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There are several types of card machines that businesses can choose from for their credit card processing needs. Getting an efficient, low-cost credit card terminal is an important part of running a business, but as the different types of terminals offer very different advantages, businesses should consider their options carefully before implementing a terminal into their physical offices.

The two most common types of credit card machines are IP terminals and wireless terminals. IP terminals use a high-speed Internet connection to connect to a credit card processing gateway. Information is securely transmitted and an authorization can be received in a matter of seconds. This allows for better productivity, particularly in businesses with multiple points of sale. The big disadvantage of IP credit card terminals is that they require high-speed Internet wiring, and installing this type of wiring can be expensive for some businesses. Wireless terminals basically use the same technology, but as their name implies, the data connection is handled wirelessly. Wireless terminals can be moved around an office easily and may be easier to install in some businesses, but they tend to be more expensive than wired terminals. Most businesses use IP terminals for this reason, but the cost of wireless terminals has decreased significantly in the last decade. Both wireless and wired terminals connect directly to processing gateways and protect customer data with encryption.

Virtual machines are another type of credit card processing tool, but unlike the other options listed above, they’re not physical units. They usually have a software component and a small piece of hardware, which can be used to swipe credit cards–virtual terminals may not even have a physical component, however, especially if they’re used in a business where point of sale transactions are rare. The major advantage of a virtual terminal is that it’s often the least expensive option for a business and doesn’t take up any extra room in an office. However, as virtual terminals run on standard computers, they’re not an ideal choice for retail businesses. Virtual terminals connect to a gateway to process transactions and they tend to be extremely secure. Encryption is used to prevent data from falling into the wrong hands.

Different types of businesses will see varying levels of benefit in the different card machines available through their processing companies. Space, speed and price are all important factors to consider when choosing a terminal. Most major credit card processing companies provide all of the options listed above, and many still offer dial-up terminals for businesses that don’t have faster connectivity. The right terminal makes a major difference in a business’s efficiency and can improve customer satisfaction while improving sales drastically.