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.


Two open laptop screens with people working off paper notes

How do virtual terminals work?

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.

What businesses can use a virtual terminal?

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



Laptop screen showing code



Secure padlock surrounded by phones

Are virtual terminals secure?

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.

What are the advantages of virtual terminals?


  • 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


Women smiling working on laptop




Card payment being held ready for online payment

What are the disadvantages of virtual terminals?


  • 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)

How much does a virtual terminal cost?

Virtual terminal costs vary between providers. Typically, you’ll pay either a percentage of each transaction you process via the virtual terminal or a at fee per transaction, as well as a monthly fee.

How do I get started?

Handepay’s virtual terminals are flexible, fast and secure – plus, there’s no joining or set-up fees. Get in touch today or find out more.

Financial disclaimer:

Terminal hire contracts are provided by Merchant Rentals Limited, who is authorised and regulated in the UK by the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) for Consumer Hire under FRN 720500. Terminal hire can be for consumer hire and non-regulated hire contracts. Please check your contract carefully for details. Regulation of all consumer hire fall under the control of the FCA.

Handepay Ltd is authorised and regulated by the FCA for Consumer Credit under FRN 673564. Handepay is a credit broker for consumer hire not a lender.

Handepay acts as an introducer of card acquiring services on behalf of EVO Payments UK, the card acquiring service provider. EVO Payments UK is the trading name of EVO Payments UK Ltd, a payment institution that is authorised and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority (FRN number 959332).

Existing Cards Businesses- The one-month rolling terminal hire contract from Merchant Rentals is only available to businesses that are switching from their current acquirer to EVO Payments UK arranged through Handepay.

New to Cards Businesses- The 12-month terminal hire contract from Merchant Rentals is only available to businesses that are new to card payments and wish to receive acquiring services from EVO Payments UK, arranged through Handepay.

The Next Day Banking Settlement service provided by EVO Payments UK incurs an additional fee of £4 a month on top of your acquiring service charges and fees. Provided your card machine performs a reconciliation before 12am (midnight), you’ll receive settlement of funds the next banking day.

Editorial disclaimer:

The information we provide does not constitute financial advice and might not apply to your business. Always carry out research into your business’ needs when choosing a new merchant services provider.

Sometimes, we link to other third-party websites to provide you with additional information. At the time of publication, we consider the information accurate, however, we do not have control over their content and are not responsible if any information on these websites change.

The products we display on our website are for illustrative purposes only - if your business requires additional facilities, you may receive a different model than advertised.

All of the information contained on this website, including fees, services and functionality, are correct at time of publishing. E&OE.