Accepting credit card payments is a pretty straightforward process for most brick-and-mortar businesses. Simply purchase a countertop or mobile credit card terminal and swipe away. Ecommerce stores require a payment gateway and a shopping cart instead of the physical terminal, but the overall process is still fairly simple. What about businesses that don’t fit neatly into either of these two categories? A virtual terminal may be the answer.



What Is a Virtual Terminal?



A virtual terminal allows you, the merchant, to process credit card transactions from any device with an internet connection. You simply log into your virtual terminal account via any internet browser, enter the customer’s card information, and click “OK” to process the transaction. In the past, this type of processing was especially useful for phone and mail order businesses who needed to make non-ecommerce sales without a customer’s card being physically present. Today, in addition to these types of sales, virtual terminals also allow for the swiping of a customer’s card in the event that the card actually is present. These swipers attach to your computer via the USB port and still don’t require a full-on countertop terminal.



Why Would I Use a Virtual Terminal?



There are several advantages to using a virtual terminal that may appeal your business. The biggest and most obvious is the lack of setup required. Forget purchasing a large, expensive terminal or installing complicated software that requires a PhD to configure. Simply set up an account (usually through your credit card processor), then login as you would to any other password-protected internet site. You’ll be processing in no time. There’s also very little maintenance necessary on the part of the merchant – the terminal’s provider will have a technical support team that’s responsible for all that. Plus, you can process transactions from anywhere with an internet connection, without worrying about being in the same location as your POS terminal or getting to a computer that has your fancy software downloaded on it. Even smartphones and tablets can become virtual terminals! In some ways, a virtual terminal is the best of both worlds. You are in charge of the transaction process just like with a physical terminal but can process recurring payments with ease like an ecommerce system.



Am I a Fit for a Virtual Terminal?



The short answer is that almost anyone can make use of the benefits of a virtual terminal for at least some of their transactions. However, certain types of business owners will reap even greater benefits. If you run your business from home, host a lot of fundraising events as a nonprofit, accept a lot of phone or mail orders, or attend a lot of off-site events and trade shows, you might be a great candidate for a virtual terminal.



Your credit card processor can help you determine if a virtual terminal makes sense as part of your credit card processing solution. Even if it’s not for you, they can help explain the features and benefits to enhance your knowledge of the payments process as a whole. If you’re not getting the assistance you need from your processor, don’t hesitate to give 360 Payments a call at 1-855-360-0360 or drop us a line on our website. We’d love to talk you through all your options.



PS – If an ecommerce solution is more your speed, check out our tips on selecting the perfect gateway here. (Hint: we recommend Velox.)



PPS – Whatever you do, don’t lease your credit card terminal. It’s never worth it!