Business tips

The ultimate guide to credit card machines in 2020.

By Jereme Sanborn on
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The way customers prefer to pay for purchases is changing and businesses are turning to new credit card processing technologies to keep up with trends. Choosing the best credit card processing equipment for your business type and customer base gives you a competitive edge with fast service, convenient payment options, and the flexibility to adapt to the future of payments.

How businesses will accept payments in 2020.

All around the world, cash is on its way out. Although 70% of Americans report using cash daily for purchases, cash only represented 30% of payments in 2017. Furthermore, the threshold at which consumers switch from cards to cash continues to get lower. In the top 25 metropolitan markets, transaction amounts dropped from $5 to $4 between 2015 and 2019. Outside of these areas, there was a bigger drop from $8 to $5.50. The rush toward a cashless society is happening even faster in countries like South Korea, where 80% of registered transactions are already electronic.

This trend is a signal for businesses not yet accepting credit cards to upgrade their payment processing equipment immediately before customers begin to look elsewhere for cashless options. Consumer preferences are likely to drive changes in where and how businesses accept payments in the coming years. Therefore, business owners should be prepared to:

  • Accept swiped and dipped (EMV chip card) credit card transactions.
  • Accept near-field communication (NFC) payments from mobile devices.
  • Increase payment flexibility with mobile point of sale (POS) systems.
  • Incorporate the latest security and authentication methods to keep payments safe. 

Diversifying payment options increases the efficiency of transactions and improves the customer experience while minimizing work for small business owners. When you invest in a credit card processing solution with tools for processing all transaction types from one terminal, you spend less time reconciling payments, updating financial records, and making trips to the bank to deposit cash.

Types of credit card machines.

As 2020 approaches, credit card machines with diverse functions are becoming more commonplace to accommodate all the ways today’s customers want to pay. Traditional options are getting upgrades and popular POS providers are introducing new hardware for business owners in need of affordable, flexible payment solutions.

The four main credit card machine options for your business, include:

  • Standalone terminals that sit on the countertop and usually have built-in keypads for customers to enter their PINs. These may be hard-wired to your internet connection or wireless for greater mobility while allowing you to process credit and PIN debit card payments. Some standalone terminals also include NFC technology for contactless payment options.
  • Mobile card readers or credit card readers that connect with your smartphone or tablet so that you can process credit cards and contactless payments anywhere in your store or at offsite events.
  • Smart terminals, which include a credit card reader along with other hardware, such as a cash drawer, barcode scanner, receipt printer, and screen or monitor. These solutions often come bundled with software featuring tools for customizing your POS setup and integrating payment processing with other business functions like accounting and bookkeeping. 
  • Virtual terminals, which are hosted online and require no hardware. You’ll need this type of terminal if you accept credit card orders by phone or through the mail. 

Functions vary between hardware and software solutions and you’ll pay more if you want or need additional features. Some business owners prefer to mount their customer facing credit card terminals for easier access or purchase stands designed to allow mobile devices to function more like traditional countertop POS solutions. You may have to experiment to find the most convenient configuration for your employees and customers.

Essential features of the best credit card processing equipment.

Regardless of type, the machine you choose for processing credit card payments must have the features necessary to provide customers with straightforward, streamlined options.


Credit card machines from popular providers are usually sold, rented, or leased as part of a package deal in which payment processing services are included. This is the easiest way to ensure your terminal and payment processor are compatible, but it also locks you into a proprietary system. If you want to switch, you have to get new hardware. 


Ninety percent of consumers expect businesses to take their preferred credit cards, so your processing solution should allow you to accept cards from all major companies. If you plan to offer other payment types, minimize hardware costs with a device that is equipped to accept both cards and mobile options. The device should include a customer facing PIN pad or touchscreen for processing EMV chip cards, while allowing you to store transactions to be forwarded later if your internet connection goes down.

NFC contactless acceptance. 

Mobile payment adoption may be slow, but it is definitely growing. As Generation Z begins to wield more spending power, it’s smart to consider adding a credit card reader with NFC contactless capabilities to accept mobile wallet payments like Samsung Pay and Apple Pay. These readers are fairly inexpensive and can pay off in the long run. Although mobile device payments are expected to represent less than 10% of in-person POS transactions by 2020, 70% of U.S. consumers are using them. Numbers may increase as other options like Fitbit’s payment platform become more popular. Payments made through mobile wallets linked to NFC contactless devices could reach $503 billion by 2020.


No payment solution is perfect, but you should get as close as you can. Consistent connectivity between the device and your internet or wifi, as well as reliable uptime for any software on which you rely, are both critical for maintaining high-quality customer service. Transactions from in-house and mobile payments should update in real-time to ensure your records are always accurate. 


Swiped card readers are less expensive than those equipped for EMV chip transactions, but since 90% of cards will be EMV by 2020, you’re far better off paying a little more for a chip reader. It’s cheaper than being held liable for the costs related to fraudulent purchases for failure to adopt the latest payments technology. 

Seamless integration. 

Getting all of your payment solutions in one system saves time and makes it easier to maintain complete and accurate records. If you use more than one terminal, take payments through static terminals and mobile devices, or sell products from your physical store online, you’ll need an integrated payment solution. When all transaction information is available through a single dashboard, you can compile logs and analyze payment data with just a few clicks.

Choosing the right credit card reader for your business.

Cost is usually top of mind for small business owners and payment processing represents a significant expense. The good news is: changes in technology are making credit card terminals and POS solutions more affordable, so you can get set up to accept payments without breaking the bank. While more complex systems with additional hardware and features can still set you back more than $1,000, be sure to compare the cost to the benefits of upgrading to determine how much to invest in payment processing equipment.

The complexity of the credit card processing system you need depends on the size of your business, the most common payment types your customers use, and the average number of transactions you process. A standalone terminal is likely to be the most cost-effective solution if you don’t handle high volumes of credit card sales. That said, if you’re using a basic solution shuts out a large segment of your potential audience, you’ll want something more robust. Analyzing customers’ purchasing habits for payment trends will help you choose a terminal with the most appropriate level of functionality.

Industry-specific features allow you to customize your POS system. You can get a solution designed for a retail store, restaurant, or service business and configure it with customer facing options like self-service ordering or appointment check-ins. Focus on usability and out-of-the-box functionality that requires minimal setup time and training. The best solution is one that you, your employees, and your customers can use with ease to minimize transaction times for better service.

Updating your payment system for 2020 in light of customers’ preferences and your company’s changing needs positions you for success in competitive markets where technology is often the differentiating factor between brands. Look for a credit card machine or POS terminal with features designed to manage your current requirements and the flexibility to handle future changes so that your business can grow with the times and continue to give customers the freedom to pay the way they want.