The Definitive Guide to Smart Terminals

smart terminals

For most of us, it’s hard to even imagine a world without credit cards. Yet plenty of consumers – as well as some merchants – take the convenience of smart terminals for granted.

Even if you’re getting into ISO sales or looking at credit card processing options for your business, there’s plenty about smart terminals you might not know.

So, today we’re covering everything related to smart terminals, from how they work and how they’ve evolved over the years to the top features and benefits of modern terminals.

What Are Smart Terminals?

Let’s just backtrack for a moment to establish what we’re talking about. A credit card terminal is a device that allows merchants to process debit and credit card transactions electronically. They’re also referred to as point-of-sale machines, credit card terminals, and EFTPOS terminals.

A smart terminal is a modern version of the credit card terminal that, in addition to processing transactions, allows merchants to manage their business more efficiently. We’ll go into more detail on this in a bit.

How Do They Work?

Smart terminals allow merchants to swipe, insert, or manually enter credit card data for fast and convenient checkouts. Most modern terminals also accept nearfield communication (NFC) transactions for even faster tap-and-pay options (for example, Apple Pay and Google Pay).

When a customer uses their card to make a payment, the terminal submits a request to the merchant services provider and the information is passed to the acquiring bank for authorization. Then, once the payment is verified, the funds are electronically transferred to the merchant and the sale is completed.

Most smart terminals submit credit card data over an internet connection. They can be hardwired or wireless. Wireless terminals use Bluetooth, WIFI, cellular networks, and satellite networks to process payments. This versatility allows smart terminals to function just about anywhere, so customers can use cards to make purchases in almost any scenario – whether they’re in a store, on a flight, or somewhere without great cell reception.

From the customer’s perspective, tapping their card on a smart terminal is infinitely easier and more secure than carrying around cash for every purchase.

From the merchant’s perspective, smart terminals are a safer and more efficient way to capture credit card details than manually recording them. Plus, smart terminals interface with banks in real-time to protect merchants from unknowingly accepting unverified payments.

Smart Terminals Are Capable of More than You Might Think

Smart terminals go above and beyond basic payment processing. Software upgrades allow merchants to enjoy new features that add value to their business in other ways.

For instance, terminals can be equipped with accounting software to simplify payroll, data analytics tools to optimize business practices, as well as the ability to add loyalty programs and gift card processing to offer holistic customer experiences.

A Brief History of Payment Terminals

Let’s take a look back at how terminals have evolved over the years into the convenient tap-and-go machines we use today.

smart terminals history timeline

The Best Smart Terminals Available Today

Modern smart terminals have certainly come a long way from the zip-zap machines businesses once used to manually copy a customer’s credit card data. These days, there are a number of popular companies in the smart terminal space and a variety of terminals to choose from – each with unique features and benefits that appeal to merchants in different ways.

To give you a sense of what’s available, here’s an overview of some of the best smart terminal providers in business today.

1. Clover

clover point of sales smart terminal

Clover is a cloud-based POS system owned by payment processing firm First Data. It’s available to merchants who use Clover hardware to receive debit and credit card payments. Their product line includes the Clover Mini, the Clover Station, and Clover Mobile.

  • The Clover Mini is a compact customer-facing device designed for small businesses. It offers swipe, EMV chip, and contactless payments so shoppers can pay however is most convenient for them. Merchants can customize their Mini with specialized apps for accounting, marketing, gift cards, and other offerings specific to their business type.
  • The Clover Station is a space-saving POS terminal that’s both flexible and powerful. The hub integrates with all other Clover devices and the 14-inch monitor easily swivels when a customer signature is required. It comes with more than 20 pre-installed apps as well as access to hundreds more on the Clover App Market.
  • Clover Mobile is a wireless payment processing device that’s perfect for businesses that want to keep things moving. It enables merchants to take payments anywhere, whether customers are waiting in line or sitting at their table.

2. PAX

pax smart terminal

PAX supplies secure electronic payment terminal hardware and transactional software. Their products include countertop, mobile, and smart terminals supported by the PAXSTORE open software distribution platform.

  • The A920 Mobile Tablet by PAX is a compact, secure electronic payment terminal with a 5-inch high-def color display designed for consumer-facing interactions. It’s wireless, portable, and comes with a thermal printer.
  • The E500 Payment Terminal is an integrated electronic cash register and payment processor powered by Android. Geared towards Soft-Goods and Hospitality merchants, it includes a merchant-facing tablet as well as a touch-screen consumer-facing terminal. The E500 accepts all payment types, including magnetic strips, smart cards, NFC, and QR codes.

3. Poynt

Poynt smart terminal

Poynt creates hardware, software, and apps that help merchants process transactions. Their solutions allow business to take payments on-the-go, customize their checkout experience, and integrate Poynt terminals with major POS systems. Poynt devices come with access to Poynt HQ, which enables merchants to monitor transactions and manage as many terminals as they need.

  • The Poynt Smart Terminal is a wireless, dual-screen terminal with an 8-hour battery life. It accepts all payment types, comes with a built-in receipt printer and scanner, and can connect to peripherals like cash registers.
  • The Poynt 5 is a small, versatile device that offers a modern customer experience. It includes all the top features of the Poynt Smart Terminal, but in a smaller, lighter, mobile device. The Poynt 5 is a great solution whether merchants want to take payments on their patio or in their store.

4. Verifone

Verifone smart terminal

As one of the original names in electronic payment processing, Verifone’s earliest terminals transformed the way merchants accept payments from customers. Today, they’re one of the biggest POS terminal vendors and process 7.6 billion payments annually. Earlier this month, Verifone announced that they will be acquired by technology investment firm Francisco Partners.

  • The Carbon 10 brings together reliability and flexibility in a dual-screen, full-featured device. Whether merchants want to use it as a countertop POS or a portable mobile solution, the Carbon 10 accepts all payment types and alternative payment options, including NFC payments, mobile wallets, EMV chips, gift cards, and loyalty programs. It even allows merchants to run targeted promotions to boost revenue through cross-selling.
  • The Carbon 8 is a smaller version of the Verifone Carbon device. It looks and feels very similar but is more mobile so is often preferred for pay-at-the-table applications. It has the functionality of the Carbon 10, but it’s easier to take on the go.

How to Get Started Selling Smart Terminals

A smart terminal is a great addition to any ISO sales offering. We’ve seen massive adoption of smart terminals in the middle of the market, which by volume is the largest number of merchants. Smart terminals are perfect for businesses that want more than just a dumb credit card terminal to accept payments but don’t need the full-featured product of enterprise POS solutions.

These smart terminals are relatively inexpensive when compared to their POS brothers and provide the greatest bang for the buck in terms of value to the business.

Are you interesting in selling smart terminals? Get in touch with us and we can help you select the best product for your business and customers. We work with all major smart terminals brands and have established reseller programs that are simple and inexpensive to get started.

Join the discussion 2 Comments

  • Tina Eaton says:

    As a marketer, I want to point out another selling point for smart terminals in their capability to seamlessly drop customers into a company’s marketing flow. Even if they don’t have the most robust automated marketing/sales campaigns set up, smart terminals can give merchants access to offering upsells, encourage repeat business, and boosting engagement.

    • Alan says:

      100% agree! There are some good apps available, like List Builder, that automatically capture email addresses and add them to a list to make it easy to market to customers. You can even sync those emails to a simple email tool like Mailchimp and send newsletters for free.

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