Is My Terminal Compatible With Any Processor?

The short answer is No, your point-of-sale terminal is not compatible with every processor. Processor compatibility is determined by which terminal will work with their system, so be sure to ask before you contract with a new credit card processing company. The good news is that more and more terminal and software providers have been manufacturing open platform hardware and software solutions for merchants over the past 5 years to meet their customers’ demands for technology and compatibility.

How Do Payment Terminals Differ?

Just because two credit card machines look exactly the same they may not be able to perform the same functions. There are three important things to know before deciding on a POS terminal.

  1. Compatibility and Memory
  2. Credit card processors operate on different types of processing platforms. Because there are some similarities, the major manufacturers build their terminals to be compatible with the largest number of these processing platforms. When you sign up with a new credit card processor, they will download their platform information along with your unique merchant account information into your credit card terminal. This software programs the terminal to handle transactions, secure data, and perform other proprietary functions, much like an operating system for a computer.

    These programs can be lengthy. If you have an older terminal from a previous processor, your terminal may not have enough memory to handle a new program. And as new regulations come along, more data must be loaded into your terminal. Many standard dial-up terminals lack processor compatibility but can be reprogrammed over the phone in a few minutes, while other types of terminals may have to be shipped to the processor for updating. But if there’s not enough memory in your terminal to download your new processing platform, you’re looking at an added expense to your processing costs.

  3. Buy or Lease
  4. Most experts recommend you buy your credit card terminals rather than lease them. You may be tempted to lease the equipment rather than pay out an upfront expense, especially if you need a large number of terminals. But if you lease your terminals over an extended period of time they could end up costing you far more.

    Experts also recommend you purchase credit card terminals that are manufactured for the general market rather than terminals built to run only one platform. If your processor insists you must lease or purchase their terminal, be sure to ask if their terminals are proprietary equipment to be used exclusively with their platform. No matter what the savings now, remember if you ever want – or need – to change your credit card processor, you can’t reprogram proprietary equipment.

  5. Take stock of your needs before shopping for POS terminals
  6. There are so many types and styles of POS terminals to choose from so it is important to consider the processor compatibility. But how do you know which one is right for you if you’re not clear on how and where the terminal will be used.

  • Do you have room on your counter for a terminal?
  • Would a hand-held terminal work better for your purposes?
  • Do you want a dial-up terminal or a high-speed internet ready machine?
  • If you expect to be processing debit and EBT cards, can the terminal be interfaced with a PIN pad?
  • Do you need a terminal with a printer?
  • What is the terminal processing speed?
  • Does it support PCI compliance software?
  • Will all your credit card transactions be done with a swipe of a card or will you have more card-not-present transactions?
  • Do you really need a point-of-sale terminal? If most of your credit card transactions will be done in the field would a mobile card reader be a better choice?

The new chip-embedded credit card technology is already being used in other parts of the world and is being phased in here in the US. If you already process a number of credit cards issued by foreign banks, do you need a chip-embedded card reader?

The answer to any and all of these questions will help you determine which type of credit card processing terminal is right for you. Well, right for you now. Because as your business grows and as new technology in credit card processing becomes available, your present credit card processor compatibility will change and so will your credit card processing equipment.