If you own a business, chances are your credit card acceptance process is something you rarely think about. It’s just a part of doing business. Yet the entire process has come a long way in a short period of time.

Credit card terminals now have a place on the counters of millions of businesses, and in many cases are leaving the countertop for a more computerized system. Having the actual credit card in hand is no longer needed as we can use virtual terminals to accept payments from anyone, anywhere in the world.

Two things have always been at the top of the list when processing credit cards:

1. Reliability
2. Security

Which may explain why so many businesses stick with older technology rather than jumping into uncharted territories.

Manual Imprinters

Manual imprinters have been around since the beginning of credit card processing, and are still widely used as a backup system when technology is unavailable. To use these simple machines, a merchant would slide the card into place, use a carbon slip for imprinting, and then manually send in one receipt to the bank for processing. The process was time consuming, and held a huge margin of error potential.

Electronic Authorization

Electronic authorization for credit cards was usually performed in conjunction with manual imprinters. Once a card was imprinted, the merchant would call in for authorization. Because authorization times could be upwards of 5 minutes or more, many merchants would establish dollar limits, and only call for authorization on larger purchases.

Point Of Sale Terminals

Point of sale terminals emerged in the late 1970’s when Visa introduced its electronic data capturing terminal. These new systems greatly reduced the time it took for credit card processing, and allowed the merchant to capture sales on a much quicker and more reliable manner. MasterCharge, later known as MasterCard also began including magnetic stripe information to make the transaction process smoother.

What’s Next?

Many new technologies are emerging onto the business scene. IP and WiFi processing will increase processing speed, reliability and security. We are also seeing a whole new industry emerge with smart technology, allowing processing to be accomplished without the use of credit cards, and instead processed by swiping a mobile device over a electronic reader.

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