction to process, you simply dial into the IVR, follow the prompts by keying in the card number, the expiry date and the amount of the transaction.  The system will send the transaction through for authorization and come back with an approval or a decline.  It will also provide you with an authorization number which you should note for your records.  If approved, the transaction is sent to your bank account for deposit.  You can’t get easier than that.

But if you’re going to be processing more than 10 transactions a day, the last thing you want to do is spend your evening on the phone dialing in and keying transactions.  Not only is this time consuming but there is also room for error taking down the credit card number and entering it.  Keep in mind, if you are taking down credit card information, you will need to also consider a secure way of storing the information.  PCI certification is rigorous in Canada and if you are caught improperly storing the data, you could be fined by the payment card brands.  Unfortunately, if you are a mail order telephone order business, this is one of the only ways you can accept payments.

However, if you have a website, you might want consider setting up an e-commerce merchant account.  Most Acquirers will have an off the shelf product that can be easily integrated onto your site by either yourself or your web designer.  With a bit of coding, your site can be set up to accept credit and debit card payments online.  Be sure to look for an Acquirer that offers Interac Online with their e-commerce solutions to ensure that you will be able to accept debit cards through your website.  E-commerce websites allows customers to enter their own card information to minimize errors and the transactions are sent through for processing immediately… so that both you and the customer know if the transaction’s been approved or declined.  Once you get the order and it’s approval, all you need to do is to provide the product or the service and you’re done.  No worrying about storing data as this is done at the Acquirer level.

Merchant processing shouldn’t be a mystery but it shouldn’t cause you extra work either.  Speak with your Acquirer to find out the best card not present Point of Sale solution is for you and your business.

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Matthew Hunt has been helping small businesses get set-up with Canadian Merchant Account Services since 2007 and helped 1000's do so. Join Matthew on Google+.

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