It's vital for any small business in the world today to accept credit card payments. Although mobile wallets and other innovative payment systems are rising in popularity, credit and debit cards are still the most common way consumers pay for their purchases. Cards are convenient, trustworthy and have been around for decades.
Credit card processing for small business doesn't have to be complicated. While there are many options for a small-business owner to consider, the best card processing solution is a point of sale system. These integrated arrangements handle sales, track inventory and ultimately simplify the checkout process.
Other processing methods
There are several ways a business can accept cards without using a point of sale system. Imprinters, one of the oldest methods of credit card processing, copy the customer's payment information on a sheet for managers to handle later. They're quite simple to use and can easily accommodate a few customers. Standalone credit card terminals let cashiers swipe a shopper's card or manually enter its number, expiration date and billing zip code. They're much faster than imprinters but still require a certain amount of manual data entry. Meanwhile, mobile processors are often seen at fairs and popup stores. These are small, portable devices that plug into a smartphone or tablet, letting customers swipe their card and sign for payments.
Still, none of these options come without drawbacks. Imprinters are slow and cumbersome - they must be retrieved and stored each time a customer wants to pay by card. They also don't print receipts automatically, so the cashier must write down every item a customer bought. The biggest deterrent to imprinters, however, is the fact payments can't be processed on the spot. Management has to go through each individual slip later. Therefore, if a card is declined, no one will know until long after the customer has left the store.
Credit card terminals let cashiers accept payments instantly, but they don't do anything more than process card information. Mobile payment methods do the same, albeit with the added benefit of a touch screen. Still, businesses using mobile devices must be aware of any security issues such as data encryption and storage.
POS simplifies payment processing
No other solution provides the benefits an integrated point of sale system does. POS structures combine a cash register, barcode scanner, screen, card terminal and receipt printer, making the checkout process as efficient as possible. Cashiers swipe or scan each item instead of manually entering its price, so they don't have to commit hundreds of numbers to memory or look up individual products. POS systems also have the benefits of a credit card terminal, so paying for groceries is done with a simple swipe and signature. The software then provides a receipt listing everything the person purchased, not just the lump sum a standalone terminal supplies. This reassures customers should they later have questions about any transactions on their bank statement.
Customers are familiar with POS terminals
Point of sale systems are so integrated into retail spaces, most customers expect to see one when they head to checkout. They're familiar to use and don't cause confusion among new hires or shoppers. In fact, not having a POS system makes a small business seem antiquated and untrustworthy. It indicates the owner hasn't invested in his or her organization or doesn't care about the convenience and security of his or her customers. Imprinters, for instance, aren't a good option in an age where identity theft is all over the news. Standalone card terminals require more effort than shoppers are used to, and older consumers aren't yet accustomed to paying on a tablet.
POS offers other advantages
Where POS systems excel over any other option is their ability to provide more for a business than just payment processing. They record every transaction and automatically subtract each item from a store's inventory. Items low or out of stock get flagged for reorder, and employees can search for a product to make sure the business has it on hand before running around the store. Any promotions or discounts are calculated automatically, and each receipt is branded with the company's logo and contact information
POS systems can also deliver in-dept sales reports at the end of each shift. Managers can quickly see which departments and items were most profitable that day and track sales patterns over months or years. Of course, these reports aren't limited to just one machine. Multiple POS terminals can be networked to each other and to computers in another location. Thus, an employee doesn't have to physically be in front of the cash register to view its transactions. Networking capability also makes POS machines the best option for stores with more than one cash register.
POS systems cover basic card transactions, but they are able to provide so much more for small-business owners. They're the easiest way to track inventory and sales, and they keep the checkout process as simple as possible. New entrepreneurs should invest in a solid platform that will serve their company's needs for years to come.