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Upgrading Phone Lines to Digital? Read This First!

Before you upgrade your business phone lines to digital or high-speed, it is critical to contact your merchant service provider first, or you could wind up losing the ability to accept credit cards.

As a business grows, and as technology develops, many business owners will choose to upgrade to a multi-line digital phone system, or, to the increasingly popular Voice-Over-IP-bundle, which combines telephone and internet on a single high-speed line (examples include Optimum Online, Verizon FIOS, Vonage, Comcast, etc.).

These types of data and communication upgrades can do a great deal to enhance business productivity, but if you take the plunge without first considering your Point of Sale device and its capabilities, the effect could be catastrophic.

How can upgrading my business phones or internet service disrupt my credit card processing?

Most of the countertop POS terminals (POS = credit card processing machines) being used at small businesses operate on a conventional analog phone line. These POS terminals often use a dial-up modem, very similar to the ones used in fax machines. If the analog, ‘dial-up’ phone line is eliminated, your POS terminal loses its ability to connect to your merchant service network. If the terminal cannot connect, sales cannot be approved by the cardholder’s bank. The ability to process credit cards would be lost.

What should I do if I accept credit cards, and I need to upgrade my business phone lines?

First, take down the make and model of your current POS terminal. Then call your merchant service provider. The best thing to do is speak to a knowledgeable support representative, and let him or her know what you are considering doing with your phone/internet system. The support rep will help you find the right type of credit card processing device to match your planned system upgrade.

What are my options?

VOIP (Voice Over Internet Protocol) allows for a number of credit card processing options. First, you can upgrade your POS terminal to an IP (high-speed) capable model, so that the terminal uses an internet cable instead of a phone wire. Transaction processing times will drop dramatically.

Another option is a virtual terminal. Virtual terminals are either web or PC based programs that allow your computer to become the POS terminal (i.e. National Debit Card Networks’ SafePay). Credit card information can be manually keyed in, submitted via shopping cart, or, if you do face-to-face business, a card reader can be connected to the computer via USB cable for swipe capability.

DSL (Digital Subscriber Line) allows you the same options as above, however, a merchant can also add a DSL filter (available for less than $20) and the analog POS terminal will still function. No new equipment necessary. DSL is often a slower internet connection than VOIP, so it has become a less popular option, but it does allow a business to continue using dial-up technology as needed (like the older and more basic credit card terminals).

Digital phone lines (for voice only – no internet) present a particular challenge where credit card processing is concerned. The number of POS terminal designs that can operate on these phone systems is few or none. In some cases, the POS terminal may function sporadically, working fine one day and not at all the next. If your business requires a digital phone system (commonly used for multi-line rollover systems), it is highly recommended that you leave a separate analog line in place for the POS terminal, or, that you install a high-speed internet connection for an IP terminal or a virtual terminal.

Summing up…

Unfortunately, when the telecom companies are pitching and installing these phone and internet systems at businesses, the issue of POS terminal compatibility is rarely mentioned. Hopefully, the information provided in this article will help you to make an informed decision about how and when to upgrade, so that your ability to accept payments from customers is not disrupted.

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Credit Card Processing 101 For New Business Owners

OK, so you just took that huge leap of faith and opened up your own business. Whether you are a retail storefront, restaurant, run a mail order business or are purely internet based, the ability to accept credit cards is critical to the growth and ultimate success of your business.

What’s the bottom line? Offer your customers as many payment options as possible to avoid turning away business.

Credit and debit cards alone account for about one third of all personal consumption expenditures in the U.S. – a share that increases every year. And, in times of economic downturn like these, consumers have less cash flow and are putting more purchases on their credit cards.

With that said, following is a list of common question many new business owners have in the area of credit card processing.

What is the first thing I need to do to start accepting credit cards?

You will need a merchant service provider who will set you up with a merchant account for your business. This will give you the ability to accept credit and debit cards in person, online, or over the phone.

How long will it take before I can start accepting credit and debit cards?

With leading processors, you can get you up and running within the same day in many cases.

How much do I have to pay to accept credit cards?

Like anything, rates vary depending on processor you are dealing with and the type of business you operated (i.e. storefront, ecommerce, mail order, etc.) It is important to find a merchant service provider who not only offers guaranteed low rates, but will provide your business with PCI compliant equipment and knowledgeable 24x7x365 customer service and technical support.

How are credit cards charged?

Upon swiping a credit card in a POS terminal, the information is sent from the merchant to your credit card processor who in turn requests the money from the issuing bank, which is deposited directly into your bank account.

What if I own an ecommerce/internet business. Can I still process credit cards?

Depending on the processor you choose to process your credit card transactions, the answer is yes. For instance, at National Debit Card Network, we have a proprietary ecommerce gateway called SafePay that allows you to process transactions quickly and securely. This is also known in the industry as “card not present” unlike most storefront businesses that physically swipe the customer’s credit or debit card.

What does PCI compliant mean for processing equipment?

The Payment Card Industry (PCI) dictates that all merchants, regardless of size or number of transactions that accept, transmit or store any cardholder data need to have terminals and card processing equipment that is PCI compliant to ensure the strictest security guidelines are adhered to.

These are just some of the basics for business owners who want to accept credit card processing to help grow their business and customer base.