August 2014

What is a Virtual Terminal?

Tablets and smartphones are ubiquitous in this day and age, but they have yet to completely inch out computers, and laptops still hold many advantages over mobile devices. This is even true in the case of business management, where the computer often has far more storage and power to process databases, inventory tracking, and the like. It only makes sense that one should be able to use a computer to accept credit card payments.


Virtual terminal merchant services are a Web- or cloud-based version of physical credit card point of sale (POS) machines. They allow a vendor to input credit card information into payment forms on a computer, which then can be used to process an electronic transaction such as a mobile payment. It is similar to the types of forms you might see on a mobile commerce site like Ebay or Amazon.


In the past, mobile payments would be processed using a phone to call in to a processor for gaining transaction approval. In the modern era, virtual terminal merchant services are used to instantly approve transactions over the web. Sometimes these services are done via manual entry, exactly like would be done when making an online service. More common, however, are systems that use a credit card reader that plugs into the computer, either via the charger, headphone jack, or via a USB port.


The downside of virtual terminal merchant services is that as of yet many cannot accept signatures from the client. This is in contrast to mobile processing services on a handheld device, which usually take a signature via the touch screen. However, with more and more computers these days featuring touchscreen technology, this may be rectified sooner rather than later. For now, the user simply uses a checkbox or similar functionality to agree to use a typed name as a virtual signature.


The technology is advancing, but with full computers incorporating technology pioneered by handheld devices, it seems likely that virtual terminal merchant services will continue to advance and could become the ideal means of managing one’s business in the near future.

U.S. Lawmakers Call for Data Protection Standards to Avoid Breaches

In light of the recent mass data breaches at retailers across the country, which have resulted in more than 40 million credit cards being stolen, cloned, and sold through the deep web, many lawmakers are demanding that the U.S. Congress stand up and mandate the adoption of card payment solutions and security standards to stop this sort of thing from ever happening in the future.


Among those demanding the new standards is Georgia Democrat representative David Scott, who believes that Congress needs to look at the new security measures that are already being used in other countries, like the smart card payment solutions that do away with a magnetic strip in favor of a chip embedded in the card.


The magnetic strip currently featured on credit cards, he believes, is an easy and open door for unscrupulous hackers, since the technology is, at this point, practically ancient, certainly obsolete, and thereby easy to crack. The EMV smart card payment solutions would not only better encrypt data but would add an additional line of protection in the form of a required PIN entry at the point of sale.


Scott believes that Congress is anxious to take action against future hacks in the future. But others don’t believe that it is Congress’ place to mandate the use of specific technologies.  It has been noted that Visa, MasterCard, and other credit card vendors have already announced plans to shift to smartcards by the end of 2015 without legislation in place. While some lawmakers want to create a new national data breach notification law that would supersede the over 45 state laws currently in place, others have pointed out that Congress shouldn’t have the right to override tougher state laws.


There is a strong voice for private industry to create and implement new security standards for card payment solutions, without further interference from a Congress acting out of fear and panic.

Social Media Gives Insight to Mobile Payment Processing Trend

According to the second annual MasterCard Mobile Payments study, there have been roughly 13 million conversations about mobile payments on social media sites like Facebook, Twitter, and the blogosphere. Virtual terminal credit cards and similar mobile payments carry an 88% positive rating amongst business owners and merchants across the web, with the predominant attitude being that businesses that don’t accept mobile payments are going to find themselves at a distinct disadvantage in the not-too-distant future.


The results reflect a staggering amount of interest in mobile payments not just from business owners, but from consumers as well. Interestingly, the vast majority (90%) of these conversations were initiated and driven by business owners who have already implemented virtual terminal credit cards or other forms of mobile payments answering questions from smaller and newer businesses seeking advice about what they should adopt in the marketplace.


These conversations are indicative not just of a trend or new fad—they are the beginning of a new movement. The patterns of behavior when making purchases are shifting and evolving, and it’s becoming necessary for merchants to be able to accept payments on the go. E-payments, mobile credit card readers, and similar options are cost-effective and easy to use, and don’t tie merchants down to a single location as did the bulky systems of the past.


It’s only natural that this new movement would have begun, and will continue to be reflected, via social media, which is the new language of communication in the modern era. With the ability to transform a basic mobile device like a smartphone, tablet, or laptop computer into a high-powered, portable and secure virtual terminal, credit cards and debit cards are likewise becoming the currency of choice in the modern era. Nobody is asking anymore if using a mobile processing solution is a good idea. Rather, they’re taking to social media sites to ask how they can adopt this technology, and what it can do for their business.