Information on Merchant Accounts,
Ecommerce and Credit Card Processing

February 8th, 2006 by Jamie Estep

Parts of a Credit Card Machine

Filed in: Credit Card Equipment | 1 comment

  1. Printer – Prints transaction and batch receipts. Can be thermal, impact, or ink.
  2. Printer Paper – Specifically made for the type of printer the credit card machine is using. Heat is used to produce the receipt image on thermal paper. Impact paper uses carbon to create the receipt image. An ink printer uses ink ribbons or cartridges like a computer.
  3. Display – Shows user information about the transaction or function they are currently operating.
  4. Keypad – Allows manual keying of transaction, and aids in completing some functions.
  5. Soft Keys – Programmed keys to perform specific functions including programming, batching, returning, voiding, etc.
  6. Magnetic Card Reader – Magnetically captures information contained on the credit card. Type 1, 2, and 3 card readers are available, and each reads a different portion of the magnetic strip.
  7. Smart Card Reader – Some terminals allow a business to process smart card embedded credit cards in replacement of the magnetic strip.

  1. Ports – RS232 and other peripheral ports allow printers, pinpads, smart card readers and other peripherals to be attached.
  2. Power Plug – Provides power to the terminal via an AC adapter. Some terminals are able to operate from battery power.
  3. Phone Jack – Connects the terminal to a phone line, allowing the terminal to dial the processing network and process a transaction.

* Different terminals have different configurations and parts, this guide is meant only to diagram the basic parts of most credit card machines. Check the description of a particular machine for the specifics of that machine.

January 24th, 2006 by Jamie Estep

SSL Certificates for Online Merchants

Filed in: Ecommerce, Merchant Accounts |

When processing credit card and other electronic forms of payment over the internet, security is a major concern. A SSL (Secure Socket Layer) certificate enables your website to maintain a secure connection between the user and your website. To access a web page over a secure connection, all you need to do is replace the ‘http://’ with ‘https://’ in the address bar. The extra ‘s’ denotes that you would like the connection to be secure. When a secure connection is established, a small padlock will appear in the lower right corner of the web browser window.

A secure certificate can be obtained in 1 of 2 ways…

Generating your own certificate:
SSL Certificate ErrorYou can generate your own certificate through your web server or web host if they allow it. This method is easy and theoretically perfectly secure, but when you do this, your visitors will be prompted with an ugly error message, as seen in the picture on the right, if they try to access your website through a secure connection.

Buying a certificate from a trusted issuer:
By purchasing a certificate from a trusted issuer, you will eliminate the ugly error message associated with generating your own certificate, but you will also be showing your visitors that you care enough about their security, that you site is secured by a trusted 3rd party organization. When you setup a certificate with a trusted company, they will normally do some sort of business verification to ensure you are who you claim to be. Once approved by the issuer, you will generate a document called a CSR (Certificate Signing Request) with your web server. This document contains pertained information to your business and website, and is encrypted. The issuer will then verify that the encrypted data is correct and matches to the data that they have about your company. Once verified, they will issue a secure certificate, and you can copy and past the encrypted code into the correct file on your web server.

Now when you type, instead of, a small lock will appear in the lower right corner of the site indicating the site is secure.

Common Problems:
The most common problems when getting setup with a SSL certificate are not specifying the correct sub domain when your certificate is issued, and having non-secure elements on a web page.

Incorrect Sub Domain:
When you setup your certificate you must specify the exact url the SSL is going to be applied to. is not the same as If you setup a SSL certificate for the www version, it will not work for the non-www version, and vice-versa. Make sure you do this right from the start, as most issuers will not give you a second chance if you mess this up.

Non-secure elements on a web page:
Sometimes your certificate is setup and installed, and you get an error message about a page containing insecure items on it. This is normally caused by images or javascript that are linked from a non-secure version of the website.

For images Use:
<img src="./images/thispict.jpg"/>
and not:
<img src=""/>

The second image will create an error message, because it is not hosted on a secure domain as denoted by the address (http://).

Where to get a SSL Certificate:
SSL certificates vary in price from one trusted issuer to another, even though they do the exact same thing. When you get a SSL from a 3rd party, you are paying for the endorsement of their name as well as the security. A very well trusted organization like Verisign charges more for a secure certificate than a less know issuer. You are also paying for the verification process. The more in depth the verification process, the more expensive the certificate is, and the more trusted the name of the issuer is.

Recommended certificate issuers by price (L to H):
Godaddy SSL:

January 23rd, 2006 by Jamie Estep

Why are some companies offering free credit card terminals with their merchant accounts?

Filed in: Credit Card Equipment, Merchant Accounts, My Favorite Posts |

Free Credit Card Terminal Merchant Accounts

The big craze in the merchant account industry is the new free credit card machine offers that many providers are offering.

About 20 years ago up until about 6 years ago, free credit card terminals were a fairly common practice in the payment processing industry. It was standard for banks and merchant service providers to offer a Tranz 330 or Zon Jr. to their customers, especially for the larger ones. Until last year, the free credit card terminal offers had all but disappeared. Brought back again in full force by a company called United BankCard, the free terminal offers have become very popular over the past year. Many merchant service providers have followed suite and are now offering free terminals to their new customers.


January 19th, 2006 by Jamie Estep

New Look

Filed in: Industry News |

The blog has been redesigned. It is plain, but very clean and it now utilizes the whole page. I am hoping to post more in the coming months. I have been so busy that the blog has been neglected a bit. Things should smooth out in a couple of weeks.

In the meantime, let me know any topics that you would like to see here.

January 12th, 2006 by Jamie Estep

Setting up an Ecommerce Website

Filed in: Ecommerce, Merchant Accounts, My Favorite Posts |

Ecommerce WebsiteBuilding a proper website is the foundation of any ecommerce business. Failure in creating a proper website can guaranty the failure of the online business itself.

There are several options for creating a website. Depending on how new the business owner is to web programming, and the planned budget, the options are either creating a website personally, or outsource your ecommerce website.

View the entire, Guide to setting up an ecommerce website.

December 28th, 2005 by Jamie Estep

Accepting Gift Cards

Filed in: Credit Card Equipment, Merchant Accounts |

Often overlooked, gift cards are one of the most effective customer retention and marketing methods available to businesses.

There are 2 types of commonly used gift cards. The first is the Visa or MasterCard branded gift cards that work just like a credit or debit card. While convenient, these gift cards don’t offer much benefit to most businesses. The second type of gift card is a proprietary self branded gift card, that is essentially an electronic gift certificate. These gift cards also work just like a standard credit or debit card, but are limited to being spent at your own company. For many businesses, these are one of the most effective customer retention and marketing mediums available.


December 28th, 2005 by Jamie Estep

Hospital ID theft: How to protect yourself – The Red Tape Chronicles –

Filed in: Industry News | 1 comment

Hospital ID theft: How to protect yourself – The Red Tape Chronicles –

Identity theft is a huge risk in the credit card industry but the credit card industry is by no means the only target for identity theft.

December 16th, 2005 by Jamie Estep

Smart Cards really aren’t that smart…

Filed in: Merchant Accounts |

Smart Cards looked like they were going to be the next big thing for credit card processing, for about 30 seconds.

A smart card is a small microchip that is implanted in a plastic card or a credit card. It is able to store a large amount of information in a very small space, and is not affected by magnetic fields, weather or really anything. Smart cards also have encryption capabilities that a magnetic strip could never have.

So, why aren’t Smart Cards more popular?


November 18th, 2005 by Jamie Estep

Credit Card Processing Equipment Information Center

Filed in: Credit Card Equipment, Merchant Accounts |

We just published an area devoted to information about credit card machines on the Merchant Store website. I will be putting up answers to general question about credit card machines there, and there are already some great pages geared toward people who are new to the processing industry.

Information about credit card processing equipment.

October 28th, 2005 by Jamie Estep


Filed in: Industry News |


I had never heard of this charge before. It doesn’t come as a surprise, as banks now make more from fees than they do from interest. Just another way to add money to the bottom line at the expense of their customers.