Vital Signs: Is Your Credit Card Processing Machine Working Well?

Is Your Credit Card Processing Machine Working Well?

In a world of ever-changing technology, merging old and new can be challenging. As photographers, you know this well. Film to digital. Smartphones and tablet computers for business and personal life. All the new social media sites you are trying to use the right way. There's a lot going on!

In the all these changes and updates, though, did you remember to ensure your credit card processing system is running as smoothly as ever?

It may not be in the front of your mind, but this is common place for concern in the credit card processing industry, especially with many businesses having switched to digital or IP (internet-based) phone services. For example, if you have bundled services—phone, cable and internet combined—or subscribe to an internet phone service (Voice over IP), such as Magic Jack or Vonage, it is most likely digital. The thing is, updating phone service like that might have caused compatibility issues with your existing credit card terminal (if you have one).

Several years ago, phone systems relied on analog technology to transmit information through electrical waves. Because credit card machines have traditionally plugged into a phone line (using it to process transactions), terminals were built for that same analog technology. Enter digital technology. Digital behaves differently from analog, using binary code to transmit information at a much higher rate of speed. Now, with the availability of digital phone services to homes and businesses, these same credit card machines are experiencing compatibility issues and are not functioning reliably.

There are some frustrating situations that can occur when an analog terminal tries to function on digital lines. Signs of a compatibility problem include: duplicate transactions, batches out of balance, lost communication with host, failed communication error, unable to connect or the terminal working intermittently...seemingly unrelated to other circumstances. In fact, an older model credit card modem can get worn out trying to do its job over digital lines!

Unfortunately, it is hard to track when problems occur because they often take some time to present themselves after a phone service switch has been made. So, even if you aren't experiencing any credit card processing issues now (which is great!), you might want to follow some of the below tips from Midwest Transaction Group (MTG), one of PPA's affinity partners.

Obviously, the best way to avoid potential problems would have been to discuss the fate of your terminal with your card processing provider before a new system was installed. However, as MTG points out, many cable companies and internet phone services were not aware of the effects digital lines have on credit card terminals. If you have already made a switch to digital and are having problems with your terminal, there are a couple of things you can do to address the situation:

  • Maintain an analog line dedicated specifically for your credit card machine. Obviously, this option comes at an additional monthly expense, but you could keep your current terminal functioning.
  • Purchase a credit card terminal that doesn't rely on a phone line at all. This new terminal would use the same highway as the internet (via Ethernet connection, for example) to transfer information. These are now available through a variety of manufacturers. Though purchasing a new terminal is an investment, it would ensure avoidance of any compatibility problems and provide a long-term solution.
  • Consider switching to a mobile method of accepting credit cards. MTG is one service that can help you accept swiped credit card transactions on your smartphone for only a few dollars more per month.

The key is to just be aware. Ask yourself: Have you switched phone systems over the last several years? Do you have a physical credit card terminal? If so, it might be worth the time to check and make sure everything is working properly. You don't want to discover a compatibility issue just as a client is paying for their wall portrait collection!

Hopefully, everything is working with nary a problem. But as always, don't hesitate to call MTG with questions: 888-599-2209.

What You Can Do Now:

  • Get familiar with your PPA member benefit for MTG.
  • If you're having credit card processing issues, call MTG with questions: 888-599-2209.
  • Did you know that PPA also has a credit card rewards program? Check it out.

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