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Types of terminals for card transactions

Learn about the different types of terminals available for accepting card payments.


Acquirer-owned terminals

The majority of merchants will have a acquirer-owned terminal. Typically, the acquirer will rent out a terminal for an amount of time under a rental agreement. The terminal rental is usually charged on a monthly basis + VAT, and the acquirer will provide terminal support in case it malfunctions; and ensure it has the most up to date software to process transactions.


Retailer-owned terminals

Although acquirer-owned terminals are the most common choice, some retailers or merchants source their own terminals. When merchants have any problems with the terminal, they will need to ask their terminal supplier to rectify these.
An acquirer will discuss with you which terminals have been approved to work with their particular service and what to do next.


Integrated point-of-sale terminals

This is a specialised terminal or Integrated Point-of-Sale (IPOS) that is linked to other devices to provide a bespoke retail solution. For example, merchants may scan in their customer’s purchases using a bar code reader before the purchases are itemised. A total amount is then sent to the terminal to process the card transactions.

In the majority of cases, this terminal type is unlikely to have been supplied by an acquirer. However, the acquirer will assist the merchant to ensure that transactions can be passed from the merchant’s IPOS to its own systems.


Mobile card machines and terminals

Instead of being connected to an acquirer via a telephone land line, this terminal uses a mobile telephone connection. With this terminal type, you can be away from your shop and still accept card payments. For example, where merchants have a stall at a local show or exhibition where a land line is not available, they can use a mobile terminal, provided that a stable signal is available.

An acquirer can advise if they offer this terminal type or put their merchant in touch with a suitable supplier.


Portable card machines and terminals

The difference between this terminal and a mobile terminal is that it can be used within a specified radius of a base station. However, the base station must be connected to the merchant’s telephone line and sited in their retail outlet.

These terminals are mostly used in the hospitality industry.


Terminals for accepting petrol of fuel payments

This is a specialised terminal for petrol merchants, which is designed to process fuel cards as well as most credit and debit cards.

Merchants will need to discuss with their acquirer if they provide this type of terminal or whether they will need an arrangement with a terminal supplier.


Polled terminal

This is a specialised terminal that can store accepted card transactions through the day and then transmit their details to an acquirer at night. This can also be referred to as a predominantly ‘off-line terminal’ or POT. Examples of this type of terminals can be seen in restaurants that have the facility to accept tips or gratuities.

As a merchant, you will need to discuss with your acquirer whether this terminal type would be best suited to the way you wish to operate their business.


Internet tills and online payments pages

The terminals listed above are physical pieces of hardware that are used to accept card transactions when merchants are with their customers - or used to manually key in the card details for a card-not-present transaction.

With an internet ‘till’ merchants do not use a standard, physical terminal to process their transactions. A merchant will use a virtual terminal or payment page provided by a payment service provider on their websites to securely process customers' card details. Further details on what needs to be considered when taking payments over the internet are contained in the Internet trading page.

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