Information on Merchant Accounts,
Ecommerce and Credit Card Processing

October 23rd, 2007 by Jamie Estep

Maximize your credit card terminal’s life

Filed in: Credit Card Equipment | 4 comments

Credit card terminals are vital pieces of equipment for millions of businesses in the world. They are also more abused than any other office equipment that I have seen.

While most credit card machines only cost a few hundred dollars, it is a good idea to protect your investment, and get the most life out of your terminal. Terminals can last for ten or more years if they are well maintained, even if they are heavily used.

Common terminal killers:

  • Heat
  • Liquid
  • Extreme cold
  • Mechanical agitation
  • Power surges

Heat is an enemy of electronic components.
Heat causes the resistance of electronic components to change and also causes silicon chips to change their properties on a molecular level. These changes cause variations in voltages inside the terminal, and can eventually cause something to break. Luckily, credit card terminals are nowhere near as complicated as computers, but in the case of newer terminals, there is a lot of electronics inside a very small space. Try to keep the terminal in a somewhat open area, where there is decent ventilation, not in the exhaust path of a cash register.

More so than heat, liquids will definitely destroy a terminal.
I can’t even count how many times I have heard of someone spilling a coffee or sofa on a credit card terminal, causing it to fail. This is a no-brainer, keep drinks and other liquids away from your credit card terminal. If you do spill something on it, you should unplug it immediately, and try to wipe off as much liquid as possible before it seeps further in. Drink spillage is normally not covered by terminal warranties FYI.

Extreme cold.
A lot of the country has nothing to worry about, but in those areas that it does freeze a lot during the winter, try to keep you terminal somewhere that it will not. If it is going to get very cold where your terminal is, keep it running. The biggest problem comes when a frozen terminal warms back up, and condensation shorts it out. Frozen terminals are also prone to loosing the internal battery (or the main battery for wireless terminal) which depending on the model, can cause the loss of information or may just mess-up the internal clock.

The quickest way to break a terminal is to drop it.
Some of the older terminals can take some major abuse, but the newer ones are not likely to take a large fall well. Even if nothing internally is damaged, it’s pretty easy to crack the screen making it unusable. Attaching it with the wall mounts, or using some non-skid rubber tape can keep your terminal from sliding around if the factory rubber-bumps are worn off.

Power surges break terminals.
Power surges can break the terminal from the electrical plug, and from the modem. It’s a good idea to get a good power strip or UPS (Uninterpretable Power Supply) with phone jack, and Ethernet protection. Power outage tip: If you are using an analog phone line (the lines where your phone still works when the power is out) you can use a UPS power supply to retain your ability to process, even during a complete power outage. A small UPS should cost a little over $100, and since terminals have low power consumption, your terminal could be operating for several hours of power outage. It’s a good idea to have so that you can at least ring-up any customers that are in the store when the power goes out, and you can get your batch out for the day.

Final tip: Keep your terminal on unless you absolutely need to reset it or turn it off. It is very rare for any electronic component to fail while operating at a steady state. Power cycles take their toll on electronics, so the less you can get away with, the better off your terminal will be in the long-run.

4 Responses to “Maximize your credit card terminal’s life”

  1. Mark October 29, 2007 at 6:00 pm

    That is so true. I do not know how many times drinks have been spilled on my terminal at my restaurant. The dumb servers keep spilling their drinks when they go use the terminal. May as well just have a cover over them. Maybe someday we will only use wireless terminals with protective covers.

  2. Matthew Hunt November 24, 2007 at 12:58 pm

    What a great article! So true! Credit Card Terminals are one the most used pieces of equipment in most retail locations and owners will want to protect their assets with care.

    Restaurants are the most common type of businesses to have a terminal to go down, usually due to having a drink spilled on them. I know one restaurant that has a back up unit just for this reason.

    Maybe one day they will build a terminal that is water proof!

  3. Opra November 28, 2007 at 2:34 am

    I agree that credit card terminals are very important for businessmen all over the world. So, in order to make terminals work for you for a long time, protect them from different factors.

  4. Bruce Smeaton January 18, 2008 at 6:07 am

    What an outstanding article! I used to think folk were constantly turning up with faulty magnetic strips on the back of their cards… but given the plethora of reasons you’ve outlined as to why a terminal can / will fail… hmmm, a major re-think is on the cards here!