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Ecommerce and Credit Card Processing

October 25th, 2006 by Jamie Estep

Do you really need a POS system to accept credit cards?

Filed in: Credit Card Equipment | 1 comment

The computer industry constantly pushes the idea that everyone needs the latest and greatest computer in existence, when something for 1/10th of the price would be perfectly sufficient for most people. The credit card processing industry, especially in the retail and restaurant fields, often works similarly, where business owners are frequently convinced that they need some extravagant processing system in order to accept credit cards.

If you own a business, the last thing you want to be worrying about it whether your credit card processing system is going to work. It should be pretty much a rock solid, reliable system. Despite the price, the more complex systems out there can be the least reliable.

POS and complex processing systems are very difficult to setup, and difficult to maintain. If there are problems, support is often hard to get, complicated, expensive and time consuming. I have seen a software company take over 2 months to properly setup their system with a customer of mine. This system cost over $10,000 just to setup and it was constantly breaking. When you get a POS system, any support for your equipment, goes to the POS company and not your merchant service provider.

This situation is not uncommon for many restaurants and businesses with these expensive systems. What these businesses didn’t believe was that a simple credit card machine for $300 and a cash register for $800 would have been a much more cost effective system, that would have been minutely less efficient, but much easier to use. That $9,000+ difference in price will never be made up using that expensive system.

POS and complex processing equipment has its place:
There is no doubt that POS systems have their place with some businesses. Businesses with huge inventories would be completely lost without them, as would extremely high volume, complex menu, or high speed restaurants.

For many smaller retail and restaurants, especially start-ups, it’s just overkill!

What you do need:
I know restaurants that process over $5,000,000 per month in credit cards, and they use 5 impact cash registers and 5 Hypercom T7 Plus credit card machines. While this may not quite meet the demands of your business, you should carefully weigh your options before making your decision. Do you really need to spend thousands of dollars on something that may not help you in the long run. Find a system that is able to grow as the needs of your business grow. If you do opt for a complex processing system, make sure you aren’t going to need to replace it any time soon, and that it is very well supported. Replacing a credit card machine is cheap, but replacing a POS system is not. Also, don’t forget to take into account the time it takes to train an employee on how to use your system. A credit card machine only takes about 10 minutes to learn the basics, a POS system could take 10 hours or more.

Especially in the case of a start-up business, the money spent on a complex, expensive system is almost definitely better suited elsewhere. Don’t believe a salesman that tries to convince you that you need their system just because they say you do or throw some charts at you. As long as your processing method works smoothly and securely, your customers will not know or care what you are using to process their card. Only you can determine if you need that expensive system. If you’re in doubt, opt for the cheaper method and upgrade later.

Finally: Ask yourself if you really need all of the features, and if you really can justify the cost before buying into any expensive processing or other business equipment. Is your business better off spending that $10,000 elsewhere and upgrading later?

One Response to “Do you really need a POS system to accept credit cards?”

  1. John Conde October 25, 2006 at 12:08 pm

    The reason for this misconception is simple: the POS companies want it that way. These companies want to sell the high end POS products because they mean big bucks in their pockets. They don’t care if you get the right solution for your business. They just want to get paid.

    The same thing applies to the sales agents who go door-to-door trying to establish new accounts. They always want to sell new equipment because it’s a quick buck for them. That’s why so many merchants think they need a smart card reader. Any day now it will be critical to have….any day now… any day now… (repeat that like we have been for the last 15 years and eventually it may come true).