If you want to accept credit cards from anywhere, it is possible to do this with a virtual terminal. A virtual terminal even allows you to process cards received offline in more traditional business settings. Basically, a virtual terminal replaces the hardware used in most physical point of sale settings. The terminal exists online, so it is possible to use any computer in order to access such a terminal. Normally, you access the virtual terminal through a secure Web site. You set up an account, then you log in with a user name and password. Once you have done that, you are accessing your virtual terminal and you can enter any credit card information you wish.
With the virtual terminal, it is possible to use a laptop or even a mobile device (with special setup) to process credit card transactions. This can be useful for businesses that travel. Additionally, with the right computer equipment (such as a built in card reader that can automatically copy and transfer the card account number), it is possible to integrate a virtual terminal with offline sales, along with online sales. You can perform all of the regular functions of a physical credit card terminal with virtual terminals:
- Transactions for phone and mail orders.
- Engage in recurring billing for subscriptions and regular charges.
- Refund money to a customer credit card account.
- Run reports, including batch reports.
- Check transaction statuses.
- Find previously authorized transactions.
Benefits of virtual terminals
If you have few sales, virtual terminals can be very useful. You do not have to buy sometimes-costly point of sale equipment. Additionally, a virtual terminal is accessible from anywhere. You can take a variety of orders and enter them in, no matter where you are. You do not have to try an access what you need through a physical terminal. Additionally, virtual terminals often cost less than payment gateways. In the case of some virtual terminals, it is possible to have them set up so that your site is processing the payment without redirecting to another site.
Cons of virtual terminals
The biggest downside to virtual terminals is that they are not automated. They are impractical for use with online sales in which you want to constantly provide a method for your customers to use when initiating transactions. Indeed, virtual terminals require that you manually add in information. This means that if you had an online business, you would have to have the orders come in, and then you would have to enter the orders into the virtual terminal. They are rather impractical for online businesses that require automation.
Costs of virtual terminals
A virtual terminal is not free. You will have to pay charges and fees to use the virtual terminal. For small businesses, though, they can be a boon since the fees are often relatively low when compared with more traditional terminals. Check to see what kind of fees the virtual terminal charges. Often, fees vary according to the terminal use. Some of the charges to check for include:
- Monthly service fees.
- Transactions fees. These can be a percentage of the transaction or a flat fee – or a combination of the two.
- Statement fees.
- Set up fees.
- Annual fees.
- Minimum transaction fees.
Find out what is charged, since some virtual terminal charge only transaction fees, while others pile on any number of fees.
The bottom line is that a virtual terminal can be great for those going to trade shows or for those who have a smaller offline, more traditional business. Virtual terminals provide a good alternative in many cases, but they are not practical for the ecommerce business. Make sure you understand the fee structure before you commit, and do your research to make sure you get the best for you.