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Choosing the Right Point-of-Sale Equipment

Weigh your decision carefully so you can process payments quickly, safely and easily.

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

Q: When should merchants consider replacing or upgrading their electronic payment processing systems?

A: Today's point-of-sale (POS) systems are offered with one purpose in mind: to save retailers time and money. POS options provide value in many ways:

  • They help merchants process a wider variety of payment options--such as credit cards, smart cards, debit cards, electronic checks, check guarantee services and electronic benefit transfer cards offered by state and federal agencies.
  • They eliminate the manual key-in processes. Because keying in each card number is slow and prone to errors or fraud, today's swipe technology is faster and more productive. Plus, processing fees are significantly lower because the method is much more secure.
  • They offer productivity enhancements to mobile businesses. With wireless technologies, systems for field sales often pay for themselves in a matter of weeks or months.

Today's processing systems offer so many choices that merchants should seek the assistance of experts before making a final buying decision, especially since the equipment can significantly impact your ability to process sales quickly, safely and profitably.

At this time, there are a number of popular POS systems that merchants and mobile businesses can choose from. Some are designed for multilane retail environments, which gives customers complete control over their credit, debit or EBT cards, while delivering fast transaction processing power. For these fast-paced retail environments, look for systems with graphical displays, built-in PIN pads and interactive LCD touchscreens. Find a system that connects directly to retail cash registers so there's no need for dual entries, which can cause delays and errors. A system that provides electronic capture of signatures and receipts eliminates paper records, gives merchants instant access to transaction data and reduces chargeback costs.

Some POS systems offer entire suites of products; that is, secure payment families of business tools designed to improve payment accuracy and decrease the transaction time. These integrated suites of systems offer all-in-one terminal/printer combinations that support virtually all payment processing demands for today's merchants, including credit card authorization, ATM/debit, check guarantee and multiple merchant applications and identifications. Most merchants find that these integrated systems offer fast, reliable and cost-effective performance for credit card authorization and draft capture, too.

POS systems with attached printers deliver crisp, legible receipts, their PIN pads are easy to use, and they support all major encryption key management schemes. Many of these units also fit comfortably in the palm of your hand to allow for secure data entry for credit and debit cards, electronic check acceptance, check guarantee and even American Express Travelers Cheques.

Merchants should also be aware that wireless handheld transaction processing for both offices and field sales and service people is growing by leaps and bounds. Handhelds deliver significant productivity improvements for service workers through secure Internet connections to computers in either their home offices or at corporate headquarters.

Other new transaction processing options accommodate merchants with limited start-up budgets who want to get online fast, or those who already have Web sites and want to add online payment functionality. In these cases, merchants may want to check out systems with secure payment gateways, centralized processing and online check acceptance capabilities.

Before you buy, lease or rent a POS system, it's always best to check with the experts prior to making your final decision. The result could be significantly increased sales and improved customer service--two benefits that will serve you well no matter what the economic environment.

So whatever system or approach you decide to go with, here are a few key features--and benefits--to look for in your POS system:

High performance at an affordable priceBetter merchant profit margins and sales opportunities; superior reliability
Password protection from unauthorized downloadsIncreased merchant retention and tracking
Supports multiple languagesMarket expansion opportunities
Compact design for base or wall mountingWall-mount capability eliminates counterspace clutter
Easy-to-read, two-line, multilingual backlit displayBetter merchant understanding and more flexibility
Clearly labeled dedicated function keys to process standard transactionsNo need to refer to the overlay for standard transactions; easier to locate the desired transaction on the keyboard
Multiple green screen-addressable keysIncreased convenience in selecting desired options for transactions and local functions
Single keyboard overlayNo need to produce and stock separate overlays for different industries
Pre-print and pre-dial capabilitiesFaster overall transaction times from card swipe to receipt printing
Transaction security via manager passwordFlexibility for the owner or manager to control access to certain sensitive transaction information

Cardservice International Senior Vice President of Sales John Burtzloff is in charge of sales strategy and execution and thus is responsible for managing all aspects of the company's marketing, communications, telesales, check guarantee, new accounts and sales support activities.

The opinions expressed in this column are those of the author, not of All answers are intended to be general in nature, without regard to specific geographical areas or circumstances, and should only be relied upon after consulting an appropriate expert, such as an attorney or accountant.

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