A payment terminal, also known as a point-of-sale (POS) terminal, is a hardware system with software for processing card payments at retail locations. A POS terminal reads the magnetic stripe on a credit or debit card when swiped and transmits that information via wireless connectivity to a processor or a bank for authorization. A POS terminal can either be stationary (with wired or wireless internet connections) or portable (such as at a gas station).
In addition to accepting credit and debit cards, most POS systems also support eChecks/ACH, contactless payments through mobile wallets like Google Wallet and Apple Pay, unified payments interface UPI, and quick response code QR. POS terminals offer a number of features that simplify and speed up the sales process, including calculating taxes and sales discounts, offering pre-calculated tipping options to customers and recording refunds. They also help merchants manage other aspects of their business operations, such as inventory management, insights on sales trends and customer habits and employee scheduling and wages.
For many smaller businesses that don’t need to track inventory or record employee time, there are virtual POS terminals that allow merchants to complete transactions from the convenience of a web browser. These ePOS systems let merchants accept payments online and by phone, email or text and can be used with a USB card reader for in-person payments. Virtual POS terminals typically have lower transaction processing fees than traditional card-reading terminals, though they don’t always allow for all of the same in-person functions as physical terminals. payment terminal