What is a virtual terminal?
When it comes to accepting payments, every business has its own requirements. For some, being able to take face-to-face payments via card machine is enough. But what if you want to be able to process payments for customers who aren’t with you in-person? Read on to find out how virtual terminals can help you do just that.
Put simply, a virtual terminal turns your internet-enabled computer, laptop, tablet or mobile device into a payment processor. While a card reader takes payments when your customers are with you in person, a virtual terminal acts as a point of sale for transactions made when the customer isn’t present – e.g. if you’re taking payment over the phone, via email or using a mail order system.
Virtual terminals are powered by a payment gateway, which is what provides your payment processing services. This gateway creates a landing page where you can manually input your customer’s payment details and complete the transaction.
What is virtual terminal card processing?
Virtual terminal credit card processing is simply the act of accepting card payments using a virtual terminal.
Here’s how it works:
Step 1. Log into your virtual terminal online
Step 2. Enter your customer’s payment details into the secure payment page (you can do this while they’re on the phone)
Step 3. Submit the transaction, and the payment will be processed
What types of payments do virtual terminals accept?
You can use virtual terminals to accept credit and debit card payments, including bulk or recurring transactions.
In short, any business can potentially use a virtual terminal to take payments, providing you have an internet-enabled computer, laptop, tablet or mobile device.
Some specific examples of the types of businesses and professionals who can benefit from virtual terminals include:
- Freelancers and sole traders
- Service-orientated businesses (e.g. hairdressers and gardeners)
- Home-based businesses
- Those who travel or who are frequently on the road
- Any business that takes mail order, email or phone bookings and sales
Yes, virtual terminals are subject to the same industry regulations as card machines. Check that any service you’re considering is PCI (Payment Card Industry) compliant, and offers technology like encryption and tokenisation.
As with any payment method, you’re still responsible for maintaining the safety of your customers’ data. So never write a credit or debit card number – or any other customer payment details – down on a piece of paper or store it in any way.
- Easy set-up – no need for a POS reader, or any hardware or software
- No maintenance is required
- You can add multiple users and take more payments in more locations
- You control the whole process – customers don’t have direct access to your virtual terminal
- Handling recurring payments is simple
- It’s quick to access and accept payments via your web browser
- You can use it anywhere you have an internet connection
- You can reach new customers who can’t or prefer not to make payment in person
- Potentially more chance for merchant security breaches – e.g. if your staff writes down customer payment details
- Increased possibility of human error, e.g. when keying in your customer’s payment information – therefore extra attention to detail is needed by you as the merchant
- Potentially more chargebacks – when a customer says they don’t remember the purchase, changes their mind and, in some cases, tells their card provider they didn’t make the purchase (this threat can be reduced by issuing quick post-sale follow-ups and promptly dealing with any complaints or customer service queries when they arise)