Information on Merchant Accounts,
Ecommerce and Credit Card Processing

September 14th, 2007 by Jamie Estep

Credit Card Terminal Certification

Filed in: Credit Card Equipment |

If you work in the merchant services industry, you quickly learn that equipment manufacturers produce new equipment much faster than anyone is ready to use it. Many of the terminals and equipment never get picked up by processors and are lost in history.

From a business standpoint, it is fairly common for a new or potential customer to be asking about some new super terminal that they just read about. Most of the time these terminals are not properly certified with a particular processing bank, or they just aren’t available through any of the terminal wholesalers.

Before a terminal ever makes it to the hands of a business owner, several things must happen. First off, it must be certified with Visa and MasterCard, before is it ever looked at. This is usually done before the company even releases the terminal publicly. If it can’t get certified on this level, there’s no reason for anyone to know about it at all.

Secondly, the terminal must have some new desired feature or new technology before a processor will take the steps to support it. If the terminal does the exact same thing as every other terminal before it, there really isn’t any reason to switch to it. It usually has to offer some additional function that current terminals do not have, and customers want. Additionally, it is always good if it is replacing an aging terminal model, or replacing a terminal that is no longer technically competent or secure.

Terminals certification with a credit card processor is one of the biggest hurdles for a machine to become popular. Visa and MasterCard certification is something that every terminal will get before anyone outside the company ever hears about it, but processor certification is what ultimately decides whether a terminal will be used. Processors have to do a lot of work to support new terminals, and they do not certify new terminals easily.

Processor certification levels:

  • Level A – Fully certified and supported by the processor.
  • Level B – The equipment works with the processor, but the processor will not support any problems or troubleshooting.
  • Level C – The processor does not guarantee that the terminal will work on their platform, and will not support it in any way.

Level A, Level B, and Level C are the three certification levels that processors have, and unless a terminal is certified A, it will rarely be used anywhere. B+ is also common, and is the only non-A certification where a terminal may still be commonly used.

In theory, just about any terminal can be made to process with any processor (Putting proprietary terminals aside), but it takes a lot of testing to ensure the terminal works in many different situations. Since a terminal uses a different program for retail businesses, restaurants, gas stations, and any other type of business, a completely unique program must be built for each business type. Each of these programs must be tested and certified as well, which is why some terminals work with some processors with certain business types, while they don’t work at other processors for the same business type. The best bet is always to use the terminal that your processor recommends (Unless it is something that you just don’t need, or is proprietary!), because they most likely can provide the best support for that terminal.

When you need a new terminal don’t go for the newest thing out there unless it has some feature that no other terminal has, and you really need that feature. The tried-and-true terminals (Nurit 2085, Hypercom t7 plus, Omni 3200SE, etc.) have been very popular for a long time and are still very popular. These terminals are fast (enough), reliable, and cheap. For most small businesses they will be great terminals. Here’s a quick guide on what terminal to purchase when you do need a new one. The Omni 3750 is by far the best terminal for IP based processing. The Nurit 8020 GPRS is the best full-featured wireless terminal.

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